Cafe Franco: Coffee and Food in Fort Mason for Locals and Travelers

There aren’t many places you can sit in the city with a view of the Bay and a reasonably priced cup of coffee, but then, there aren’t many places like Café Franco at HI San Francisco Fisherman’s Wharf hostel. The cute and cozy café, which is open to both hostel guests and the general public, is the perfect spot to stop by for a breakfast bagel or a hearty soup-and-sandwich lunch when you’re taking a break from strolling the greens of Fort Mason. Throw in free Wi-Fi and a lively cast of friendly staff and patrons that could be from up the road or the other side of the globe, and you’ve got your new favorite spot in San Francisco. We stopped by on a rainy day while funky old-school RnB played on the speakers and the smell of baking cookies wafted through the air for a chat with new café manager Kelsey Kelmel. 

How long have you been manager for?

I started in August, so not quite that long. 

And, do you already have any big plans in mind for the café? 

I would love to see us get more involved in the community and enhance the vibe we already have of a really chilled space with the old-time San Francisco feel and keep it pretty.  

How would you describe the food here? 

It’s very simple healthy food, like sandwiches and salads, so nothing too intense. It’s all very light and good for travelers: I know when I’m traveling I like to have something fresh and good if I’ve eaten heavy food all day. We’ve also been doing a lot of baked goods recently, and I’d also like to add a lot more international foods and really get more involved with all the different cultures that we have coming in. 

Our produce comes from a local supplier and we’re making a lot more things in house, so it’s very local. Ideally, down the road I’d like to participate with the farmers markets and get really fresh produce from nearby. 

So what is a must-try for someone who’s never been to the café? 

A must-try is obviously our latte. We have really good, organic fair trade coffee and excellent espresso. And then for a sandwich it has to be the Provocado with provolone, avocado, tomatoes, greens, onions and homemade garlic spread on bread toasted to perfection. To top it off you get a bag of chips or a piece of fruit with the sandwich. Then must get a chocolate chip cookie.  So that’s a whole meal! 

Besides the hostellers, who are the regulars of Café Franco? 

We get a lot of National Parks representatives and people from the Golden Gate Council because their offices are nearby here in the park, and we get a lot of people from North Beach who knew Franco back in the day, and how he impacted the café. 

Who is Franco? 

Franco was a longtime, main employee of the hostel and was known for his yelling. He wanted to do everything himself and was pretty much like a one-man show. He was Italian and he knew a lot of people in the area and made the café what it is today. He wasn’t exactly service with a smile, but his service kept people coming back for more. 

What makes Café Franco cool today? 

It’s kind of like a time warp. It just takes you to off to an earlier era – sometimes 40s, sometimes 60s, depending on the music that’s playing. Plus, there’s the view so you don’t really feel like you’re in the city and the whole vibe just makes you feel like you’re somewhere else. 

And why are the people who work here so cool? 

I think that cafés and hostels in general tend to attract a certain kind of person who is curious about the world and curious about learning about the people around them and making them feel comfortable. That’s just the people that this organization attracts too. Also the view helps quite a lot. 

So, what do you want past and future patrons of Café Franco to know? 

We’re here for you, we want you to come enjoy the space and what we make for you. We love what we do, and we want you to come in not just for the coffee, but also for the experience. 


HI USA Tip: Get your daily temptation by following Café Franco on Instagram, and while you’re in the neighborhood, check out these awesome things to do within walking distance of HI San Francisco Fisherman’s Wharf hostel