4956 Voltaire Street, Ocean Beach
If there were some sort of Reader coffee shop design award, Te Mana Cafe (4956 Voltaire Street) would be on the short list to win. This OB newcomer proves just how right it can be to transform houses into retail dining spaces, despite the sometime hurdles in doing so. Homes are...well...they’re homey, and there’s something about sitting in a former living room, or on what was once somebody’s porch, that gives a neighborhood café or small restaurant a welcoming aura.
Think of Te Mana as Cali-Hawaiian, with leis and tiki gods festooned around a Craftsman space. Indoor plants, comfy couches, and a bedazzled longhorn skull give the interior a charming (albeit somewhat kooky) vibe, and the patio soaks up afternoon sunlight like a champ.
Converted houses are more of an “old city” phenomenon, where zoning laws and neighborhood developments had more free rein than in a town like ours, where space is plentiful and there’s much less of a need to repurpose buildings. Elsewhere in the country, we see this phenomenon much more. Having converted homes be the exception might just give them more charm, in OB and all over town.
Running with the Hawaiian theme, Te Mana mixes it up with some island style. Egg bagels and suchlike still make up the majority of the menu, but Hawaiian plate lunch makes a delightful surprise appearance. Even more exciting are the manapua, Hawaiian steamed buns filled with char siu pork. They aren’t made at Te Mana--the owners have a local baker do the heavy lifting on that one--but that doesn’t detract from their tastiness.
It’s hard to overstate how nice it is to be able to get something salty, and not panini, at a café!
The rest of the café’s offerings include smoothies, açai bowls, kava kava (which some people go all googly-eyed over), and pretty good coffee. On the whole, we’re talking better side of average here, but it’s really the great space that gets Te Mana a big thumbs-up.