Specialty's Cafe & Bakery

Overall Rating: 7.550

Address: 369 Pine St.
Cross Street(s): Btwn Sansome & Montgomery Sts.
City, State ZIP: San Francisco, CA 94104
Neighborhood: Financial District
Phone: 415.395.9695
Hours: M-Su 5:30am-6pm
Type of Establishment: Bakery (Chain)
Cafe Rating: 7.50
Barista: 8
Savvy: 7
Ambiance: 7
Presentation: 8
Consistency: Inconsistent
Espresso Machine: La Marzocco
Coffee Rating: 7.60
Aroma: 8
Body: 7
Brightness: 8
Crema: 8
Flavor: 8
Taster's Correction: -1.0
Size: M
Primary Taste: Warming
Coffee Beans: Intelligentsia
Cup Manufacturer: ACF
Price: $2.39
Last Update: 08/12/2011
First Reviewed: 08/19/2003
Notes: Coffee Sales; Coffee Accessory Sales; Outdoor Seating

One of the motherships in this chain that has slowly but gradually upped its coffee offerings over the years. They first started pulling double espresso defaults made with an old Faema machine and Prebica beans. By 2003 they were using and promoting Intelligentsia beans but relied on push-button automatic Franke machines. Most recently they've gone all-out with a full-service, manual-crafted coffee bar. (How often do you see places weaned off automatic machines?) First opening with a dark interior and nice floors that looked of cherry wood, they have since brightened up the space with lighting and a more modern layout. Unlike some of its chain sisters, this one was among the originals with a dedicated coffee and espresso bar, but that was nothing like it is today: complete with shiny red, dual-group FB/70 machine, glowing Intelligentsia signage, and a Hario V-60 pour-over bar (plus various Intelligentsia Coffee offerings for retail sale). It's as if they got serious about coffee when they knew customers started caring. Still, there are long lines at lunch and coffee payment sometimes has to go through the whole line. Counter window seating - with one side overlooking the sidewalk and the other overlooking courtyard seating on its Century St. side (formerly home to a Starbucks hutch and then Abigails). The switch from their Faema machines to Frankes made them dull (that factory-produced sameness and uniformity) but more consistent: a mellow espresso with a moderately rich, medium brown crema, plus an herbal/spice flavor. The new semi-automatic FB/70 has raised their game, but the consistency isn't there and they're still not maximizing the result given all the pedigree going into the cup. It can lack some flavor potency and breadth at times: largely centering around an earthy pungency, despite the fresh-looking, medium brown mottled crema and white ACF Intelligentsia-branded cups (formerly paper only). They have come so far and still have much to go consistencywise.