While a trip to Alcatraz or a cable car excursion might top the average to-do list for San Francisco tourists and recent transplants, Nittakarn Chaiwattanasak said she had something entirely different on her mind when she first moved to the city.
Chaiwattanasak relocated to SF from Thailand with the goal of trying as much bubble tea as humanly possible. She’s been in love with boba since she was a child. But given how expensive the Taiwanese drink is in her native country, it was always a rare treat.
That's not really an issue for Chaiwattanasak anymore. She opened After Hours Cafe, a boba bakery in the Outer Sunset last week—just in time for the hordes of sugar-crazed teenagers wandering the city over spring break.
The shop, located at Taraval Street and 41st Avenue, has been a longtime dream for Chaiwattanasak, who currently serves around 20 different teas and soft drinks. She said her two favorites are a regular milk tea—“not overly sweet”—and a fizzy drink infused with fresh fruit.
The fast-casual restaurant took over a bar—called After Hours Bar—that closed during the Covid shutdown of 2020. Chaiwattanasak has worked the front and back of the house at the restaurant next door, Vanida Thai Kitchen, for years, so she said she leapt at the opportunity to rent out the space when it became available.
“I already know all the neighbors,” Chaiwattanasak said. “I’ve known them for almost eight years, and they want to support me.”
For the time being, After Hours Cafe is in a soft-opening phase, with limited hours and a dessert-centric menu. A culinary graduate who first learned to cook from her mother, Chaiwattanasak makes mochi, mango sticky rice and a variety of Thai-inflected cakes. Having recently added a few savory items like salads and rice bowls, she hopes to ultimately expand her offerings to include a full seafood menu.
“I always knew I wanted to work in kitchens,” Chaiwattanasak said. “I’m so happy when people eat my food and finish it all.”
Of course, the After Hours Bar stayed open late enough to earn its name, and Chaiwattanasak said she plans to eventually stay open until 11 p.m. She’s kept the bar intact and is considering serving alcohol someday.
“I just want this to be a place to become a real community,” she said.