Skip to main content

Take your coffee date to this ‘secret’ San Francisco garden

Calaca Coffee is currently popping up in the Institute of Contemporary Art San Francisco's semi-hidden "secret garden" on the weekends. | Source: Courtesy Calaca Coffee

Welcome to It's a Date, a series of idea guides to help you navigate your love life in the Bay through thoughtfully planned and curated itineraries, field tested by our staff. Next up, an artsy coffee date in a "secret" museum garden.

In the roller-coaster world of modern dating, the coffee date is San Francisco’s go-to for first-time meetups. But it also can be hella boring after you’ve been on 10 in a week. 

So why not mix things up with a get-to-know-you session fueled by art and authentic Mexican coffee in a secret setting?

Cost: Under $15
Great for: First or second dates
Vibe: Artsy, caffeinated and budget-friendly 
Time: 1-2 hours

Coffee and Art

Enter the Institute of Contemporary Art San Francisco, the almost 1-year-old art space in Dogpatch that’s also home to a tucked awaysecret garden.” Calaca Coffee, which created a transporting outdoor hangout space in Crockett last year, is currently occupying the space on the weekends, setting the scene for an afternoon of crafting during the museum’s summertime series of workshops, pop-ups, performances and artist residencies.   

Calaca Coffee's beverages are inspired by its founder Mexican American heritages. | Source: Courtesy Calaca Coffee

Not many art museums boast a semi-hidden courtyard, so you’ll likely impress your date by suggesting the spot. (Admission is also free, so you’re only out for the cost of coffee.) Make a beeline to Calaca’s pop-up, where many of the drinks are inspired by the founders’ shared Mexican American heritages, including an “Azteca mocha” spiced with chili, a cafe de olla-style cold brew with an optional layer of Mexican vanilla cold foam on top, or a refreshing hibiscus soda (think agua de jamaica, but with a bubbly twist). 

ICA San Francisco's "Meantime" summer 2023 open-studios programming invites visitors to draw self-portraits and leave them on one of the museum's walls. | Source: Christina Campodonico/The Standard

As part of the museum’s “Meantime” programming, ICA is hosting open studio art stations where visitors can make art and admire artists at work when they pop into the space.

First, draw your self-portrait in front of one of two white vanities set up for the purpose. Give yourself a challenge: drawing yourself without looking at the paper, attempting to render your likeness with your nondominant hand, or collaborating with your date on an exquisite corpse. Or you can cut up National Geographic magazines to make fanciful collages at another station nearby. 

Coloring and collage tools are available at ICA San Francisco's "Meantime" open studio art station. | Source: Christina Campodonico/The Standard

If the artistic duo behind the Instagram account @palm_assembly is present, step into their photo booth for a professional-grade portrait session. The creators of the project, Oakland sculptor Sylvia Hughes-Gonzales and Egyptian artist Ebti, will ask you to fill out a survey about your personal associations with palm trees and then invite you to play with palm fronds or pose against backdrops of that tropical tree. Even if the date’s going badly, at least you’ll have an artsy photo of yourself to walk away with.  

Step into Palm Assembly's photo booth for an artsy portrait session during ICA SF's "Meantime" series. | Source: Christina Campodonico/The Standard

On your way out, if you’re lucky, you may snag a glimpse of weaver Carolina Cuevas at work at her loom or artist Tanja Geis molding sea stars out of clay. “Meantime” continues through Sept. 3. 

Calaca Coffee Pop-Up

Saturdays & Sundays through November | 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
ICA San Francisco | 901 Minnesota St., SF