Category Archives: Coffee: Where to go

Bar Agricole: Awesome in Everything

MenuAmazing LayersGorgeous
Let’s start with the hours of Bar Agricole. Their website, nor Yelp! really cover them accurately. I called and talked to one of them moments ago, so my little ‘Quick Guide’ below should be accurate.

Perhaps you’re now thinking, Really? They’re open at 10a Monday – Saturday? That’s what the guy on the phone said… I remember when the announcement came over the blogs that they were doing a coffee service durning the week. YAY! I thought. Give me any reason at all to hang out in that epic interior and I will. Put a mug of French Press Four Barrel ($2) and shoot me; that’s pretty much as good as gorgeous coffee gets. However; a little thing called reality prevents me from chillaxing amongst the award-winning beauty most days. Oh, yah, it’s that thing called a job and very fortunately I have one (thank God). I’d rather that than the free-time, no question.

So yes; they have Four Barrel coffee and espresso after 10a Monday through Saturday, and of course during their luxurious brunch service on Sundays. If you’re a fancy-food person – book a reservation and go. I’ve been a few times and would recommend their brunch over their dinner any day. And if you drink, all the better. Their cocktails are divine. Dinner? Meh. It’s beautiful, but their menu is tiny as are the portions. Last time I was there for dinner, my pescetarian-best-friend immediately asked the server, “Where’s the rest of it?” She’s sassy, but had a point.

Another Cafe: A Fave Russian Hill Version

Bicycle CoffeeAnother Cafe
Number One: I’m Alive! Sort of. I’m currently suffering through my first cold of 2013. (Side-rant. Wouldn’t that be amazing if I didn’t get sick for the rest of the year?!)

Number Two: I still give a sh*t about coffee in this town!

Now onto this place…

Another Cafe is pretty perfect as far as coffeeshops in the City go. It’s huge, clean, has decent snacks, owned by two super nice guys and is open late. And they have Bicycle Coffee! I have yet to see many, if any, other shops in town use them – it’s an impressive operation, roasting only organic, fair-trade beans, then delivering them to accounts via bicycle. I think I met one of the guys behind the beans while he sampled coffee at Whole Foods. Of course he was nice too – nearly all coffee roasting guys are. Yes, the girls are too; however, for this write up, none are directly involved that I’m aware (maybe one bakes the bagels?).

Anyway, go to Another Cafe, drink good coffee and be merry. I’m working on the latter of the two for sure and if I’m ever on Pine St. and Leavenworth again in the morning, I’ll for sure cover all three.

Trouble Coffee: Pocket of Goodness

The timing of this post on Trouble Coffee is quite unique. I’m typing now amongst packed boxes and an empty apartment in the City’s Tenderloin (aka “TenderNob”) neighborhood. The boxes are on their way to the Sunset, as am I. My partner of 12 years called it quits which puts me out of our epically-giant one bedroom and into a cozy studio. And it just so happens that the studio is a few blocks away from Trouble. In fact, I just came from there moments ago.

Trouble? Like just about everything, has its strengths and weaknesses. For one, it’s a total coffee-diamond in the desert. The fact that you can get Ecco Caffè way out there is a reason enough to go, regardless of anything else. It IS adorable, inside and out. The DIY aesthetic is comfy and the enormous driftwood parklet out front is a lovely addition to the block. The snacks, are, too, delightful. They have whole coconuts! That they crack open then hand you a straw! And hunks of warm cinnamon toast. Not to mention a great array of baked goods like house-made chocolate banana bread, chocolate chip cookies from Goodie Goodie, and coconut bars.

Reading the Yelp! reviews on the place makes me expect nothing but ‘tude with my Americano requests. They’re riddled with ‘too-cool-for-school-hipster’ reviews; which, (sigh) comes with the territory, sadly. Luckily, I have yet to see much of it yet. Cheers to grumpy people with the good coffee goods.

farmtable: Small, Superb and Sometimes Snobby

 

 

 

 

I admit I’ve been conflicted by this farm:table post.

First, the positives: Farm:table is the best coffee-breakfast-lunch cafe, without a doubt, in the lower Nob Hill/Tenderloiny area. (Over the past year and a half, I’ve gotten incredibly well versed in every nook and cranny of this particular neighborhood, considering it’s my home.) The coffee is Verve, a total fave, plus they have it on French press – oh, hell, more points scored with me again. It’s rich and buttery and with a touch of cream, you have a meal in a glass; properties I adore with the coffee stuff. They also have SUPER bubbly water that they make on the spot with an old-school soda maker. Again, major points with me in the beverage department. Teas are top notch and they also feature a fresh juice.

