Subject: Four Barrel Coffee
Location: San Francisco, CA
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]
The first time I toured San Francisco in '07, the coffee scene appeared strong, touting such giants as Ritual and Blue Bottle. Yet looking back, it was not nearly as rampant as it is today so during my most recent expedition, I came with a small book full of places to hit. Close to the top of the list was Four Barrel, an establishment that had garnered much praise for their skill in roasting and attention to detail behind the coffee bar.
I made my way to their Valencia St location one afternoon. Doing an initial drive past to make sure I had the right spot, I was surprised to find the parking spaces out front outfitted with an iron-framed seating area, consisting of a wooden bar that faces the cars whizzing by (a style of outside seating that you would rarely see on the East Coast). After parking, I backpedaled to a very popular Four Barrel. The interior appeared voluminous despite the masses, with wood everywhere (rafters, bar, tables, etc) and plenty of artistic elements (like stuffed boar heads) to tie it together.
When it came time to order, I ordered an espresso and a french press of a Kenyan. Not remembering to ask when I ordered and being deterred by a heavy volume of orders, I did not get the espresso's name, but the mystery did not detract from its pleasant flavors. The espresso was pulled short, displaying a nice brown crema and held out notes of sea salt, bourbon, balsamic vinegar, fig, au jus and croissant. The Kenyan spoke of Cream of Wheat, hazelnut, a bit of raspberry and iced tea amidst a smooth body; a refreshing coffee through and through.
At the risk of sounding obvious, Four Barrel proved well worth the stop. If you live in or pass by the city of San Francisco, make sure to make landfall at 375 Valencia St.