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A post about Joe Montana? Not quite (although Regina did see him shopping a Whole Foods in SF).
No, this is actually about my morning vacation coffee hunt - San Francisco Edition.
I drink two cups of coffee a day. By cups I'm not referring to measuring cups, but two separate acts of either buying or making coffee. So when I'm on vacay there's a fairly high probability that I'm going to sample a decent variety of the area's coffee shops.
Like most junkies of the java, I need a quick hit to get me started in the morning. Often times I find myself pounding the pavement for my coffee crack unbathed and disheveled.
While we were staying at the Le Petit Auberge, the Blue Bottle Cafe down at the Mint St location was really the only place I was interested in going. If you haven't been, you've got to stop in just to see the elaborate coffee making stuff they have at that location. Monday through Friday morning lines can be excruciatingly long.
I felt their cappuccino was better than their drip coffee relative to other high end coffee houses. The staff is very focused on what they're doing and seems aloof to the fact that people want things to move faster. Any gripe will more than likely fall on deaf ears. "It takes as long as it takes", seems to be the order of the day. I only went to Mint St. on the weekend and lines were certainly much shorter in the morning.
Blue Bottle Cafe
66 Mint St
San Francisco, CA 94103
If you want long lines on the weekend just head down to the outlet down at the Ferry Building. I was in line for what was easily 20-30 minutes. If you simply want a coffee I would encourage you to go to one of the kiosks around the building. If not, be prepared to wait a while. The outpost inside the Ferry Building actually has two counters and the lines are still monster. The Mint St. location (if it's on your way to the market) is a better bet on the weekends (I think).
Blue Bottle Coffee
1 Ferry Bldg
San Francisco, CA 94111
The hipster-centric Four Barrel Coffee down in Mission gets a lot love from local coffee heads. I found the staff friendlier than Blue Bottle. I only went here once but found the drip coffee to be comparable to Blue Bottle. Was there a noticeable difference between the two? If there is, I didn't notice. The interior of the space is a made of rough hewn wood and industrial steel, with a music volume and selection that sets a great vibe.
Four Barrel Coffee
375 Valencia St
San Francisco, CA 94103
When we moved to the Parker Guest House over on Church St, I decided to give Philz Coffee a shot. As you walk into the store you're not really sure where the line starts or how exactly to pay. After sitting back and watching for a few minutes, it becomes obvious that you have to go to the counter where the baristas are. After getting over the initial shock of all the different coffees and the price ($3.50 I think), I was walked through the process by barista.
She made the drip coffee right there in front of me and when finished asked if it suited my taste. Judging by her question I'm guessing Philz will either redo it or somehow adjust the taste. I had the Tesora which reminded me a lot of the Corsica blend from La Colombe in Philadelphia. The pleasing chocolatey flavor never left that slight bitter charred flavor at the back of your tongue that you seem to get with so many of these higher end coffees. This particular blend seemed to match the comfortable familiarity you felt just being in the store itself.
The staff here is by far the friendliest of everywhere I went. The girl at the bakery counter saw I had just been to Dynamo Donut and had a three minute conversation about their infamous Monte Cristo (the sandwich not the cigar) doughnut. She's heard about it, but never actually had one because they're always out of them by the time she gets off of work.
The interior is classic coffee house. A large, well used seating area sits off to the left of the entrance. The coffee making area and bakery case are to the right. There's something about Philz that makes you feel comfortable. Maybe it's the lack of hipsters. Maybe it's the friendly staff. While the prices are all on the high side, they all seem to be in the same ballpark.
While I didn't have any bad experiences at any of these coffee shops, I thought Philz was bar far the best tasting and friendliest service. I don't need someone to act like my best friend when ordering a cup of coffee, but the experience is greatly enhanced when you're able to have a sincere exchange with the person behind the counter. Philz Coffee was the hands down winner for me. If 24th St is not near where you are, there are also locations in the Castro, SOMA, and City Hall.
3101 24th St
San Francisco, CA 94110