Clean, green, organic and sustainable is the mantra of many San Francisco restaurants, but at Pier 3’s Plant Cafe Organic, it’s the foundation.
The menu at the largest location of the Plant Cafe, owned by Matthew Guelke and Mark Lewis, notes that just a few ingredients are not organic.
Guelke and Lewis opened their first Plant Cafe, formerly named Lettus Organic Cafe, eight years ago in San Francisco’s Marina district. Guelke was in the tech industry at Muse Corp. and Lewis was Muse’s board chairman. The two friends joined forces after Guelke could not easily find the type of food he sought in San Francisco despite the fact that fresh, organic food is widely celebrated in the Bay Area.
Guelke and his family had attended a health retreat where all foods “not good for you” were replaced with raw food and juices. Afterward he felt incredibly good, and his parents’ health improved, he says.”I approached Mark about starting a restaurant where everything was pure, with fresh juices and primarily vegetable-based,” Guelke says. “I wanted to make it affordable to eat 100 percent local organic food.” The partners opened the Embarcadero and Financial District locations in 2007. Formerly an industrial storage space for agriculture and freight shipping, Plant Cafe’s Embarcadero space is now a full-service, 142-seat restaurant. The patio, which is equipped with heaters and roll-down walls, affords waterfront views. An open breezeway separates the restaurant from the kitchen and the smaller, quick-service cafe with 20 mezzanine-level seats.
Cass Calder Smith, who designed such places as LuLu, Rose Pistola and the nearby La Mar Cebicheria Peruana, incorporated a living wall of air plants, a floor made from coconut shells and a zinc bar in the Scandinavian-influenced dining room. While using natural, sustainably sourced construction materials is not unusual these days, Guelke and Lewis stepped up the environmentally conscious design with rooftop solar panels that power about 30 percent of the kitchen’s needs.The design earned a Smart Environments award from Metropolis magazine in 2010, and this year the Nature Conservancy recognized the restaurant for its “commitment to sustainably sourced ingredients and green practices.”