Many of the new espresso joints in town have fortunately helped raise SF’s quality bar. But these new places also seem to monopolize all the love. It’s no wonder that crackpots spouting theories of some Third Wave are often taken seriously rather than laughed at, because this obsession with the new and devaluation of everything that got us here is supported by a complicit media — both bloggers and traditional.
So allow us to introduce a radical departure from coffee’s tiresome wine analogy: call it a footwear analogy. Decent coffee places and roasters that have been slugging it out for years are often treated like last year’s Uggs by a public that today seeming only cares about Crocs. Yet a few of us know that Crocs are really just next year’s Uggs anyway.
So what better excuse to get in touch with last year’s Uggs than jury duty? (*needle scratch*) Huh?
Because unless you collect traffic tickets or often find yourself springing cousin Clem from SF’s Glamour Slammer, Caffè Roma’s SOMA location is inconvenient at best. If you’re fortunate, SF’s Bail Bond Row isn’t something you often seek out, and it had been five years since we were last called for jury duty at the Bryant St. location (less so for the McAllister St. location). It’s no coincidence that CoffeeRatings.com had not rated this Caffè Roma since last visiting it on June 20, 2003.
This location is a landmark café/roastery across the S.F. Hall of Justice — where naturally all of SF’s Super Friends hang out. (Look for them running for various city supervisor offices on the November ballot, including the likes of Starchild — SF’s Libertarian answer to Richard Simmons.) Sister to the North Beach institution, inside they pay homage to Rome and coffee roasting.
Given its proximity to the courts, the clientele here typically includes many lawyers in suits. For seating, they have several dark café tables beneath wide, bright, windows and a row of stool seating along the Gilbert St. windows. Considering the neighbors on the block, it’s quite clean and modern. Their roasting operations are at the rear, courtesy of a huge Probat roaster. They sell roasted retail beans in old school bins that look nice but unfortunately allow the coffee to oxidize and grow stale rapidly.
Using a two-group La Spaziale at the bar, the pull modestly sized shots of espresso with a thin layer of richer crema that dissipates somewhat quickly. It has a bold, complex taste of spice and earthy elements and a pungent edge of cloves. For millk-frothing, they produce good microfoam with very even, consistently fine microbubbles (it’s actually slightly better than their espresso). Served in classic brown ACF cups.
With jury selection continuing next week, something tells us we’ll get to know this café pretty well over the coming month. It’s time to share the love.
Read the updated review of Caffè Roma in SOMA.
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