Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Wild Awakenings Coffee House

Location: 142 McAlister St., San Francisco

Reviewed: January 25, 2008

Espresso: I have to admit my surprise at being handed a cappuccino cup that was three-quarters full in response to my request for a single espresso. That the shot was pre-ground should probably go without saying when a place gaffes like this. Despite this, the crema was thick initially, although it dissipated rapidly. It had a mild herbal taste.

Atmosphere: This is a large shop and is filled with mismatched tables and old couches. It's really quite grungy.

Verdict: Fans of the supposedly infamous cafe creme might want to check it out.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Michael's Gelato & Cafe

Location: 440 University Ave., Palo Alto

Reviewed: January 12, 2008

Espresso: I was quite surprised at seeing a coffee roaster sitting on the floor in a gelato shop, and when the owner told me they roasted "every day", I figured I had to try it. He's trying to do things right (grinding, tamping, ceramic cup), and to his credit, he did make me a second shot after I rejected the first pour as being too long. The shorter shot was still around 1.5oz (and this for a single); it had a pale-to-medium thin crema (probably because the shot was too hot, which was probably caused by a lack of sufficient cooling flush for an idle grouphead). It tasted of an interesting mixture of slightly bitter and slightly sweet.

Atmosphere: It's a small shop with a half-balcony above the front portion of the storefront. Long and narrow with several tables here and there.

Verdict: One of the better shots for places that do not specifically specialize in coffee.

The Coffee Bar

Location: 1890 Bryant St., San Francisco

Reviewed: January 12, 2008

Espresso: Coffee Bar serves Mr. Espresso's Neapolitan blend (they also had a single-origin in a different grinder, but I was not offered a choice of coffees to try). It was ground to order, poured directly into a cappuccino cup, and ran to about 2oz. The crema was of reasonable thickness, given the cup, and it was a mottled medium-brown color. It was slightly nutty, full-bodied and well-balanced, although it made little impression other than that.

Atmosphere: The Coffee Bar is a large space, possibly a former warehouse given the neighborhood, with the beverage (and food) service counter on the first floor, and the primary seating on a slightly-elevated landing of sorts above. The ceilings are very high, the primary tones are raw metal and unfinished wood. There is also outdoor seating in an courtyard enclosed with high metal fences; you have to walk through this courtyard to get to the interior, and there is no outdoor signage. It tries desperately hard to be cool and unfortunately succeeds.

Verdict: The coffee is only ok, but it might improve after they've been open for a while.