The locals rate Philz, we’re often asked about it and if you live in San Francisco, know enough about coffee to want to be taken seriously and therefore avoid Starbucks to prove your pedigree, the Philz is your badge. There are a few of them dotted around the City and Bay. We were wandering around on a really chilly Sunday just after getting back from New Zealand and decided we should finally give it a try. Someone had suggested to us that the one on Berry Street was popular with commuting tech company workers, being right near the Caltrain when they arrived into SoMA.
The place was somewhat confusing when we walked in, I knew they made every cup individually and I knew they only did drip. Unlike going to our usual style of places where they do individual drip, this was food-court-style – a curved high bar of trendy pourers, I guess I should call them barisatas, standing behind large brackets where they flapped open a huge crinkled filter like those you see in large stainless dripping urns at conferences after you’d chosen your coffee, shoved the filter onto the large rack, measured and ground the coffee from a row of grinders on the back wall, dumped the coffee in the filter and poured in the water.
Milk, cream or sugar? Usually a question asked in order to allow room at the top for you to add your own but in this place it was so they could add it for you. Sugar-adding is a bit personal don’t you think? I mean I do it for The Mister because I know how much he likes, and they do it at Fuel but hell, if they don’t know how we like our coffee, no-one does! We were then delivered up onto the bar, 2-handed in a kind of receive-this-trophy gesture (they all did it) this corrugated 12oz cup of coffee. “Sip it and tell me if it’s OK.” was the friendly accompaniment to the passing of the trophy. Errr, by the look of it a sip was all I thought I could manage – it looked hot!
We jostled for a table with regulars and people doing their homework and people with travel cups for that first sip.
Oh dear. Not going back. It was really hot. The milk they’d put in the top was microwaved or steamed or bubbled with one of those Bodum whizzers so was very bubbly and thin. Perhaps a cafe-au-lait. I realized then you probably weren’t supposed to have milk with it so they probably thought we were tourists or ex-Starbucks. It tasted reheated and a bit grey, like it had been sitting for a while which is rubbish because we’d seen them make it right in front of us. I can’t remember the bean or blend we chose, perhaps that had something to do with it, and if I’m caught nowhere near a familiar cafe again then I might try it without milk.
Philz Coffee, Mission Bay / AT&T Park / SoMa store, 201 Berry St, San Francisco