Makeup Brand Glossier Pops Up With Lipstick and Fried Chicken in the Mission

by Ellen Fort | SF Eater

The brand has taken over Rhea’s Cafe for the month

Fried chicken sandwich at Rhea’s Cafe/Glossier

Fried chicken and lipstick typically don’t travel in the same circles, with makeup and food keeping their distance on retail shelves. Until now, that is, with the launch of Glossier at Rhea’s Cafe, a unique month-long pop-up at the Mission cafe mingling food and beauty products.

As a brand, Glossier has mostly operated in an online capacity, with the recent addition of a showroom in New York. Now the company expanding its reach from cult online-only status to real life activations, like the one at Rheas. In the past, they’ve done collaborations with NYC food destinations like Morgenstern’s Ice Cream and Momofuku Milk Bar, but never anything quite as in-depth as what they’ve brought to San Francisco. According to Glossier, the team came across the cafe while scoping restaurants for the pop-up, consumed everything on the menu, and immediately reached out.

For Rhea’s Cafe owner James Choi, it’s both weird and exciting. “To put it mildly, I thought it was insane when they first approached me,” said Choi, who wasn’t familiar with the brand until his female friends weighed in. “But that’s how creative people think. And I thought, ‘why not?’”

The fact that the collaboration came with built-in exposure for Choi’s cafe — an offshoot of the popular deli started by his father at 19th and Valencia — and the promise to return the interior to its original state after the pop-up had concluded made it an easy choice. The brand is also paying Rhea’s rent while they’re taking it over, which doesn’t hurt.

“Glossier had a clear direction, and after meeting the CEO Emily [Weiss] and talking about how her company operates I found we had some similarities. She founded her company because she didn’t like what the market was offering,” Choi told Eater. “When I first started my sandwich shop as someone not from food industry I wanted a great platform for people to enjoy the food without hassle, and she felt the same.”

Fried chicken sandwich at Rhea’s

Why SF?

San Francisco’s reputation as ground zero for excellent food was part of the allure for Glossier when planning the pop-up. The brand says it came to San Francisco because “we wanted to engage with the large customer base we have there, and food is so central to the SF culture.”

How it works

The menu is limited during the pop-up, serving items that Choi identified as the most popular items. That includes the buttermilk fried chicken sandwich, Korean steak sandwich (listed as one of SF’s best sandwiches by Eater SF), chicken katsu sandwich, fries, and two salads. (Beer and wine will be served from 5 p.m.- 8 p.m.)

Guests can enter the cafe, order at the counter, and grab a seat at one of the tables in the rear of the restaurant or on the sidewalk. Glossier products are displayed throughout, available for testing and for purchase ; food will be served during limited hours. And, all food will be served in compostable to-go packaging designed specifically for the collaboration.

Seating area in the rear of Rhea’s

Makeup displayed in Rhea’s Cafe

Cosmetics displayed on the counter at Rhea’s

Exterior of Glossier at Rhea’s Cafe

So is there a downside? Choi says he hopes neighbors won’t mind a little extra hubbub on their block for the next month. But ultimately Choi sees it as a win. He hopes the extra business and exposure will allow him to keep the restaurant open more hours and days once the pop-up ends, something he’s struggled with because of staffing shortages.

Glossier at Rhea’s Cafe is open 11 a.m.-8 p.m. daily, while food will be available from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, with drink hours 5-8 p.m. daily.