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Blah Blah Blah…Blue Bottle Ferry Plaza

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Name: Blue Bottle Kiosk
Location: Ferry Building Marketplace (North Nave), San Francisco, CA
Rating: 4

My first instinct was simply to post a lot of pictures of Blue Bottle’s permanent San Francisco Ferry Plaza kiosk. After all, by now Blue Bottle is practically a household name. There’s also the fact that the April opening of this cafe is no longer news having since been eclipsed by Blue Bottle’s newest SFMOMA sculpture garden kiosk (1,2) and the eagerly anticipated opening of the Jack London Square roasting works and cafe (whose progress you can follow @bluebottleroast). As I thought about my visit, though, I couldn’t help but reflect on how impressive a job James Freeman has done with the place. Despite opening multiple cafes, he still manages to keep things fresh, with subtle twists that make visiting each spot a new and exciting experience.

Probably most notable is the fact that this kiosk operates in the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Building where Blue Bottle operated its first farmers market cart. The permanent kiosk operates throughout the week, but the original cart along with the secondary cart still operates during market hours. And even with three locations, Blue Bottle reportedly still has long lines! These are the times that I can’t believe I didn’t think of this idea first.

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The other most notable feature of this permanent kiosk is the centerpiece espresso machine – the La Marzocco Mirage Triplette – sporting three classic levers in a hotrod, Kees van der Westen design. Lever-driven, yet modern looking, this machine is the eye candy that makes the visit worthwhile. But if you’d prefer the more traditional route and don’t want to wait in line up front, Blue Bottle has a workhorse La Marzocco Linea pulling shots from a take away window around the corner.

The Ferry Plaza kiosk sports other unique twists as well, including: a modular design that allows the triplette/bar to roll into place when the gates open up in the morning; a complete line up of (slightly overpriced) coffee and espresso paraphernalia – more than what has previously been available for sale at the cafe; the use of Heath Ceramics, the ceramics used by Alice Waters, the Slow Food Nation Tasting Pavilion and this blogger (bowls and plates, but not coffee cups); and the presence of Blue Bottle’s Retrofit espresso, a blend used in few locations.

Having had no shortage of Blue Bottle’s very pleasing coffees in recent years and knowing that my friend and I had a long day of coffee sampling ahead of us, I opted solely for an espresso on this visit. Hopefully, you can take my past word on the fact that Blue Bottle’s non espresso coffees more than past muster, although I have heard some rumors about roast irregularities and very much experiences shortages – a fact that should be remedied with the opening of the new roastery.

My espresso looked great. The crema was a pleasing reddish brown and exhibited some nice flecking. More importantly, it tasted good. The shot had a very nice, full-bodied, but clean mouthfeel and was slightly herbal, almost tonic flavored. It was sharp yet juicy. I think this shot falls into the category of well made and one I really appreciate without being one with which I necessarily fell in love. That said, in full disclosure, I was experiencing the earliest moments of a soon-to-be-nasty cold, which filled me some doubts about my tasting acumen.

The bottom line is that this kiosk is a fine addition to Blue Bottle’s continually creative, expanding reign over the bay area – a benevolent coffee empire that one can’t help but love.

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4 comments to Blah Blah Blah…Blue Bottle Ferry Plaza

  • Troy

    I love this new location. Makes getting up in the morning and facing the ferry commute worth it. I do feel a little bad for abandoning Peets, however.

    Initially, there were problems getting the water hot enough for good drip coffee in the am, but management quickly responded to customer concerns.

  • I’m in total agreement with you on Freeman’s magical ability to keep each BB location subtly distinct from the next. My favorite distinction is the differnt espresso blend used at each location. My favorite so far is, in fact that which they use here: Retrofit. It’s the smoothest and richest to my pallet. Maybe not the best of the bunch in milk but as a shot it’s mui yummy. Now, I say “so far”, as I have not had the Piccino espresso blend they developed, many moons ago, for the restaurant of the same name and has now been put into service at the new SFMoMA location.

    To the new Ferry Bldg. compalaints dept. I would add two more: 1) staleness of coffee variety (not a freshness thing, just noticing a decreasing amount of new coffees to picque my interest) and 2) those opening hours listed at the front? M’lady has noticed they operate as more of a suggestion than a hard and fast rule. Peet’s has been getting her business as she makes her way to the 7:10 ferry.

  • MAS

    I gotta get to SF for my next espresso vacation.

  • Definitely don’t feel bad for abandoning PEETs, although BB staff should take note: irregular hours equals loss of business to Peets. I’m guessing increased variety should follow the opening of the new roastery in Oakland. Apparently BB is maxed out on capacity and is pretty stretched to supply any of its locations with coffee for sale.

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