Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters has just opened a brand new coffee window in the Mission, located at 613 York Street, near 18th Street, in Marla Bakery Kitchen Communal. They are still very much in a soft opening situation, but they are slinging free coffee, espresso, and mini-baked goods right now for local walkups. Despite arriving right as a rush hit because a fire alarm in a local office building had gone off, co-owner Nick Cho and barista Bonney Johnson graciously took a bit of time to talk to me for this first look, in between serving customers and troubleshooting some roaster issues.
Marla Bakery Kitchen Communal is a commissary space that hosts several different businesses. Marla Bakery, Wholesome Bakery, and Wrecking Ball have their signs out front. The busy bakery was cranking out scones, cookies, and other unidentifiable things behind Bonney Johnson as she made coffee. The cafe is armed with a La Marzocco Strada EP espresso machine and Vulcano grinder, along with a coveted Mahlkonig EK43 grinder and a Fetco for brewed coffee.
Mr. Cho was very positive on the energy of the new space: “Amy Brown and Joe Wolf [of Marla Bakery] have been doing this for a while. Hopefully we can learn something from them.” He went on, “I’ve been really interested in discipline lately. In a bakery you have to have so much discipline. We’re going to see if some of that will wear off on us.”
The Marla Bakery window isn’t supposed to be a pop-up or a temporary thing. Cho made sure to point out that fact: “Nothing’s permanent,” he told me, “but no, this isn’t a temporary space.” It’s an exciting environment for Wrecking Ball to call home; a simple, neighborhood spot in a part of the Mission that is a mixture of offices and light industry, off the main commercial drags of Valencia and Mission. It’s a few blocks from the Heath Ceramics Blue Bottle location, and it will no doubt make it onto plenty of coffee tourists’ itineraries.
We got a brief chance to talk about Mr. Cho’s current views on the industry, before he zipped off to troubleshoot some roaster issues. “Frankly, I’m a little tired of novelty,” he told me. “What’s missing is institutionalized education where coffee professionals can learn foundational knowledge. In the culinary industry, even if you don’t go to culinary school, you’re still living in a world where there is culinary school. In coffee you might meet a professional who is simply lacking some basic knowledge – that’s like a piano player who just doesn’t know how to play a section of the keyboard. It just doesn’t make any sense.” [Mr. Cho is well known for having a plethora of opinions on the industry, coalescing around his active and indispensable @NickCho Twitter profile. For evidence of such, please see Wrecking Ball's very explicit and serious "comp" policy, documented below, put up in response to a recent post by 2007 World Barista Champion and ersatz specialty coffee ombudsman, James Hoffmann. -ed.]
Nick Cho and Trish Rothgeb of Wrecking Ball are obviously passionate about coffee. It’s exciting to see these two industry luminaries – she’s been a renowned roaster and coffee quality educator for over a decade, he’s an influential cafe owner and thought leader – set their sights on a practical, modest project like this. Mr. Cho mentioned they would love to open a lab, and a roaster, and a shop, but that they didn’t really have an interest in embracing a business model that would support that kind of operation. In so many words, Cho told me that the goal here is to do something simple and to do it well, every time, day in and day out.
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There’s no sign on the building, indicating that it’s a Four Barrel location. Well, I take that back; there is a sign on the building, but it’s on the roof, conspicuously advertising the San Jose Sharks NHL Championship to the drivers on California Highway 101. The building is, however, unmarked at street level. It’s on a dead end street that butts up against the highway. When the door is closed it would be hard to tell from the garage across the street, except for the low-key/recognizably hip grey paint and exterior.
That’s the thing here. Low key, but obviously on trend. The new Portola Four Barrel is just off San Bruno Avenue, and has a really lovely minimal concrete and wood motif. The only chairs are stools, arrayed around the outside. Eventually a parklet will right just outside the open garage door. Already there’s new trees planted. This is part of a campaign to make this café green. Both in terms of environmental footprint, but also literally, like the color, green.
I talked to Nicky Koch, Four Barrel’s general manager, at the new space. The shop “is a different project than the other Four Barrel locations,” he told me. The neighborhood is markedly different, and the location itself is a major departure from the high-traffic, high-profile original Four Barrel cafe on Valencia, or The Mill, Four Barrel’s collaboration with Josy Baker Bread on Divisidero. “This is a neighborhood shop,” said Koch. “So far we’ve had almost exclusively people coming in who work or live in the neighborhood. This area just doesn’t have that much foot traffic.”
Just about everything in the shop was made by local artisans, except for the espresso and coffee brewing equipment, which includes a La Marzocco Linea, Mahlkonig EK-43 grinder, and multiple Mazzer Robur-E espresso grinders. Perhaps most notably, the elegant matte grey cup ware is a Four Barrel exclusive, created by Oakland ceramics studio Atelier Dion. Pastries are by Neighbor Bakehouse. While the space is relatively sparse now, the new Four Barrel will get monthly rotating art, and more retail shelf space is also coming soon.
As first revealed in this interview with Sprudge, Four Barrel founder Jeremy Tooker has big plans to make this shop a very real environmentally conscious neighborhood café. And it seems like you have to look at this as practically a neighborhood public works project – the previously unused corridor between the freeway and the neighborhood will eventually be converted into a park, and the new Four Barrel will be right there at the heart of it.
There’s a lot to love about this little café, and just because it’s off the beaten path now doesn’t mean it’ll stay that way forever. The beaten path changes; people make new paths all the time. By the time you get to Four Barrel Portola it might be neighbors with a new park, a playground, a composting toilet, an electric car charging station, and who knows what else. This is San Francisco. Just about anything is possible.
via Sprudge.com » san francisco http://sprudge.com/four-barrel-portola-now-open-san-francisco.html
New glassware dropped today at Potrero Hill’s fastidiously adorable micro-roaster cafe Front SF. They’re from the glass-makers Catamount and they just might be the most sensual coffee wares ever made. Don’t believe us? Read on.
Look at this curvaceous handle.
Look at the voluptuous lip.
LOOK AT THIS PERFECT SERVER.
Look at this tapered spout.
Look at the steamy glass.
Look at this perfect handle.
See it for yourself at Front SF, 150 Mississippi St.
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