In Short: Saint Frank is one of San Francisco’s premier coffee destinations. With a inventory of single origin beans that is drawn from the best lots in Central and South America, it’s a coffee bar with a beautiful aesthetic, with a warm inviting ambiance. While there is a great buzz on the weekends, my tip is to visit during the week to sample a variety of coffee making methods, including hand filtered coffee.
I love winging it when in a new city. As the Americans would put it, I lucked out and got a smashing good day as I walked out onto Market Street in San Francisco. Marine layer or super fog can easily blanket San Francisco on any given day, yet I got clear blue skies, and a beautifully warm day. In pure Sacha-winging-it-fashion, I had jumped on the BART in Fremont some 40 miles to the south and got off in the middle of city, not knowing where my first cafe stop, Saint Frank would be. Putting the location into Google maps, I found it was only 2km away. Bonus! Except, that 2 km stroll, didn’t take into account the ascent up Nob Hill.
In Sydney we’re used to lumpy roads, but that’s nothing like the gradients here in San Francisco. I worked up a bit of a sweat, but it was worth it, when I arrived at Saint Frank. If you’re not into the lung-busting climb by foot, try the Powell trolley cart ride up the hill. It’s location on Polk Street, Russian Hill is among a host of eateries and there’s a cool, cosmopolitan vibe to the area.
As spaces go, Saint Frank is just beautiful. It’s light, airy and spacious. It’s dominated by a long coffee bar on one side, and a long bench with little tables on the other. In true west coast fashion, the focus here is on coffee. In contrast to Sydney, what I found in Silicon Valley and San Francisco is that with many of the newer, third-wave coffee houses is that food is not a focus; it’s all about coffee. For example, here at Saint Frank, the most substantial offering was a granola with yoghurt, with a range of pastries as well. No cooking occurs on premise. If you do come to San Francisco do plan on doing coffee first before moving off to find food.
The crowd was an interesting mix too. In Sydney, coffee and brunch is very much a social experience, yet in the US, it is not uncommon to find a good percentage of patrons dining solo with their laptops. It was comforting to me at least, as I was travelling by myself.
Speaking of that granola, it was just the tonic after a morning travel and few kilometres on foot. Presented in a cute little bowl, I enjoyed that it was filled with a good ratio of nuts and fruit to oats. It wasn’t too sweet, and what sweetness there was was perfectly balanced with a sour kick from yoghurt.
The main event was the coffee. Owing to the crowds on a Sunday morning, there was no pour over action. I started off with a cappuccino. It had a nice, bright start and layers of summer berries coming through with an almost nutty almond finish. There’s a nice strength to the coffee that’s balanced out by the milk. A dark, yet well balanced, cup of coffee.
Before hitting the streets, I snuck in a Manjari hot chocolate. It turned out to be a master stroke. That hit of chocolate was pure wow! Loved the almost melted dark chocolate flavour that came through. It was warming, comforting, and combined with the exquisite milk work, made for a pleasurable drinking experience.
I left Saint Frank totally sated. The experience I envisioned had been realised. A beautiful coffee space, which pays homage to all things coffee. On my visit, I did detect at least one Aussie accent of a fellow coffee lover who also appreciated the craftsmanship of the baristas at work. If you do find yourself in San Francisco, Saint Frank has to be at the top of your list to satisfy your coffee craving, it definitely made me feel a whole lot better.