Love to Bread

The food menu is short, simple and highlights the stellar ingredients they pull in from the top-notch local vendors. Breakfast fare consists of three options: a cereal with luxurious yogurt and fresh fruit; dense whole-grain bread, smeared with Marscapone and seasonal toppings (think hazelnuts and heirloom apples); hard-boiled eggs with a baguette and seasonal toppings (think warm-bacon vinaigrette and chard). The assortment of baked-goods comes either from their tiny oven (they like to make pie) or from Black Jet Bakery. They often have egg sandwiches available also.

Lunch has a similar set up: three items (soup, sandwich, salad). One of my favorite farm:table memories was when I got two of their sloppy joes on challah bread to-go, brought them back to the apartment, and my girlfriend and I ate ’em on the fire escape. I think it was the second meal we had while living in the City. I was freaking out by how I much I loved the cafe and how we were ‘so set’ since it was just two blocks away.

Now to the not so positive…

Yes, it’s hilariously tiny. Reading the reviews on Yelp is pretty entertaining. This one might be the best. Yep; just one table. A small one. Saddle up and get cozy with your neighbor, whatever they’re reading, whatever they’re talking about and whatever they’re eating. You’re basically on top of each other.

And, whatever, it’s cash only, but I’m used to that by now and totally support it for small businesses.

So really – why don’t I go there three days a week? Why doesn’t my girlfriend (a full-time student who lives in coffee shops) go there every day? Because she basically got in a fight with the barista once over the fact she wasn’t willing to make her an iced Americano. I’d rather not get into it but let’s just say it got awkward. The girlfriend also tried to say, ‘Hi,’ to one of the owners when she saw him on the street and he totally ignored her. Ouch. Considering we’d been going there a ton, (always tipped well), saw him at parties, plus have MAD LOVE for their cafe and all the other coffee people in the area, she felt, well, dissed. That wasn’t the reason we’ve spent the last few months away – it was really the tense argument over the coffee drink. Plus, I’ve been solo a few times and have heard them be pretty harsh on customers after they leave…

Before I sign off on this, I need to say a few more things in the food-service-industry-attitude conversation. I get it. I’ve been there – and I DO FEEL you that dealing with public customers is terribly difficult. I’m not being sarcastic and I totally agree. Plus, coming from Portland, Oregon, this topic has been hashed out in great length considering that is the headquarters of over-qualified baristas. Do I expect you to be nice? Honestly, no. Do I expect to be friends? Uhh, no. Do I expect you won’t make fun of me, my girlfriend or my friends? Hell yes.

And will we – the customers with upmost appreciation for your products – continue to support the farm:tables of the world, while hoping we catch you while having one of your better moods? Survey says yes, considering the food-desert climate of our neighborhood. Lack of competition is on your side for now. We just passed it today.

“I miss it,” the girlfriend said.

“I know,” I said. “Me, too.”

Crave Cafe: Russian Hill’s Ritual

 

 

 

 

I’ll say it; Crave Cafe isn’t anything special. BUT it has all the good basics and sometimes, that’s just all you need.

It’s in the thick of Russian Hill – right on Polk St. and Vallejo. Lord knows there’s plenty of coffee around (Starbucks, Peet’s, La Boulange, the Brew, the Grind) but Ritual? This is the only option for the higher-brow brew.

And the food? It’s fairly average, although, I have yet to try the pulled pork, which is apparently what all the Yelpers rave about. Other than that, you can get your standard cafe fare: bagels, sandwiches, fruit cup, soup … I’m a fan this place is there although have yet to go back despite my frequency in the area. But I would! And that’s what matters.

Mercury Cafe: Hayes Valley’s De la Paz Source

The Mercury Cafe isn’t fancy. It’s your average-high-trafficked-coffee joint that I’m coming to realize this town has scores of. However – it doesn’t suck, which is why I’m wasting my time putting it on the blog. I’d definitely go back and really – this is a why I bother to visit cafes then write ’em up. The ones that have z e r o appeal won’t end up here.

