The holidays have arrived, and you may have family or friends that came with them. Don't just leave them shivering in your drafty Victorian all day, take those kids out for coffee. Sure, you could drag them to your corner cafe, but why not take them on a caffeinated adventure instead at one of the city's unique venues. Here are five spots to wow your guests.
Sip a Classic Espresso
Unless you live or work nearby, it's easy to forget about North Beach. (There be tourist monsters.) But it's on every tourist map for a good reason: it's charming. And few places are more genuinely North Beach than Caffé Trieste. They've been pulling shots there since 1956, longer than anyone else in town (or even on the West Coast for that matter). Today it still feels like something right out of Joe DiMaggio's San Francisco. While it may not be trendy, it's an iconic San Francisco experience. Forget newfangled pressure profiling or single origin espressos, this is an old-world Italian style espresso served in a classic manner. It's San Marco espresso machine helped fuel some of the city's greatest artists. Jack Kerouac, Alan Ginsberg, and Francis Ford Coppola were all once regulars. Lawrence Ferlinghetti still frequents it. Your mom will dig it too.
Take Them to the Theater
For pure experience, nothing tops Blue Bottle's Mint Plaza location. The gorgeous setting, and amazing equipment is still without equal in San Francisco. Try to score a seat at that now-legendary $20,000 sipon bar, and enjoy the light show. Depending on where your guests are from (unless your family is from Portland or Japan) it's probably a safe bet they've never seen a vacuum brewing system at all, and no matter where they hail from they've never seen one so gorgeous. While you're there, order one of the city's best cappuccinos for some art in a cup.
Watch Beans Lose Their Green
While Sightglass and Ecco Caffe will put the roaster up front and center, until they (fully) open the best place in town to watch your beans get toasty is at Four Barrel. If your guests want to learn more about coffee--where it comes from, how it's roasted, and how to prepare it to bring out the best flavors--Four Barrel makes a great destination. Go when the pour over coffee bar is open for one of the best coffees in the city and an education to go with it. I've always found Four Barrel's baristas to be some of the most open to questions, and knowledgeable about the coffees they're serving. So your guests can stroll to the back of the shop to see the roaster, try coffees and learn about them at the bar, and then take a bag of beans back home with them--along with the knowledge of where the beans came from, how they were roasted and how they should be prepared.
Take a Shot With a Seal
Did you know San Francisco is by the sea? It's true. (And the newly-launched Scuttlefish is desperate to remind you of this.) But way out in the avenues, just about as far West as one can go, you can score one of the best espresso drinks in town at Trouble Coffee. Take a stroll through the fog on Ocean Beach, and then walk up Judah to warm yourself with some trouble. It looks like a hole in the wall (and it is) but don't let the humble setup dissuade you. Saunter in and order some espresso, and a coconut to go with it. Outerlands and Java Beach are just steps away if you're feeling more peckish.
Take a Flight
If you really want to dive deep into coffee, stop by Ma*Velous at mid-market and try one of its caffeinated flights. While the particulars change depending on which coffees it has in stock, Ma*Velous offers a tasting menu of coffees that let you either try a variety of beans all served in the same style, or a single coffee prepared several different ways. It's a fun way to learn a lot about coffee, and get a buzz to go with it. With its gorgeous one-of-a-kind espresso machine, and a siphon bar that's right on the counter (and not behind glass) this new shop is already a destination. Did we mention they serve booze too? So there's that, which also comes in handy at the holidays.
1. Caffé Trieste, 609 Vallejo St. (415) 550-1107
2. Blue Bottle, 66 Mint St., (415) 495-0455
3. Four Barrel, 375 Valencia St., (415) 252-0800
4. Trouble Coffee, 4033 Judah St., (415) 682-4372
5. Ma*Velous, 1408 Market St., (415) 626-8884