Roger Hillyard: Farley's Coffee

April 15, 2011
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Farleys Coffee founder Roger Hillyard
Roger Hillyard photo by Stacy Ventura

Back in 1988, Hillyard had the vision to live above 1315 18th St., undaunted by the five empty storefronts on the block. "Initially when I moved there, people either didn't know where [the neighborhood] was or, if they did, they were afraid to go." In the mid-1960s, as a student at SF State, Hillyard used to come to the Potrero to buy scrap metal. Before building--literally, doing the construction by hand for a year--Potrero Hill's beloved coffee shop, Sandbox Bakery outpost, magazine stand and community music stage and gathering place, Hillyard was cutting his teeth on the business of food. He worked roles in management, importation, distribution and manufacturing as a consultant, a stint at Arrowhead Mills in Texas, and at Mill Valley's now-defunct The Avenue Grill. Today, Farley's has grown along with the community it serves; Hillyard's son has spread the brand name to two other locations in Oakland and Emeryville.


When the Liba Falafel truck pulls up for lunch at De Haro and Alameda on Thursday afternoons, Hillyard comes running. A well-crafted organic falafel topped with pickled beets and a variety of other unusual condiments "makes it nice," as does a side of sweet potato fries with cilantro, garlic and lime. The butterfish, salad and rice at Umi are another frequent pescatarian lunch for this practicing Buddhist, though he notes, the double-entrée bentos are probably more popular.


"An excellent noodle shop; a variety of noodles in broth and not. Not just Asian-style, but also good Italian pasta, too."


Hillyard describes Taqueria Vallarta on 24th and Folsom as a "funky-assed taco joint" with two wide-open doors selling tamales on one side and tacos on the other. He returns repeatedly for the simple shrimp tacos and an agua fresca. "It feels like being in Mexico."

Illustration by Wendy MacNaughton

FARLEY'S 1315 18th Street (415) 648-1545  

This content was published in the Spring 2011 issue of Edible San Francisco Magazine. © 2011-2012 Edible San Francisco.

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