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Sep 29, 2010 12:01 AM

Thank you CHounds & San Fran. A trip food review (Coi, Flour & Water etc) but what's wrong with the coffee?

Firstly thank you sooo much to CHounds in helping is know where to dine, what to wear etc during our 6 days eating and eating more in SF recently. Before the food what we loved the most about the city was:
- the incredibly pleasant people
- the great public transport
- fantastic views and walks
- the galleries (De Young is amazing)
- the pedestrian friendly traffic
- great food (almost) everywhere
- where we stayed (5 nights at the lovely Parsonage cnr Haight and Laguna) and last night at the Ritz C

We did freak at first at the street folk during our first morning's walk along some of Mkt St but got used to it and had no hassles. We can't wait to be back.

Restaurants comments - almost in order.
- Flour & Water (not in order) was our favourite and we went back a second time. Fresh, friendly and overly-edible. My wife is not a giblets eater and even she could not resist. If you love food you will love it (and them) here.

- Absinthe - great cocktails and pretty good food (started with crab, salad, onto pork chop with jalapeno grits etc) with fantastic cocktail matches (who needs wine if the cocktails work so well - maybe someone should do the food / cocktail match as a 'thing') but terrible desserts

- Wexlers (lunch) great smokey chilli to start, nice flounder Po Boy (see my other post re Scallop Po Boys) and brisket in a bun with fat and flavour to kill even Mr Bourdain

- Foreign Correspondent - nice but not great. Maybe being seated inside was the problem.

- Commonwealth - great food, great prices, well priced wine and much promise of going far. We booked a table, phoned saying we were running a little late but they gave our table away (less than 15 mins late). They apologised - sat us at the bar right in front of the kitchen. How could we leave - the art and then the flavours. A must of the 'up and coming' places with mostly (really) great dishes.

- Wayfare Tavern - we had booked an upstairs table but they first tried to squeeze us in at the bar. Once we got seated upstairs we got great service and food. This was another 'traditional' dining moment sharing marrow then deviled eggs and steak tartare (needed more zip) followed by 1.5 main lobsters and mac and cheese all for under $120. If i lived in SF then once a week I would lunch here - and then die of a heart attack.

- Coi - overrated with many good but few great dishes and some less than average ones. Well matched wine but for over $700 it was not what we hoped for - go to Flour and Water for 3+ times instead for the same price. Also too many people taking photos of their dishes rather than eating - the table next to us spending 10+ minutes on 'shooting' each dish. Also no short blacks etc after dinner - only filter. Can this be a 2*?

- Yank Sing (for yum char) - nothing special and the same as most good (but not great) places in most cities.

- The farmers mkt at the Ferry Building - well, how couldn't we. Corn dogs (4505), oyster po boys, tamales, namu tacos...

Thank you all to your help in planning a great food trip. We will be back.

One question - what's with SF coffee? Even Blue Bottle is watery, bitter and lacking depth (in our opinion). Nothing like the Alpress we have down under.

Yank Sing
49 Stevenson St Ste Stlv, San Francisco, CA 94105

Blue Bottle Cafe
66 Mint St, San Francisco, CA 94103

Flour + Water
2401 Harrison Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

Wayfare Tavern
558 Sacramento Street, San Francisco, CA 94111

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  1. Regarding the coffee, I drink espresso. Espresso around here ranges from tolerable to sublime, especially if you ask for a short pull. The coffee capital of America is seattle. Coffee is something used to water espresso on a cold day.

    1. What other coffees did you try?

      1. Best coffee in SF IMHO is Jumpin Java, on Noe between 14th and Henry.
        And by that I mean the regular house coffee. The espresso etc are fine, but not the highly crafted business people have come to expect.

        1 Reply
        1. re: pauliface

          What do think of the Howler's Hallow, Sight Glass espresso, iirc?

        2. Foreign Correspondent = Foreign Cinema? Were you there for brunch or dinner?

          Foreign Cinema
          2534 Mission St., San Francisco, CA 94110

          1. I haven't lived down under for a long time, but if the differences hold, roasts in Australia are typically darker than here, especially given the popularity of fruitier, lighter roasts in SF. Combine that with the popularity of drip and other methods versus espresso-based drinks and there's a big difference already. On moving here I found coffee to taste insipid and burnt -- because I wasn't used to (1) not drinking espresso-based drinks and (2) many cafes and restaurants used way too much water in their espresso drinks (and tea, for that matter). (And (3) I was probably drinking drip coffee in crappy cafes.)

            Did anyone translate coffee speak for you here? Long black = short Americano. (And depending on where you are you will have to insist it is quite short!) Many cafes in SF seem to also sell only double shot espresso-based drinks. So a short black aka espresso ends up often being almost syrupy and often bitter. This seems like pointless bravado to me -- and I have no idea why they do this. Perhaps a wiser Hound knows. Is it a limitation of the equipment available?!

            7 Replies
            1. re: bgbc


              The problem isn't equipment, because you can go to seattle and get good coffee/espresso.

              My theory of the poor coffee in SF revolves around the prevalence of the latte as the default drink. In order to balance all that milk, you need a bitter shot. The bitter shot is wrong for almost every other drink, but you end up tuning your machine for the most popular drinks.

              These days I order all my shots short. There's some equipment fail because machines only have a few settings.

              1. re: bbulkow

                "There's some equipment fail because machines only have a few settings."

                Please explain?

                1. re: poser

                  The cafe I go to, their machine has two settings, which have been set by their maintainer. Single and double. I get them to make a double using the single button, but can't talk them into a shorter pull. They don't like to go manual.

                  My personal machine has three settings, but I haven't bothered to learn how to set them. I do everything manual.

                  1. re: bbulkow

                    Interesting. I try to pull short double ristretto like shots. However, I just Gage the length of the pull by when the shot starts turning blond.

                2. re: bbulkow

                  The latte theory is pretty good. But I would simplify that a bit and say that good coffee in SF comes to us from Italian roots -- and strong, deep, rich, dark roasts are the norm both for espresso drinks and for regular brews.

                  But I don't think that's what the OP experienced. On the contrary. I share his befuddlement over Blue Bottle. I have not had BB that often -- because I hate it. "watery, bitter and lacking depth" -- exactly.

                3. re: bgbc

                  I think the double-shot default comes from the desire to serve a proper ristretto, but a single ristretto is such a small amount of coffee that customers balk.

                  I prefer a darker roast than most of the trendy roasters do these days, though I had an espresso (default double ristretto) at Blue Bottle's shop in Oakland and liked it a lot.

                  Blue Bottle Cafe
                  66 Mint St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                  1. re: bgbc

                    There are a couple of Aussie run coffee bars in Vancouver which is how I found out a short white comes out mighty similar to a Gibraltar, my favourite SF coffee beverage, if you go again. I like the one they serve at the Linden branch of Blue Bottle best, with the one from the SFMOMA store coming in a close second.