It's hard not to think of Four Barrel's new Portola location as anything but the opening salvo of high gentrification along San Bruno Avenue. (Not that Portola, like the rest of San Francisco, isn't gentrifying; it's just that the process has thusfar lacked such a visible, potent symbol).
On the other hand, the coffee is good. (Duh, Four Barrel). And it's a modest space, less than 1000 square feet. That plays punk rock. And which might be the most ecologically friendly café in the universe. One that is wedged between the 101 and a Subway, with a humongous billboard straddling the building.
The only seating is stools, and the semi-parklet outside on the cul-de-sac that is Burrows Street is a bit undeveloped. As Sightglass was before it became the cavernous industrial caffeine barn, this Four Barrel might be small, but it's a minimalism that projects ambition: The three glass pyramids above the entrance evoke I.M. Pei's Louvre addition. There are solar panels, wind power and a compost toilet. Even the reclaimed wood one-ups regular old reclaimed wood. (The beautiful ceiling panels are redwoods salvaged from Hetch Hetchy.) Oh, and by the way, Neighbor Bakehouse supplies the tasty treats and a mocha is $4.75.
For absolute purists, Four Barrel has undergone mitosis and is now a chain, and chains are Satan's minion. So this is a terrible hammer blow to Portola which will inevitably lead to galleries, condos, maybe even Jack Spade. But at least you can argue about it over coffee, possibly with people from the neighborhood, who seem to be enjoying their new neighbor quite a bit.
Four Barrel, 2 Burrows St.