While much of the world was gearing up for a free Starbucks coffee giveaway, I got in a little practice yesterday and found espresso just as sketchy — but without the lines. (With California’s minimum wage at over six bucks an hour, it takes only 20 minutes of waiting to make “free” coffee not so free anymore.)

This café/lounge replaced the (rather superior) Zero Degrees in the same Jackson Square spot — though they added a restaurant in the back. The place has kept the somewhat modern interior left over from (abandoned by?) its previous tenants, but now it looks like a rented furnished apartment that’s past its prime: a flat panel TV showing CNN in false colors and a beat-up, old two-group Rio machine are just two examples of a needed facelift.

Of course, how can they afford it? The café seems to have almost no customers — which doesn’t bode well for its survival, but it means you don’t have to wait in line. They have plenty of metal tables and stools outdoors on the corner sidewalk and a view of the Transamerica Pyramid out the front window. All nice amenities with the weather in town these days.

Myth at least has some curb appeal That poor, poor Rio

Using and abusing their Rio machine to do unspeakable things to coffee, they serve their espresso in a large mug with a bare ring of pale crema. It has a decent body and a tobacco smokiness that isn’t burnt, and there’s a lot of coffee grit at the bottom of the cup. A prime example of the typical SF espresso (and all its glaring flaws) that should be put under glass at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures in Sèvres, France.

Read the review of Myth Cafe.

'Say, do you have anything in, uh, well, do you have anything?' The Comité International des Poids et Mesures calls it 'San Francisco espresso'