A new cafe feels the love

It didn’t take a cynic to question the need for another coffee shop and cafe on Fillmore Street — especially one in the exact same spot, at 2123 Fillmore, where Bittersweet and Sweet Inspiration and several others had tried and failed — and next door to recent arrival Citizen Cake, a superstar of bakery.

Yet less than a month after opening, the simple but stylishly black and white new spot named Jane — the realized dream of local resident Amanda Michael — appears to be just what the neighborhood had been hungering for. Already customers are becoming fans and returning to bring their friends for a bite of lunch or to linger longer over cups and crumb-laden plates. And that’s just what Michael intended.

“We wanted to make a cozy neighborhood spot here,” she says. “Our style is homey and our food is old-fashioned — not high-tech pastry or elaborate desserts, but more like what your mom used to make.”

Citizen Cake arrived to great expectations last fall with star chef Elizabeth Falkner and a high-wattage reputation. Reviews have been positive, but its embrace by the neighborhood has been lukewarm.

Michael maintains that Jane is not in competition with its edgy next-door neighbor. “Citizen Cake is much more of a destination place,” she says, adding that she’s encouraged by the proposal to allow Fillmore to add more eateries to make it “a bustling food scene.”

The fare at Jane is plain and simple: fresh baked goods, soup, salads, sandwiches and Straus soft serve ice cream.

Michael was pastry chef at PlumpJack, farther up Fillmore, before taking time out of the kitchen to raise her two children — 11-year-old daughter Jane and son Gus, who’s now 13 and too busy being a teen to mind that his mother’s new baby is named after his sister.

After leaving PlumpJack for motherhood, she kept alive the dream of owning her own place. A neighborhood resident for the last 15 years — the family lives around the corner on Sacramento Street — she wanted her new place to be close to home. In fact, she limited her search to the two blocks of Fillmore between California and Clay.

The spot at 2123 Fillmore was a perfect fit for her bill of particulars. She started negotiating with the landlord as soon as Bittersweet cafe closed suddenly last summer. After the obligatory prolonged battle with the zoning authorities and an extensive renovation, Jane opened at the beginning of February.

“We prettied it up a little,” Michael says modestly.

The new decor manages to be both hip and cozy. Upstairs there’s a veritable salon with upholstered chairs and tables bearing cheeky sayings. Downstairs tables are clubby, with tall seats lining the coffee bar to allow patrons to keep a close eye on the baristas. That’s a fitting focus at Jane, which features beans and brew from favorite local purveyor Four Barrel Coffee.

“Coffee is a big part of what we do,” says Michael. “San Francisco is the epicenter of coffee-making as art and we wanted to bring the coffee revolution to this side of town.”

Jane is open daily from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. And while that makes for long hours for Michael — who starts baking everything from scratch on the spot in her newly remodeled bakers’ kitchen at 4 each morning — she also hints that Jane may keep later hours in the future.

But Michael says the hard work and long hours are already worth it. “The neighborhood has been fabulous,” she says. “People have been just incredibly welcoming and supportive.”

One possible reason: An outsized mounted yak head oversees the goings-on from a high perch on one wall.

“Oh — that’s Jack the yak,” says Michael. “He’s our protector.”

It appears to be working.