By Zora Rosenberg
Chalos on Taraval Street, in the Parkside neighborhood at the heart of the Sunset District, is a gem of an eatery, bringing gourmet coffee and Argentine-inspired snacks to the neighborhood. While it hasn’t been open for long, Chalos (in the location that was formerly home to The Copper Kettle) has managed to become near and dear to the people both inside and outside of the community.
Customers have come from downtown, the East Bay, and even the South Bay to sample their offerings. A combination of word-of-mouth and additional marketing from Eater and Food Network has helped to put Chalos on the map.
The cafe has a sunny appearance – a front wall with windows and a bright color scheme – that is immediately welcoming.
Annie Leong, one of the co-owners of Chalos, grew up in San Francisco. She met her husband and fellow co-owner, Gonzalo Del Cerro, while living in Argentina. After years in South America, the couple moved to San Francisco in 2015.
When they settled in, they noticed that the City was lacking in “Argentine bites.” Leong and Del Cerro ran a restaurant in Argentina and wanted to bring their experience to San Francisco. Food, according to Leong, is meant to bring people together, and Chalos has a little something for everyone.
While they offer some standard pastries like muffins and croissants, it is their Argentine-style churros and empanadas, which are prepared fresh to order, that are the heart and the signature of their business.
Leong has roots in the Sunset District.
“Part of my heart is always in the neighborhood,” she said. Leong wanted to create a place of community in a neighborhood that she knew and loved. At first, they considered opening up someplace downtown, where there was more hustle and bustle. They would have gotten more foot traffic from hungry commuters looking for a quick bite before work or during their lunch break. However, when they saw the natural light and the warm atmosphere of the space on Taraval, they knew that they had found the perfect spot and decided to plant roots in the Sunset.
Like many businesses, they have struggled during the pandemic. In thinking about where Chalos might be in five to 10 years, Leong admitted: “I don’t have an answer. I think there’s too much uncertainty right now. We’re looking just to see what will happen in the next five to 10 months.”
Chalos has managed to stay open for limited hours (9 a.m.-3 p.m., Thursday-Sunday), but they have been forced to reduce hours for their staff due to the drop in sales as a result of the pandemic. The menu at Chalos was also limited during the months of March and April because some of the ingredients they needed were hard to come by.
Leong concedes that they did experience a slight drop in morale due to the lack of customer interaction, but she feels now that they are coming back. The strength of Chalos resides in the community that surrounds them: the loyal customers of the Sunset District. Customers check in with them every day to see how they are doing, and then they usually buy some fresh empanadas, a coffee or a churro. It is clear that there is a strong connection between Chalos and local residents, and that means everything to Leong and Del Cerro.
“It’s just nice to see a business open on your block instead of everything being closed and boarded up,” Leong said. “It’s nice to be a part of the neighbors’ routines.”
For more information, visit http://www.chalossf.com.