The jetsetter in me is a little disappointed that, when times get tough, I can’t simply pull a classic Blair Waldorf/Serena van der Woodsen and hop on board a first class flight to the pearly gates of cosmopolitan Europe to shop away my struggles. I simply don’t have time for that when I have to be studying throughout the week to barely keep up in my Medical-Surgical class. What I can do, though, is take the 31 down to my personal piece of Paris – La Promenade Cafe, sitting prettily at the corner of Balboa and 38th Avenue, right across from Purple Kow and Balboa Theatre. The moment you walk into this far-flung corner of the Richmond, with the classically sensual voice of Frank Sinatra filling the space, you’ll be saying “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in San Francisco anymore.”
La Promenade’s French-inspired interior is accentuated by a large replica of “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jette” by the great pointillism artist Georges Seurat, hanging just next to the extensive drink and food menu. Among their food offerings are sandwiches with names like “The Balboa” and “The Mona Lisa,” salads, smoothies and various freshly baked slices of pies. I personally always order their Soup of the Day – which is normally chicken noodle soup, made just like grandma would when you were sick with the flu. I ask for their crisp sourdough bread as an accompaniment, which soaks up the wholesome broth nicely. I top off this meal with a mean “Moroccan Mint” tea latte. The flavorful leaves of “The Republic of Tea” offer an earthy flavor profile. Their “Tea of Inquiry” is another strong choice, as the robust, fresh flavor of sencha and toasted rice is perfect for warming you up on a cold day.
After grabbing my order, it isn’t too difficult to find a place to park myself for a good study session – La Promenade is perhaps the largest cafe that I’ve seen in San Francisco, with plenty of outlets and an extension cord at the large table in the back. If you really need to charge, aim for either the corner by the counter, the slightly raised deck with the booths, or the wall behind those booths. Even when those spots are occupied, because there are so many outlets, it’s very easy to camp out near those tables and take one – I’d give it 15 minutes, tops.
If you need a study break, you should check out the shelves in the back for a book. If you happen to like what you’re reading, you can actually purchase the book. La Promenade partners with Green Apple Books and, no matter what the price says on the back, all the books on the shelves are $5 each. From non-fiction to fantasy, the book selection offers just as much variety as the food menu.
Even if La Promenade can be a long trek, think of it as a place worth traveling to for a productive escape. The Richmond community lives vibrantly at this cafe, with people of all walks coming to study and work. The cafe hosts various events and game nights and even the occasional local Richmond politician has made their rounds for meet-and-greets. With a kind staff, a classy atmosphere and the sounds of Sinatra and Edith Piaf, what more can I ask for when I could take the Muni to Paris?
3 out of 5 coffee cups — nothing too remarkable about the drinks. The vanilla latte was okay, perhaps a little on the sweeter side, but this place has your solids and a good tea selection
4 out of 5 Instagrams — the wall murals really turn this place into Paris, pointillism is a plus, and that suit of armor at the top of the stairs is such a model
5 out of 5 chairs — seating is phenomenal here, you will not be standing around to sit down
Ideal Time: I went for a five hour study session from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. I had no struggle with seating or getting an outlet and the volume was quiet enough for me to focus intensely
Featured Photo: La Promenade is a little piece of Paris for USF students. Caitlin Mayo/FOGHORN