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Mar 10, 2007 10:59 AM

A find: Cafe Bon-Something (Sutter and Polk)

On my way to Canteen this morning, I noticed a new player on Polk Street: a cafe on Polk at Sutter. Out of curiosity I stopped in and was rewarded with quite a find--it offers your standard lattes and mochas, but the two Moroccan owners have much more in store for the curious 'hound.

Not a coffee drinker, I asked the man at the cash register about their tea offerings. He listed their teas by the bag, and then gestured to two glass canisters of loose tea, including some beautiful Moroccan mint tea. I ordered that. This tea was ridiculous: refreshing, perfectly sweetened, and topped with a sprig of fresh mint. I've had this style of tea at many places (in the US--not Morocco, yet) and this is the best I've ever had--really a luxurious experience.

In a few places around the bright and clean seating area, handwritten signs promise "Delicious HOME-MADE foods coming in APRIL." I asked the owner-types for more information. Apparently they opened last Monday; the food will be Middle Eastern, mostly Moroccan, and made by the wife of one of the owners. Already there were some cookies on display--long strips of flour and almond paste, either baked or fried, then coated in honey. They noticed me looking and gave me a piece to try, saying "It's good with the tea!" Right again: the honey-almond flavor was perfect with the piquant mint tea.

There is the standard SF cafe stuff, including pastries from the dreaded City Baking Company, but if you look more closely there are some great finds here. I wasn't in Chowhound mode and didn't have a pen or paper, so I didn't catch the name of the place. I think it was Cafe Bon-Something; the sign advertises that it's open 24 hours, which would make it a great addition to the neighborhood. I'll certainly be back in April to try the HOME-MADE foods.

Can anyone report with more information, especially the correct name?

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  1. I stopped in again and got the correct name this time, Café Ya-Bon. I spoke more with the owner, who clarified that the cuisine will be Moroccan-Tunisian. A poster on the window lists the upcoming offerings as batbout, harira, zaalook, falafel, hummus, beghrit, casse-croutes, Tunisian couscous, Moroccan couscous, tajine, bastilla, g’naoui, and shalada mechouia.

    The tendrils of shepakia, the pastry I tried last time, were tempting, but instead I debated between the plates of bint al sahn and m’laoui next to the register. On the owner’s recommendation, I tried the m’laoui, a circle of fried flatbread served warm with granulated sugar and honey ($1.50). Rich, flaky, and buttery, like a very thick crepe, this would pair well with a cup of tea and a long winter’s nap.

    So far they’re three for three with the Moroccan mint tea, shepakia, and m’laoui: all good and all incredibly cheap. I look forward to trying their savories and wonder how the Moroccan dishes will compare to Tajine, which should open soon very close to this location.

    Café Ya-Bon, 1201 Sutter (at Polk)
    Open 24 hours

    3 Replies
    1. re: pane

      Thanks so much for the followup. I'm excited about this as we've lost the handful of Tunisian spots in that area.

      1. re: Melanie Wong

        Definitely try it if you're in the neighborhood! I especially liked the owners, who are proud of the place and excited to discuss their native chow.

        You have to look closely to notice the interesting food though: the menu posted on the wall only features the City Baking Co. stuff and coffee drinks. Check out the saran-wrapped plates on the counter to find homemade goods and Moroccan tea.

        1. re: pane

          That's how the other places were too: underground Tunisian disguised as a pizza parlor or Tunisian options at a coffee house. Whatever it takes to pay the overhead and gives us access to the native chow works for me.

    2. Does anyone have the phone number for this promising place?

      1 Reply
      1. re: elise h

        Unfortunately, no, but if you make it to the neighborhood you can't miss it. It's on the corner, right at Sutter and Polk, with a big sign that says "Cafe Ya-Bon, Open 24 Hours."