And why does it not suck? It has stellar coffee – I do really like De la Paz. The owner is super nice. It’s huge. It’s also in Hayes Valley, which is my home from home more and more. Hayes Valley is lovely of course, and the coffee options are numerous. Ritual and Blue Bottle both have walk-up outfits there. Then there’s La Boulange, Arlequin, Grove and a handful of other sub-par spots to get coffee – BUT – I’d argue that Mercury Cafe fills a pretty big coffee – hole in Hayes. There’s no where else to sit – inside – and get good coffee. Maybe Grove (Verve), but other than that… Maybe Seesaw (Four Barrel) – I have yet to checkout Seesaw, but they definitely seem like a solid moms-with-toddlers destination. I’m not dissing – don’t get me wrong – it’s that sometimes you might not want to hang with the kiddie crew. Just sayin.  Mercury Cafe is open fairly late, they have good-quality food, and can definitely be classified as a solid coffee shop.

Mirtille: A Great Option for the Place

Mirtille has a lot going for it:

  • it’s around the corner from Civic Center BART
  • it’s huge
  • it’s clean
  • they have fresh food (sandwiches, fruit, salads)
  • they’re locally owned by an incredibly kind couple

So why don’t I totally love it in every way? Oh, dear, I hate to be harsh, but here it goes. The coffee? Egh; it’s not good. If they were to use better beans, surely that’d make a huge difference. Mr. Espresso is their vendor and it always tastes so burnt to me. And the walls? Again, I hate to rain on parades, but yo, it’s all kinds of purple. How can you deal with that much lavender? Why am I wasting time by blogging about it? I still would go and hang out there, no question. Does everything always have to be perfect to get me to go? H – no. The positives dramatically outweigh the negatives here. Plus, I gotta hand it to the French couple who opened this place up – they are Brave souls. The location is in the thick of the Tenderloin sandwiched by transient Civic Center. If you frequent the area often, as I do, it’s a godsend to have a nice place like this to go.

Outerlands: In the Outerlands

Here I go again… ohh-ing and ahh-ing over luxurious bread products, salads and coffee. Well, Outerlands is fine place for such things. And yes, it’s in the Sunset. I promise I’m just about done with posting up everything-the-Sunset district. For some reason, I found myself there quite a bit during my City exploration days.

The Outerlands lives on Judah St. conveniently along the N Muni line. Like other things great in the Sunset and Richmond neighborhoods, Outerlands feels like one of the only public spaces for miles. I like that. It’s a bustling little nugget of warm, nice, chill people amongst the peaceful residential districts.

And what’s up with the food and drink? Really, why go there – and please go there. It’s owned by an adorable couple, Lana Porcello and David Muller, who both learned the art of bread baking from none other than the Tartine family. I’ve only been for brunch, which is basically a smorgasbord of bread – grilled cheese with farm-fresh vegetables – thick, rich, bacon – fried eggs – it’s all pure heaven. They make damn-good-looking Dutch baby pancakes too, but honestly, how could you possibly say no to a six-inch thick egg sandwich on house-made organic levain? My gluten-intolerant ways sure cannot. Oh, and they have Sightglass coffee too no less. Espresso included.

Just go – but like all good things in life, be prepared to wait for it.

Brown Owl Coffee: Good Cute Go

Confession: I’m insanely behind in my blogging. I went to Brown Owl in February. It’s now mid-July. I admit this because I adore it there and when I visited, I had the nervous feeling that it wasn’t going to be around long. Good thing I was wrong!

Unless you’re a Sunset resident – or even if you are – Brown Owl is likely NOT close. It’s far down on Taraval, technically in ‘Parkside’ (as if I really know what that neighborhood means). But like a lot of things in the Sunset/Richmond quadrants – it’s the only thing for, what feels like, miles. So why go? Brown Owl is – number one – adorable. The wood-grain furnishings and little owls with succulents everywhere is a nice space to spend an afternoon. Number two? The coffee is killer. The woman who runs the place also roasts it, which is where my apprehension sneaks in. If my memory serves me right, the conversation we had when I was there was in regards to how challenging it was to run the shop PLUS do all the roasting. Of the people I’ve known to do that, they burn out super fast as well as dramatically cut down on operation hours. None of those appear to be the case – phew and good for her.

Other important pros – she takes cards, has delicious baked-things and has free wifi. Don’t expect to hang out there long. There’s four seats as of February.

