YakiniQ Cafe is a hole-in-the-wall that doesn’t look all that impressive upon first glance. When it gets too warm, a tour group of flies pays the cafe a visit to congregate in the back. The cafe shares a bathroom with its upstairs neighbor, the Korean barbecue restaurant of the same name. Mismatched chairs and wobbly tables give the cafe a patchwork feel, and sometimes the art on the wall can go from avant-garde to almost macabre, depending on what art is in rotation. In essence, YakiniQ is not your typical minimalist, clean-cut aesthetic that calls to the Boba Guys flagship store in Hayes Valley or Home Cafe on Clement Street – but, as I’ve found, YakiniQ Cafe feels more like a home than Home.
My spam musubi was delivered right to my table as I snacked on my (slightly overpriced) lavender shortbread cookies and sipped on my (more reasonably priced) lavender latte. Though the food prices can be on the higher end when it comes to cafes – my shortbread cookies were $5.50 for a bag of four – the variety and quality makes YakiniQ worth a sit-down meal. The spam musubi, at around $3.25, is the most cost-effective little meal here. The rice-seaweed-spam roll is quite filling. If you’re craving something more sweet, YakiniQ has you covered with a wide variety of macarons (my personal favorite is the Earl Grey, lightly seasoned with loose leaf tea), cakes and pastries. However, if you need more filling fare, the caprese sandwich is a great vegetarian option that includes a salad on the side. Their chicken bánh mì also happens to be one of my favorite Vietnamese sandwiches in the city. Their quiche is a good combination of light and fluffy, melting in your mouth with each bite. And if you’re really feeling their tea selection, do peruse the shelf in front of the counter for a tin of high-quality Harvey & Sons Tea.
As I’m sitting at a small table towards the back of the cafe, sipping my lavender latte with a shot of espresso, busily typing away at a paper, mayoral candidate Mark Leno enters, flanked by several blazer-clad people, some armed with cameras. He makes a couple of rounds around the cafe, shaking hands as two people speak rapidly across from where I am sitting about a business venture. The pair seated to the right of me is pouring over the conventions of the English language, the tutor sprinkling in a little Japanese here and there to clarify grammar rules. Though this little cafe (literally) lives in the shadow of the more well-known Korean barbecue establishment above, YakiniQ Cafe is truly a lively hub of the Japantown community, attracting people of all walks of life.
It’s surprisingly difficult to find a coffee shop open late in San Francisco, but YakiniQ Cafe is great for those evening study sessions, as it is open until 9 p.m. on most days. However, it might be best to note that the cafe does get pretty busy during the evenings, and I recommend against sitting towards the front of the cafe after dark. The cigarette smoke coming from the people waiting to enter the Korean BBQ restaurant upstairs tends to waft right through the cafe’s front doors, along with an intolerable Arctic cold draft.
As a study space, YakiniQ might not be everyone’s cup of tea. I happened to pay my visit last week during a quieter time, but when YakiniQ is in full swing, you’ll hear animated conversations and an eclectic playlist, ranging from Two Door Cinema Club to K-pop. I personally prefer the hustle and bustle of a lively cafe – with people hard at work around me, I can’t help but feel like I need to be just as productive to earn my keep. However, if you need peace and quiet, it’d be best to come earlier in the day.
YakiniQ is a mix of eclectic and cozy with a great food selection, a unique selection of drinks and an environment that attracts all walks of life. If you’re looking for a more stimulating environment, YakiniQ just might be the place.
1640 Post St.
4 out of 5 coffee cups – A good variety of coffee drinks and an even larger selection of teas that you could request as a tea latte; also, do try the sweet potato latte.
3 out of 5 Instagrams – A little bit of a hole in the wall, with the low hanging lights, but the rotating art on display can be hit-or-miss.
4 out of 5 chairs – Availability depends on the time of the day, but you have quite a few choices when it comes to seating: a large communal table is perfect for those group study sessions, the couches are great for lounging (and perhaps a date), the single tables on the right with the outlets are good for isolating yourself.
Featured Photo: YakiniQ offers assorted teas, coffee, cookies, and savory snacks. Caitlin Mayo