La Cocina Opening El Mercado Pop-Up In Westfield Centre

La Cocina Opening El Mercado Pop-Up In Westfield Centre

The former La Boulange in the Westfield. Photo: Adam S./Yelp

By Geri Koeppel - Published on September 29, 2015.

La Cocina, the small business incubator that's spawned a long list of the city's favorite foods, is opening a cafe and holiday marketplace called El Mercado in the former La Boulange space in the Westfield San Francisco Centre. The pop-up will run from Oct. 1st–Dec. 22nd.

La Cocina spokesperson Jessica Mataka told us in an email that the cafe will be decorated with colorful papel picado (perforated paper) and will serve up Equator coffee, chocolate danishes, cinnamon rolls, cookies, scones and other pastries from Hayes Valley Bakeworks and Pinkie's Bakery. Hayes Valley Bakeworks' mission is closely tied to La Cocina's, Mataka wrote, because they provide employment and training for people with disabilities, or who are homeless or at risk.

La Cocina kitchen manager Blake Kutner shows off equipment for the new El Mercado. Photo: La Cocina/Facebook

Of course, the cafe will feature food from La Cocina entrepreneurs as well, including: 

  • Pumpkin and cream cheese muffins, zucchini bread, brownies and seasonal cheesecakes from Crumble & Whisk, owned by Charles Farrier of Oakland.
  • Muffins (lemon and blueberry), cupcakes (red velvet, ginger), cookies (oatmeal, ginger, chocolate chip), banana bread and carrot cake by the slice from A Girl Named Pinky, owned by Tina Stevens. (Incidentally, Stevens' apartment was a part of a building fire a few weeks ago and she lost everything. Her family had lived there for 26 years. If anyone would like to donate to Stevens as she rebuilds, please contact La Cocina at (415) 824-2729.)
  • Eggless chocolate chip cookies from Omar Mamoon, owner of Dough & Co.
  • Cornbread muffins from Fernay McPherson, chef and owner of Minnie Bells Soul Movement. Fernay was born and raised in the Fillmore and Western Addition, used to be a transit operator for Muni, and now runs her own catering business. 
  • Yogurt and cricket granola with fruit from Monica Martinez of bug-oriented Don Bugito
  • The cafe will continuously feature packaged goods from ClairesquaresNeococoa, Don Bugito and Kika's Treats, to name a few.

Mataka also told us La Cocina will hire Fernay McPherson (Minnie Bell's Soul Movement) and Adriana Lahl of Sal de Vida as the cafe's head chefs. Lahl, whose business focuses on packaged salts, grew up in Mexico, where she learned to cook at as a young girl watching her mother and aunts prepare for family banquets. She's written a cookbook and is La Cocina's resident purveyor of flavor.

More La Cocina entrepreneurs will come on board after the initial soft opening, so look for miso ramen, Nepalese momos, Cambodian street food and more. In November, it'll launch a marketplace with handcrafted goods from other local vendors who'll sell items like bags, mixing bowls, tea towels, cookbooks, candles, soaps and baby onesies.

Mataka wrote to us in an email:

This was a huge project for La Cocina ... and to accomplish it all in three weeks time is a major feat. We hired new staff to operate the cafe, and put in a lot of overtime ... we were just a small staff of 9 after all. We're really excited about this opportunity because there is so much foot traffic throughout Westfield during the holidays and it's a great chance to expose La Cocina and our mission to new people ... It will also be an amazing opportunity for our entrepreneurs to gain valuable experience operating a cafe space, filling orders and perfecting their service skills.