Sandbox Bakery: Worth the Miles Long Muni Ride

The day was gorgeous – and it was my oyster. The girlfriend was out of town, which meant my Saturday morning was c o m p l e t l y up to me. No negotiations – no guilt trips if I wanted to consume nothing but butter, refined sugar and caffeine (which, let’s be honest, are three huge pieces of my diet) and if I wanted to take a ridiculously long bus ride to get somewhere as opposed to the BART, super, that’s what was happening. Which is exactly what did.

Sandbox Bakery is far from me. It’s way up on the hill of Bernal Heights. For ridiculous reasons, I didn’t want to take multiple buses to get there. I wanted to board once, and walk a lot. If I’m going to fall into a butter-rich croissant I have to earn it in a major way, and likely not eat again until 730p. This also means that I didn’t get there until way past pastry prime time (before 10am). Luckily, I got one of the last Morning Buns in the case, perfect to go with my dripped Ritual Coffee. 

And the Morning Bun? Well, let’s go there, shall we? It was fantastic, but of course not nearly as God-like as you-know-whose. It’s smaller for one thing, and doesn’t have as much caramelized crunch. I’d still eat one from Sandbox Bakery any day. I’d love to try their Oat-Bran Muffin, Almond Croissant, or any of their challah goods. Alas, that’s going to be another sunny-solo-Saturday… and just to be clear, I’d take the solo out of the equation if I could; the girlfriend’s worth it.

Contraband: Love it There

 

 

 

Photos previously published on SFoodie here

Way back when I was a full-time freelancer, I did things like break coffee news. That’s why I took the photos above, hours after Contraband Coffee Bar opened in Nob Hill. (Memories …)

That was in early December last year and I’ve been dozen of times since. With Contraband, these guys (Josh Magnani and Nathan Wyss) hit it out of the water. They have killer single-origin coffees they roast in Oakland (if I recall correctly), an uber fancy espresso machine, good snacks, and probably most importantly, a clean-hip space that’s open long hours with free wifi. Insert many many laptoppers here for hours on end. I’ve ranted on this topic before, so I’ll save it for now, but I can’t help but wonder how long the free wifi will last… Anyway, these facts combined mean they’re rolling in their customers’ Benjamins.

 

Hollow: Inner-Sunset Coffee Hideaway

Sure, the Sunset has a lot of things. Ramen. Vietnamese-looking signs. Concrete, squat cheap-ish housing and eventually even the waves of the Pacific Ocean. However; it does not tend to be a coffee destination neighborhood. They have few bright spots and Hollow is officially one of them.

This tiny (TINY!) espresso outlet and home-dec store fills the desperate void of a coffee stop amongst the Irving Street/19th Street quadrant. Did I mention it was tiny? Really, if you blink, you could miss it. Which of course only adds to its enduring qualities.

The espresso on tap is Ritual, they take cards and they have appropriate homebaked goods. I opted for a coffee-cake-like biscuit, which paired my cappuccino perfectly.  Straight coffee-folks, you’re s.o.l. You’re drinking an americano here, which’ll set you back $2.

In the market for a fancy soap or fragrant candle? They got all that jazz up in here too. Even if you’re not buying something, sipping your beverage amongst such charming merchandising is always a pleasure.

 

Four Barrel: One of The Best

My relationship to Four Barrel, for the most part, doesn’t involve their coffee shop at all. Rather, it involves, Ironside – a lovely everything-cafe next door to my office. They serve Four Barrel coffee and the few times a month I allow myself to stray from my strict one-coffee-per-day-from-home routine, I indulge in a low-fat latte and my day is bliss from there on out (Ironside also French presses their coffee too).

Alright, now that I got the Ironside shout-out out of the way; what do I think of the Valencia St. cafe? It’s possibly my favorite coffee shop in this City. It’s big; it’s gorgeous; they’re so nice; they have a turn-table; don’t have wi-fi; have $2 French-press coffee; all single-origin beans; great snacks (Hi, rosemary donuts); and quite possibly the only bathroom to feature a faux-carpet floor. Really; the floor of their bathroom is almost comical, it’s so unique. It has a hunter-green flying-duck motif that looks frighteningly close to being carpet.

And the coffee? Of course it’s fantastic. I haven’t had many of their varietals, but of the kinds I’ve had, I’ve adored. It’s rich without being burnt – nutty but not fruity. It’s definitely a Best.