Old Skool Cafe Is A Jazzy SF Supper Club Run By At-Risk Youth

Jamie Ferrell Jamie Ferrell

Old Skool Cafe Is A Jazzy SF Supper Club Run By At-Risk Youth

Be sure to order for pickup and delivery to keep them going during Covid times!

Old Skool Cafe isn’t your run-of-the-mill restaurant. It’s an upscale 1940s-themed jazz club, offering a state-of-the-art soul food-inspired menu. And it’s run primarily by at-risk youth between 16 and 22 years old.

[Image: @oldskoolcafe via Instagram]

Founded by former corrections officer Theresa Goines in 2012, Old Skool Cafe aims to “give youth a second chance.” That is, they train young people who are at-risk, living in foster care, or formerly incarcerated, in all aspects of running a restaurant.

All new trainees undergo a free intensive restaurant and skills training program. After putting in 20 hours a week for 12 weeks, they may apply for employment at Old Skool Cafe and start building their leadership skills.

[Video: “We Are Old Skool Cafe” via Vimeo]

This video from the restaurant interviews several of the young employees. “Without Old Skool, it would be a hard time right now. Trust me,” says Abu Bhnopha,  server and line cook.

“That’s why I like coming here. It  just makes me feel better about my life. It gives me hope. Because if I wasn’t here I’d have no hope,” says Daniel Bermudez, youth chef and kitchen manager.

[Image: @oldskoolcafe via Instagram]

These youth employees work hard as hosts, servers, chefs, entertainers, and more. According to the Old Skool Cafe website, the program aims to “offer youth a solution for addressing their basic needs and break the cycle of poverty and incarceration.” They provide an environment for youth to be successful both inside and outside of the restaurant.


[Image: @oldskoolcafe via Instagram]

And that intensive training pays off – Old Skool Cafe offers a spectacular global menu of soul food-inspired dishes. Classic favorites include Mac & Cheese, Jordan’s Fried Chicken, Daniel’s Gumbo, Shrimp n’ Grits, and much more. They also feature a “youth dish of the month,” which usually comes from a young employee’s family recipe.

Drink options include house-made sodas, extensive wine and beer options, and classic speakeasy cocktails such as an Old Fashioned, Side Car, or Sazerac.

[Image: @oldskoolcafe via Instagram]

Pre-pandemic, Old Skool Cafe promised live entertainment every Thursday, Friday and Saturday. These events are not so feasible during Covid times, but they still find ways to amp up the jazz element. Roots legend Questlove just did a livestreamed DJ set to benefit Old Skool Cafe on February 9th.

Be sure to order from Old Skool Cafe for pickup and delivery, or consider donating to keep supporting this incredible business. Keep an eye on their Facebook and Instagram pages to see when they’ll be opening back up for in-person dining.

Old Skool Cafe is located at 1429 Mendell Street in San Francisco’s Bayview District.

[Featured Image: @oldskoolcafe via Instagram]

Food & Drink