This expansive Peet’s Coffee & Tea outlet has plenty of window counter seating for sipping your morning latte, reading the headlines, and listening to a tape loop of classical music “greatest hits” playing overhead. Additionally, there’s a good amount of public indoor seating in the connected atrium of the 101 Second St. building. They have a good section of the floorspace dedicated to bean sales and the usual assortment of coffee- and tea-related merchandising for sale.
The morning long lines are long, but they tend to move quickly. And there’s good reason why the lines are long: this is arguably the best Peet’s I know of in San Francisco. And many Peetnicks seem to agree. (Disclaimer: a couple readers have commented how I haven’t listed their favorite Peet’s here yet — and they are correct. As many cafés as I have reviewed, to deal with the sheer number, one strategy I’ve employed is to defer reviews for every last retail store of a given chain.)
Here they use an overworked four-group Faema E91 Diplomat and a separate milk frothing Astra machine (where old espresso machines go to die?). The resulting espresso here is, by SF standards, quite sweet and rich. It has a dark brown crema of an appreciable thickness — with excellent balance, body, and flavor depth. They clearly know when their equipment is “out of tune,” and they’re not afraid to make a maintenance call. They are a little weaker at milk frothing, but hey — it’s just an Astra.
Their morning barista shift is generally better than their afternoon shift, when the flavor tends to run less bold and sweet. You’ll know you’re in good hands when Ron, their Frank Zappa lookalike, is around: he makes the best espresso. They also tend to make better double than single espressos; puzzling for no obvious reason.
One irritation: occasionally the counter staff won’t get your “for here” request right, even if you tell them twice. Worse yet are green baristas who, when you point out this error, will merely pour your espresso from a paper cup into a ceramic one when lines are busy. I’ve deducted from their barista and savvy scores for this recent bad habit. (Hint: make sure the cashier hits the “FOR HERE” button on the register. It should display just above the register’s total facing you. It’s still no guarantee that you won’t end up with a paper cup anyway, but it’s a start.) Otherwise, they serve it in a Peet’s IPA cup — apologetically at times (which is often) without a saucer.
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