We don’t reserve our Trip Reports for just the finer examples of retail espresso. As our database shows, we learn from forgettable and even wretched espresso shots. Falling somewhere between the two is Whole Foods Market. Their Potrero Hill location had to be a bit of a construction project, with a parking garage underneath the store and a Whole Foods Market Bistro off to the lower, southeast corner.
Like many Whole Foods Markets, the place is littered with green sloganeering covering a number of walls for that “Chairman Mao memorial” feel. In fact, the long hallway from the parking garage exhaults enough odes to sustainable, social, and environmental causes that — if viewed in another era — the wall could easily be mistaken for the hieroglyphical praise of a pharaoh’s immortal spirit inside an ancient Egyptian pyramid.
We adore Slow Food as much as the next eco-food Nazi. But can we merely obsess about what we eat without the grocer making us feel like we’re walking a Stations-of-the-Organic-Cross gauntlet to get at it? Maybe not quite as creepy and cult-like as the Organic Coffee Co., but still score it a solid 7/10 on the Creep-O-Meter.
At the corner entrance to their Bistro, there are several simple tables and counter seating at tall stools beneath large glass windows. At the counter of the coffee bar they sell pastries, cold drinks, gelato, and various coffee concoctions — with a full-service grill at the back. Drinking coffee here, let alone eating, is a cacophony of odd noises: encoded mumblings over the grocery store PA system, annoying store phone ringers, order buzzers, and a string of other jarring ambient sounds.
For espresso, they have two Franke superautomatic machines and bold eco-branding featuring their use of “Allegro Handcrafted Coffee”. Their unskilled baristas use them to push-button pull shots of a correctly moderate size. Yet they have a thin film of a pale, almost sickly crema and they arrive at a tepid serving temperature. The shortness of the shot saves it from being a complete disaster, as it has some measure of body and un-filter-coffee-like flavor: some cedar and baker’s chocolate without much distinct pepper, spice, nor herbal elements.
This is remarkably consistent with other Whole Foods locations for both good and bad reasons (mostly not-so-good). Though here they do offer the option of Rego (Oneida) porcelain cups and saucers. But come on Whole Foods: what good is all the green branding and feel-good sloganeering if the end product tastes like a (recycled) cardboard box?
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