I kind of knew that we were in good hands when it came to the coffee in San Francisco. Much like New York, a lot of the new breed cafe’s and roasters take their craft seriously as increasing numbers of the coffee-drinking public learn there’s more to the bean than that insipid percolator drip stuff.
One particular name I saw scattered about town is Blue Bottle Coffee, popping up at markets, their own cafe’s and kiosks. Of course there are others that deserve a mention so let me begin with our default breakfast venue; hole-in-the-wall farm:table in Nob Hill.
I touched on the food in my previous SF post so I’ll lightly touch on the coffee these guys churn out. The bean is from Verve Coffee Roasters, located in not-too-far-away Santa Cruz, just down the coast a bit. These guys really know how to handle an espresso machine and knock up a mean macchiato ($3) and a (flat white-like) cappuccino ($3.25). A nice, full bodied bean that had us hooked every morning.
By pure accident we discovered Stable Cafe whilst wandering about the Mission district on the way to Gallardo’s for lunch. After lunch we went back, jumped in line with the devotees and grabbed a couple of coffees. Sit inside, upstairs, on the pavement or in the side courtyard to chow on panini, salads or well-made coffee.
While the coffee may have been the drawcard for us on that particular afternoon, what we discovered in the adjacent courtyard was a little more exciting. Nestled in an old shipping container tucked away at the back is the Three Babes Bakeshop, current retail home to three baking queens that have a penchant for making pies the old fashioned way.
You can buy the pie whole, or just a slice as we did, to take home or sit at The Stables and enjoy it with your coffee. Strawberry & blackberry crumble ($5) pie was my pick. Amazing stuff. Now I wish I forced down a slice of shoofly pie as well.
Between The Fairmont and farm:table is this little corner cafe we decided to try out. The Cafe Bean is a European-style cafe with a bit of a Dutch flavour; a cosy space with eclectic bits and pieces dotted about and the room. Coffee-wise, it’s a bit on the average side, plus I found the beans had an over-roasted and rather bitter flavour.
Down in hipster Hayes Valley is the Blue Bottle Coffee Kiosk, a literal hole-in-the-wall perpetually churning out the takeaway coffees. Yes you can opt for a proper cup but there are no tables to sit at, just a narrow bench or the blocks of stone opposite the cafe. The long line of people moves pretty fast so it isn’t long before you’re sipping a beautifully-made coffee yourself. Man, these guys are experts.
Not too far from the Blue Bottle Kiosk, and just behind Smitten Ice Cream, is Ritual Coffee. Thanks to the incessant downpour there wasn’t a great deal going on in the customer department but at least we made the effort and braved the weather. I’ll do just about anything for a good coffee and thanks to the experts at Ritual, you can’t help but get one.
They really know their stuff. While the macchiato was longer and contained more milk than what I’m used to, the bean did all the talking with its smooth, yet gutsy palate. Back to the macchiato, they tend to have more milk in them in the States, I found. More like a piccolo latte. All-in-all one of the best we tried in San Fran.