Tiring of the Prohibition-era style pervasive in San Francisco's bars and restaurants, the owners and design team behind recently opened The Corner Store opted to channel "something more in tune with the happy, hopeful, and welcoming vibe of a 1950s community corner store and soda shop—minus the kitsch and cliche of a typical diner," says Clinton Miller, the project's architect. Located on Masonic at Geary, right above the Geary underpass, the restaurant is a welcome addition to the neighborhood with a menu that tastes as good as the interior looks (be sure not to miss the house burger with bacon jam). "I wanted to create a light airy interior where someone could just as easily sit and enjoy the classic food with a homemade soda at lunch or a boozy milkshake after a nice long dinner," says Miller.
The Corner Store, located at 5 Masonic Avenue, was formerly a Hawaiian restaurant.
Owners Ezra Berman and Miles Palliser enlisted the help of architect Clinton Miller and local gallery and consultancy The Popular Workshop to help shape the overall branding. "Our approach can vary from client to client, but particularly in the case of a project like a restaurant, bar or hotel, we really want the branding that we put forth to reflect something timeless, memorable, and complimentary to the original concept," says Nate Hooper, creative director of The Popular Workshop and an old friend of the owners. TPW helped develop the overall concept through the signage, logo, design of the menu and materials.
"The original idea of The Corner Store is to basically offer an elevated take on classic American fare, so we wanted the branding and the build out to reflect those values," says Hooper.
Here's a sample menu from the restaurant. "We wanted to subtly nod to the early to mid-20th century through choices like the logo 'stamp' for the packaging and hand-embossed menus on recycled cream paper stock," says Hooper.
"The materials were selected to be utilitarian in nature and thus subtly hinting at the '50s without being too obvious or literal," says Miller about the subway tiles, butcher block countertops, industrial pendant fixtures, boxy wood built-in shelving of the interior.
Here's a look at the restaurant, which has an open plan."The layout of the previous restaurant had the kitchen closed off from the rest of the space so the first step in opening it up was to expose the kitchen and make it the focal point of the restaurant while opening the sight lines from the entry area to the rest of the space," says Miller. "It's relatively small, so keeping the ceilings and walls light and not overpowering the space with an over-bearing back bar design was almost as important as opening up the kitchen."
Here's the waiting area. "To stay true to the concept, there is display shelving throughout the space that will eventually be filled with freshly bottled Corner Store products (for sale) from the kitchen and bar so the experience will be of sitting among the items you're consuming," says Miller.
The interior is outfitted with artwork by Bob Chisholm, a little-known San Francisco–based photographer. "A lot of effort was spent refining how the overall concept was going to manifest itself on virtually every level, down to details like the glass milk bottle that your water comes in, the copper salt and pepper grinders on the tables, and the artwork," says Hooper. The walk-in refrigerator in the background, a remnant from the previous restaurant, is clad in rusted-steel panels.
Here's the outdoor patio. For more about the restaurant and to read the menu, please visit thecornerstore-sf.com.