Noe Valley Voice October 2000

Store Trek

If you are a tea-sipping vegetarian with incredibly small feet and your computer is on the blink, you might want to check out this month's Store Trek, the Voice's roundup of new stores and businesses in Noe Valley.

Lovejoy's Antiques and
Tea Room

1351 Church Street (at Clipper)


Lovejoy's Antiques and Tea Room, where Noe Valley meets the British Isles, has gone south. From Church Street at 24th to Church Street at Clipper, that is.

Muna Nash and Gillian Briley, friends since college and roommates on 27th Street for the past four years, bought Lovejoy's earlier this year. "I'd gone into Lovejoy's [at 24th Street] a few times and loved it," says Nash, who has always wanted to open a cafe. Nash ran a hostel with a tea room, for two and a half years in southern Ireland. "That's what Lovejoy's reminded me of -- the same feeling of being in someone's living room."

However, Lovejoy's-the-business came with a less than lovable lease. So, when the two women noticed that the Java 'n' More coffeehouse at Church and Clipper was up for sale last spring, they jumped at the chance to move their popular tea room a few blocks down the street. Then began two months of tidying and remodeling.

The new Lovejoy's is in a much larger space. "But it's still cozy," and filled with lace and flowers and dining tables in all shapes and sizes. "We knew we wanted to capture the same atmosphere as the old Lovejoy's," says Nash, "so we kept the dark wood floors, and brought in even more antiques and china and pictures for the walls. And just by magic, one day we walked in and it felt like Lovejoy's."

Since opening in July, it has become a popular spot for bridal parties, baby showers, and kids' birthday parties (where children can sit in their own kid-size chairs). Reservations are now recommended, and Briley suggests arranging special events several weeks in advance.

Customers include women and men, who cluster on antique chairs and sofas and sip tea from mismatched antique teacups. They also nibble on cucumber and cream-cheese finger sandwiches (with the crusts cut off, of course). The more adventurous try chicken and asparagus, roast beef and horse radish, or the elegant pear and Stilton cheese.

Most are there for tea with a capital T. Light Tea ($9.95) features a sandwich cut into four tiny squares, a scone with Devon cream, fruit, a shortbread cookie, and a pot of tea. High Tea ($12.95) includes all of the above, plus another sandwich, a green salad, and English cole slaw. New to the menu this year is the Queen's Tea ($16.95), which adds a crumpet with lemon curd and a petits-fours dessert.

Not all of the fare is for the dainty appetite, Nash says. "We have the Ploughman's Lunch, a heartier meal that has salad with apples and grapes, big chunks of cheese, Branston pickle [chutney], duck paté or vegetarian paté, salt-and-vinegar crisps, and Irish brown bread."

If you're wondering about the antiques, yes, Lovejoy's still sells them. "We specialize in teapots and antique teacups and saucers and plates. We also have a limited assortment of furniture," says Nash. "And what's nice is that a lot of people in the neighborhood have brought in things on consignment."

Lovejoy's is open Tuesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and on Fridays until 9 p.m.

-- Alex Nicole Leviton

Castro Computer Services

1236 Castro Street (near 24th)


Owner Raj Walia can extract RNA. But if you're in the mood instead to locate the right networking hardware for your computer, he can do that for you, too.

"I have always wanted to be here," says Walia of his new store, Castro Computer Services. But for a few years he was a biomedical engineer. "While I was in school, I learned a lot of technology, but things like this remained a hobby -- until now."

The store, a cubby nestled on Castro just up the hill from the B of A, boasts three online computers and color printers, all renting for $12 an hour with either Walia or an assistant on hand. Walia also sells off-the-shelf hardware and software.

"I can also build custom PCs and help people find the best deal on Notebooks and Macs," says Walia. "A lot of people know what they want, and in general I can find them better prices." He asserts that he has a better-than-average knowledge of where to find good deals and his price markup isn't what you'd find at, say, Comp USA.

Walia briefly worked at the Computer Closet on Sanchez Street, before opening his own store. He is deft at troubleshooting computer software problems, in both Mac and PC environments.

