If the Castro was arguably undercaffeinated a few months ago, it's not now. Eureka! Café, which serves Blue Bottle, opened on Castro Street around the corner from Starbucks and now Espressamente Illy is up and running on Market a block from Peet's.
Oriented at a slight angle relative to the street, as the entire row of buildings is set, Illy is a bright, stylish café that combines sixties mod with Italian Moderne flourishes. It's welcoming, the staff is friendly, there's plenty of room to work or relax or gossip, there's a square communal table to make new friends at or browse the eye candy from, and the pastries come from Semifreddi's. Espressamente Illy brews lovely espresso at the right price point. And just as with the Financial District location on Battery Street, there is an eye-catching chandelier of demitasse cups and saucers.
But it really feels like you've been instantly transported to the mall. The retail area that you pass before walking to the service counter, spiffy though it may be, is just gussied-up dead space. Don't expect a bulletin board with community flyers and ads for who-knows-what with tear-off tabs at the bottom, because this café feels like it's under the reign of a district manager who forbids that.
Blandly over-the-top mission statement aside, it's a tasteful, lovely space. And we all know what a sizeable percentage of the clientele is really there for: hard cruises and smoldering half-smiles. They are found in abundance.
Espressamente Illy, 2349 Market St.