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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

San Francisco's Top Five Coffee Shops

Posted By on Tue, Aug 9, 2011 at 11:25 AM

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Nabeel Silmi makes a cappuccino while Bianca Solorzano tidies up
  • Nabeel Silmi makes a cappuccino while Bianca Solorzano tidies up

4. Grand Coffee.

Nabeel Silmi hits all our buttons with his tiny shop on Mission Street.

His cappuccino is creamy-smooth, with no bitterness. Silmi credits the Four Barrel Friendo Blendo beans and the Clover organic milk. "Organic milk has a sweetness to it," he says. "It doesn't have as much shelf life, but it has much more flavor."

We love that he serves coffees with a small shot of seltzer on the side, which Silmi, a San Francisco native, said he learned on a vacation in Argentina. He also uses the seltzer to make Brooklyn egg creams and other housemade sodas.

He sells a few baked goods from nearby microbakery Knead Patisserie. When we visited, he incongruously had one jar each of pickled beets and pickled asparagus spears from a Yuba City purveyor. Why, we asked? "I like to feature different artisanal producers," he says. "They came in here with those beets, and they were rockin'." We like rockin' beets.

And we love sitting at one of the four counter seats or the two tables outside on busy Mission Street. This is not a place where you sit all afternoon, as you could do at any of the other top picks. But it is a great place to chill for the time it takes you to drink a cup, and a little more.

Silmi worked his way inside from the restaurant business; he started as a valet parking attendant at the Black Cat, moved to being a barback at Rose Pistola, and eventually spent 3 1/2 years behind the bar at nearby Foreign Cinema.

"My frustration with a lot of coffee shops is that they're too slow," Silmi says. "You shouldn't have to wait 25 minutes for a cup of coffee."

Hold that thought -- we'll revisit it soon. In the meantime, we'll revisit Grand Coffee.

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W. Blake Gray

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