He also provides community service by donating his old computer hardware to places like Lick Wilmerding High School and Glide Memorial Church. He likes their programs because they give students the chance to take the machines apart to see how they work.

If you need some up-to-date (and put-together) computers or peripherals, you can drop by Castro Computer Services any day of the week between 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Walia also makes house calls.

-- Heidi Anderson


4042 24th Street (near Castro)


Twenty-fourth Street's latest adventure in dining is called Legume. And as its name suggests, this restaurant specializes in vegetables. Located at the site of the former La Salsa (between Noe and Castro), Legume has been open since June, serving what owner Victor Juarez describes as "flavorful food that's also vegetarian and healthy."

Much of the flavor comes from Juarez's native Mexico, as well as from his 20 years of experience as a restaurateur. In addition to Legume, Juarez owns two taquerias: Casa Mexicana a block away on 24th Street, and Maya Taqueria on the corner of 16th and Guerrero.

He says the vegetarian idea occurred to him after he noticed that many of his customers at Casa Mexicana (those who don't eat meat) had been limiting themselves to bean burritos. "There are not many options in this area at a taqueria," says Juarez. "Casa Mexicana has some things for vegetarians, but not many things that are special with great flavor."

Juarez says he and Legume's chef, Diego Salinas, who hails from Colombia, labored for months to create a savory vegetarian cuisine for Legume. Dishes such as Empanadas Don Diego (mixed vegetables with roasted tomato salsa), Timbal de Berenjena (mushroom risotto wrapped in eggplant with salsa), and Paella Hortelana (fire-roasted vegetables with saffron rice) show the Spanish influence. But the menu also features some less exotic choices such as Mama's Oat Burger and the Grilled Vegetable Sandwich.

According to Juarez, the restaurant makes an effort to use organic produce if at all possible.

Legume's salads and sandwiches range from $5.50 to $7.25, and the entrees from $8.50 to $11.50. The restaurant also boasts eight fresh-squeezed juices -- some vegetable, some fruit (two are a mix of both) -- all costing about $3.

Legume is open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

-- Heidi Anderson

Wavy Footprints

3961 24th Street (near Noe)


Susan Lytle has combined her professional skills with a personal obsession. In her years at Levi Strauss as a production forecaster, she stayed on top of consumer buying habits. As a woman of very small feet, she also found herself pounding the pavement around town in search of fashionable shoes that fit.

"There were only about four places in this city to find shoes for me," Lytle says.

Wavy Footprints, the children's shoe store Lytle now owns with partner Julie Tessener, opened in May in the 24th Street space formerly occupied by 17 Reasons, next door to Little Bean Sprouts. The store is colorful, comfortably furnished, and stocked with 10 major brands of children's shoes (Stride Rite, Elefanten, Skechers, Brakkies), plus such specialty items as handmade moccasins from Mexico. To make parents of small children feel welcome, the shop provides a changing table and nursing chair in a quiet corner of the store.

"This is fun," Lytle says, "because I get to interact with kids every day." She and Tessener, a former chemist, both work full-time at the shop.

Lytle, who wears a child's size 3 and is partial to Dr. Martens, maintains three different price levels of shoes. Low prices entice the budget-minded (such as a Stride Rite tennis shoe that sells for $19), many moderate shoes are for the quality-conscious (Elefanten dress shoe for $35), and some high-end brands lure the shoe-passionate (Baby Bott soft shoes you can crawl around in for about $50).

As for the competition, Lytle says she has had positive feedback from the owners of Little Bean Sprouts next door and Small Frys down the street. "After we opened, both actually phased out some shoes they carried." This may be better for the other stores in the long run, says Lytle, because fitting shoes for children can be tricky. She has learned the necessary skills from the National Shoe Retailers Association. But she says it takes more than that.

"Some children find it scary, like a doctor's office, because of the fitting device and having to take off their shoes," Lytle explains. "I always try to engage them by addressing them directly and ask them if I can do this right now."

And if that doesn't work? "Sometimes I'll send the shoes home with the parent so that the child can try them on later, when he or she is ready!" she laughs.

Shoe-fitting hours, for children and all small-footed adults, are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week.

-- Heidi Anderson