Some of the enjoyment I get adding new cafés to CoffeeRatings.com is in finding completely obscure places that make surprisingly decent (though never great) espresso. Last Saturday night I was visiting some friends for an event over at the ArtSF community center near the sketchier cross section of 16th and Capp Streets in the Mission. En route, I found a small cubbyhole of a café called Cafe Los Olvidados.
This café was formerly known as Gaudi (as indicated on their main blackboard menu) and also as Chile Lindo (on the decaying Coca-Cola sign outside), but it changed names and owners in July 2006 to Spanish for “The Forgotten Ones” (appropriate, given how easy it is to miss this place). (Los Olvidados also suggests a famous 1950 Luis Buñuel neorealist movie set in Mexico City.) The woman proprietor is Mexican, and her male partner is Spanish — which explains the cortado (a Barcelona macchiato) and cafe con leche (Andalusian latte) on the drink menu.
Using an old dual-group Mr. Espresso CREM, they pull espresso shots with a thinner layer of medium brown crema of a decent substance. Perhaps surprisingly, the shot is short, potent and better than most places that look far nicer — despite their exclusive use of paper cups, the “be back in 5 min.” informality, and the tendency to find the place with their portafilters out of the group heads (say it isn’t so!).
Despite the aesthetic merits of their espresso shots, the flavor doesn’t quite live up to expectation — it’s a little smokey and lacks a punch — but it’s still pretty good. They also use only Fair Trade and organic coffee. The hours can be erratic, but any place open at 8pm on a Saturday night on this block is a find.
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