The Other Cafe

Ever wonder what that sign above Crepes on Cole is all about? When I first got to the neighborhood, I thought maybe there used to be (or still was) a club upstairs, or that it was actually Crepes on Cole that had “nitely” entertainment.

Well, turns out that corner space was a performance venue/club started by Bob Ayres and Steve Zamek back in 1977, and featured performances from the likes of Kate Wolf, Utah Phillips, R. Crumb, Robin Williams, Paula Poundstone, and Dana Carve.

The club was shuttered in 1989 when the landlord refused to renew the lease, opening a short-lived Chinese restaurant in its place before it became what it is today.

The old club may be no more, but Bob Ayres is still producing The Other Café Comedy Showcase series in SF & Berkeley, including a recent 30th reunion show that included Dana Carvey, Robin Williams, Bobcat Goldthwait, Kevin Pollak, Paula Poundstone, and Will Durst… just to name a few.

Read the full/official story of The Other Cafe here.


Filed under History, Local Business

6 responses to “The Other Cafe

  1. The Chinese joint was still there when I moved into the neighborhood in 1992. It was less than memorable; Crepes on Cole was a welcome replacement. Although I’m still intrigued by the Other and I wish I could have been around when it was there.

  2. Trev

    Do you write these articles for recent arrivals? I thought everybody knew it was once a comedy club. I must be getting old. I forget that hundreds of portal digital device-dependent hipsters continue to immigrate from NYC and the Midwest… 🙂

    • Just because you know about something, doesn’t automatically mean everyone else does. For example, I wish everyone understood the significant differences between the historic streetcars (the F Line) and the cable cars, but I know there are many (sometimes even locals) who don’t.

      I write about things I’m interested in or curious about that I figure other people might be interested in, too. But as with any article/blog, there are some people who’ll find the posts interesting/useful, and many who won’t.

      As it sounds like you’re pretty familiar with the history of the neighborhood, I’d love to pick your brain about other things “everybody knows about” for future articles to help educate the masses, including the “portal digital device-dependent hipsters”, about our fair city.

  3. JBS from Illinois, thats in Chicago BTW ; )

    Stumbled across the 30 year reunion info last year and in light of your response above I wanted to share a bit. I worked at the “Other” in 1975 behind the counter and hung out a lot when the first acts, open mike type, music mainly were just starting. The original owner and progenitor was a young woman from St Louis named Kay M. who got the ball rolling. She put fresh cut flowers on each table every day and you could sit outside and catch some sun at a table or two. (hard to do, if you didn’t go across Mt. Parnassus to the Sunset.) Met some great Haight neighborhood folks, Sweet Jane, Lauren, Tom, Daryl, Ernie, David, Louie and last but least Smiley, you all know who you are!!) and generally soaked up what vibe from the early days that was still floating around. (and there was some!) However, the reason I write is to explain the name, the “Other Cafe”. During the heyday of the Haight, one of the main hangouts for good coffee/food was called the “Psalms Cafe” at the corner of Haight and Masonic. Great recorded music playing and cheap and good food. It was the place to go for hippies and straights alike. The Psalms, was Mecca, True North (so to speak) So, Kay not able to instantly enter the fray, especially so far off of Haight street direct action circuit came up with the name that if you know about the Haight, you knew instantly what it meant. It was a good idea, and the cafe was flourishing when I left. I don’t why she sold it a few years later,(apparently 1977) since I had gone back to the Midwest. But,the name was already beginning to be worth something. It was locally famous before it got nationally famous. regards, JBS

  4. EdH

    I used to live at 810 Stanyan in the early 80’s, taking the Metro to work downtown daily. But weekends were for the Other Cafe. Sunday morning coffee and paper – always good people-watching. But the comedy shows were great. Ellen Degeneres, A. Whitney Brown, Whoopi Goldberg, Paula Poundstone, and Kevin Meany were struggling regulars. Some nights Robin Williams would stop in (just getting some fame), and turn the place upside down, running through the audience,

    What I remember most was how SMALL the place was – and low-key. And cheap! Truly a gem. I guess I didn’t know how good I had it!

  5. Beth Ostlund-Wood

    I used to live above the Psalms Cafe with some other “heads” in 1972-72ish. Peter, Bob Willoughby, Dave who sold sandwiches at San Francisco State…. I remember that it was staffed very well but informally, street kids used to work there to earn some money and get a meal, as I recall. They had the best strawberry waffles slathered in whipped cream and peppermint hot chocolate (ditto) I’ve ever had.I used to wake up to the sound of the pans being banged around as the restaurant below got prepared to open for the day. Great memories.