Noe Valley Voice June 2010

Store Trek

By Karen Topakian

Store Trek is a regular Voice feature profiling stores and businesses in Noe Valley. This month, we introduce a French inspired café and a psychotherapist who focuses on couples counseling.

You can sip your café au lait both inside and out at La Boulange de Noe, a French bakery cafe at the corner of 24th and Sanchez streets. Photo by Pamela Gerard
La Boulange de Noe
3834 24th Street at Sanchez Street

"We try to bring to the neighborhood a little piece of France," says Thomas Lefort, co-owner of La Boulange de Noe, the colorful bakery/cafe that arrived at the corner of 24th and Sanchez streets last fall.

In Noe Valley, a little piece of France goes a long way.

From opening day Nov. 17, customers have flocked to La Boulange, eager to sample the French onion soup, quiche Lorraine, croque monsieur, and pink Parisian macarons.

Boulange in French, says Lefort, means a place that sells bread but doesn't bake it on the premises. "We make everything we sell from scratch," he says, explaining that employees bake the breads off-site so they can ensure they are "authentic, fresh, rustic products" à la the French countryside.

But La Boulange the cafe offers more than baguettes, batards, and other French breads. You can find pastries, French toast, egg frittatas, veggie burgers, sandwiches served on multi-grain bread (with sides of greens or chips), salads, soups, and desserts, all for under $10. Beverages include wine, beer, fresh juices, tea, and organically grown coffee--served in a cup and saucer or a large bowl.

Lefort says the most popular menu items these days are the almond croissant ($2.75), the Boulange Club sandwich with turkey, bacon, and avocado ($9), and the Salade Niçoise, with tuna, potatoes, tomato, roasted red pepper, olives, and green beans ($10).

Specials planned for the month of June include a panzanella bread salad ($9.50), a spring vegetable open-faced sandwich ($9), and veal Bolognese with organic penne ($11). A cherry flan ($3.25) and a strawberry rhubarb tart ($3.75) top the list of summer sweets.

Natural light fills La Boulange as diners watch the passing parade on 24th Street or their fellow patrons sitting at tables outside on Sanchez. According to Lefort, finding a sunny corner spot in a Victorian building in Noe Valley took much patience. "We had been looking at Noe for quite a time. It was the fourth location we looked at in four years," says Lefort, who spent four months renovating the former home of Noe Valley Pizza Restaurant. "We were ecstatic to get in."

Lefort says he liked the neighborhood because of its family orientation.

Noe Valley also seemed a logical choice because Lefort's business partner, Pascal Rigo, lives close by on 25th Street. Lefort describes Rigo, who opened La Boulangerie, the "mother store," in 1999, as "a baker by trade his entire life, who studied in France. He's a creative person behind the concept, who oversees production." In 2003, Lefort joined Rigo, bringing his business background into the mix, and in 2006 a silent partner joined the company, providing financial stability and facilitating its expansion.

La Boulange de Noe is the partners' 11th bakery/cafe and their ninth in San Francisco.

"Each store has its own identity," Lefort says. As for the purple and orange façade at La Boulange de Noe, "Boulange blue is our main color. The awnings are always pumpkin. We test different colors to make sure they will fit in with the buildings, street and surroundings."

The Noe Valley outlet can accommodate up to 74 people at its wood tables and counters. "We get a bit of everything--young hipsters, an older person getting a pastry, strollers, merchants, young mothers, people who work from home and some professionals," says Lefort. "On weekends, people come in who want a place to hang out."

La Boulange does not provide wi-fi Internet access, though. "We're not a Parisian café," says Lefort. "We're country."

La Boulange de Noe is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week. As a gift to store patrons, this summer La Boulange will offer a 20 percent discount on adult tickets to the de Young Museum's "Birth of Impressionism" exhibition (running through Sept. 6). Go to laboulangebakery.comfor a coupon ID.

Dr. Robert Solley
1701 Church Street at 29th Street

When two people share the same roof and bed, problems are sure to arise. Tempers may flare and anger may erupt where love should abound.

Dr. Robert Solley, a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in couples counseling, helps clients cool the tensions and rekindle their love.

"For me, emotions drive everything. So I help people understand their feelings and make sense of their interactions with each other," he says. "I coach them on how to talk with each other in a way that reveals their positive intentions, which are often hidden behind layers of fear, anger, and hurt."

Solley comes armed with more than two decades of experience in psychotherapy and neuropsychology. Holder of a Ph.D. from the California School of Professional Psychology in Berkeley, he has worked in a number of hospital settings, including Children's Hospital in Oakland and California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco. He is also a staff therapist at the Couples Institute in Menlo Park.

Now in his sixth year of private practice, Solley sees people of all ages and sexual orientation. Many of his local clients--from Noe Valley, Bernal Heights, and Glen Park--are grappling with the demands of parenthood.

"I work with the transition to parenthood: the anxiety felt about being new parents," says Solley. "Common patterns occur where fathers often feel neglected; fathers feel incompetent; they then turn towards work. I direct them towards their babies and fatherhood."

A Fair Oaks Street resident, Solley often walks to his office at 1701 Church Street in GetzWell Pediatrics, a medical group established in February of 2008 (see Store Trek, March 2008 Voice). Two years ago, he moved his practice from 24th Street to GetzWell's warm and sunny space, because "psychotherapy can be isolating." Part of his rationale for working within a pediatrics practice was to take advantage of the "cross-pollination" that occurs with other healthcare providers.

He also enjoys the neighborhood and its restaurants. "The neighborhood is conducive to having a good time."

This summer, he and colleague Derron Santin will launch a Noe Valley therapy group designed specifically for men, called "Embrace Work and Relationship with Passion and Grace." It will be limited to six to eight clients and will meet once a week for eight weeks. For more information go to

Dr. Robert Solley's office hours are Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Wednesday and Friday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.; and Saturday mornings. For an appointment call 415-550-8725.

Psychotherapist Robert Solley works out of the Getzwell Pediatrics building at 1701 Church Street, once the home of Star Bakery. Photo by Pamela Gerard