San Francisco is saturated with $10 croissants and Ethiopian espressos that take six months of training to pour. But those luxuries are, well, exactly that. And sometimes, a brackish cup of joe and quick piece of cake are exactly what I need.
Right next to the famous Castro Theater, on the corner of 17th and Market streets, is The Castro Cheesery, aka The Castro Coffee Company. It’s an inconspicuous space that’s about the size of a large walk-in closet. Its walls are lined with coffee bean dispensers that fill the room with their pungency. They offer dozens and dozens of light, dark, and decaf roasts from all over the world, all sold by the pound. The small family that runs the shop makes me feel like Charlie Bucket buying a Wonka bar, greeting me every morning with and smile and a “What’ll be today?” Locals sit on the tables outside the large white windows, chatting it up with one another while watching everyone peruse Castro Street.
Other than being a truly neighborhood spot, what makes Castro Coffee Co. special is its assortment of petit fours, empanadas, carrot bread, and pumpkin bread. My favorite are the canelé de Bordeaux, those flower-shaped rum and vanilla pastries with a custard filling and a harder caramelized crust. They’re tender and delicious, the perfect pastry to go with a simple cup of demitasse.
I’m old-school. From time to time, I’ll indulge in some fun with a steamed “milk” substitute, bizarre glassware, or a seasonal flavoring. But when it comes down to it, I just want is a hot cup of coffee. The Cheesery it is!
Castro Coffee Company, 427 Castro St., 888-528-2349 or castro-coffee.com