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Best Espresso Machines 

Thomas E. Cara Ltd.

Tucked away among the antique shops and prequake brick buildings of Jackson Square, Thomas E. Cara specializes in one thing and one thing only: gorgeous, shiny, imported contraptions absolutely devoted to the brewing of espresso. The business opened on Grant Avenue 62 years ago when World War II vet Thomas E. Cara arrived in San Francisco with the first espresso machine ever seen west of the Mississippi — a big, beautiful gas-fired Pavoni he'd purchased in Italy. Today the Pacific Avenue shop (operated by Cara's son Christopher) displays a dazzling array of gleaming brass, black, and silver brewers of all sizes, configurations, and vintages. There are sacks of beans roasted especially for the Caras, espresso cups and coffee grinders, a Dalmatian snoozing in the corner, the sound of classical music, and the fragrance of coffee floating in the air: This is one beatific San Francisco landmark.

(Sorry, no information is currently available for other years in this same award category.)

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