Hooker’s Sweet Treats

It was a lovely Saturday morning in the Tenderloin when I walked down the hill to meet Jessie and Justin at Hooker’s. 

Before this place opened the space belonged to another little coffee place, Chez Momo I think?  I only went once, and Steve got coffee but I didn’t. 

Hooker’s was making caramels before they opened this cafe, and they’d become pretty popular locally.  When word got out that they were opening a coffee spot, people got pretty excited.  Pretty, pretty excited (that’s my Larry David impression.  Get it?).  So excited that they tried to convince themselves that Hyde and Ellis is in a much nicer neighborhood than it actually is.  Many referred to it as a “Tendernob cafe” and some even attempted to claim it was Nob Hill.  I don’t generally like to quibble about this kind of stuff (ha ha, jk, of course I do) but I think once you’re below O’Farrell it’s extremely difficult to deny that you. are. in. the. loin.  period.  But being in the Tenderloin proper takes nothing away from how nice a cafe the Hooker’s peeps opened up!

It’s a pretty fucking adorable spot.  I have to begrudgingly admit that I like it, because I like cutesy shit, and this place really appeals to my asthetic.  It’s fancy coffee, so it could easily go hipster sneery, but they keep it pretty low key.  Instead the vibe is warm and inviting. 

The whole store is similar in size to farm:table, and there is the same communal table situation.  However, I could handle it this time, since I wasn’t there by my lonesome, but with a couple friends.  Probably I would be uncomfortable if I were alone.  In fact, that’s the title of my autobiography; Mel Roska, Uncomfortable at Any Speed.  Yeah, I don’t like it either.

You order the french press coffee and you get your french press and this little timer so you know when it’s ready.  You also get this cute little enamel pitcher of cream. 

The coffee is good.  I’m suspicious of all these roasters that have been popping up, I find the coffee to be very hit and miss.  At Hooker’s they serve Sightglass, which I hadn’t tried before, but I’ll add them to the list of acceptable brews. 

Here’s what you get if you order the bread pudding (ugh please excuse the horrible and unappetizing picture.  just awful.)

This is not something I ever need to eat by myself again.  Certainly not for breakfast.  But holy moly, that’s some good stuff.  Sweet to be sure,  though I enjoyed and I’ve been having issues with things being “too sweet” recently, so unless you absolutely have no sweet tooth you should be good with this. 

Justin and Jessie split a savory biscuit. 

There were mixed feelings about it.  I didn’t try it, but as I recall it sounded appealing, I just had too much bread pudding happening to even attempt any other food. 

Look!  It’s adorable, I told you.  It’s almost a little much…like, I can see that it’s a little much.  I can understand that.  I just love it; I can’t help it!  I haven’t been back to Hooker’s since this first visit, but in writing this post I’ve certainly convinced myself the time for second visit is now.

Hooker’s Sweet Treats

442 Hyde St

hookerssweettreats.com

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Jebena

Jebena, Jebena, Jebena…I’ve been saying it over and over in my head and eventually it occurs to me that I could be mind-pronouncing it incorrectly.  I’ve been saying (both in my mind and actually out loud speaking it) Juh-BEAN-uh, but for all I know it could be juh-ben-ah or jeh-ben-AH.  Well.  I was thinking I could research this and get a definitive answer for y’all, but instead I’m going to go with the old adage (cliche) that “ignorance is bliss” and enjoy chanting juh-bean-uh to myself as I sit here.

Moving along to the actual point of this rambling, the story of my visit to Jebena.  I was, if I remember correctly, skipping out on the gym because I am ridiculously lazy.  Steve went without me and I went to find myself breakfast.   I strolled down the hill to the new coffee shop I’d noticed at Geary and Polk.

This being the first few weeks of its existence, Jebena was empty when I walked inside.  Today the place is hopping all the time, but today is many months later.  I ordered a cup of coffee, a healthy looking pastry from among the tempting croissants and slabs of cake, and grabbed a hard boiled egg from the cold case.  The gal behind the counter set about making my coffee, they do individual drip here.

I sat at a table by the window with my food.  Jebena is walled with windows all around and it makes for a pleasant sunny environment.  I cracked open my egg and was happy to find that it did not have the overcooked greyish yolk I am accustomed to finding in hardboiled eggs made in commercial circumstances.  This egg was in fact verging on undercooked, but it was fine, in fact it was very good.  I mean, it was a boiled egg, so as good as a boiled egg can be.  Which I guess would be very good.  Anyway.

The pastry cake thing I ordered…I’m not sure what to call it…as I mentioned before I picked it out for it’s seemingly healthy qualities.  It looked dense and full of nuts and raisins.  And indeed it was dense and nutty and full of dried fruits, but it was also unbelievably rich and buttery, with a syrupy sweetness.  I mean, it was really delicious, but it was almost definitely not too healthy.  It was so rich that it was really too much for one person. 

The coffee here was fairly unremarkable.  It was good, but not memorable.  I would come back and have coffee here if I wanted to sit and linger over it, but only because it’s one of the closest places to my house with palatable coffee that’s good for that sort of sitting and lingering.  And because they have free wi-fi.  But I’m not hankering to go back, the coffee didn’t change my life.

But it’s a nice clean place, and the people working at Jebena seem very nice.  They also have some umbrella-ed tables outside, which is a pretty cool touch, though this corner can get pretty noisy.   I suppose there’s a good chance you might get spare changed sitting outside there as well, or be subjected to some unpleasant odors.  There are pros and cons to most situations, am I right? 

Jebena

990 Polk St

What A Grind

I pretty much need to have coffee in the morning.  This isn’t really a problem on work days, there are a gazillion and one starbucks and peets and donut shops within walking distance of my office, and I keep a french press at my desk.  The weekend is when this can get tricky.  Usually I just order a cup at whichever restaurant I eat breakfast/brunch/lunch (depending on how late I sleep).  There are some days though where various elements conspire to make it difficult for me to caffeinate myself, and then I get a little, shall we say, grumpy.  I was having one of those mornings the other day, when Steve and I were going out of town for some reason or other.  We were going to be riding our bikes down to the BART station.  In the old days, before bikes, we would have walked down to the station and I would have picked up a coffee somewhere along the way.  This was no longer an option, so I needed to figure something else out.  I had grown a bit tired with my usual coffee spot, the gelato place about a block from my house.  Their americanos were nice, but the service could be slow, and I needed food with my coffee.  That’s my other problem, I can’t drink coffee on an empty stomach.  They have some middling pastries at the gelato place, and they make crepes and bagels, but as I mentioned, the wait can be painfully long.  I didn’t have a lot of time because I had to eat and finish my coffee before we had to leave in about 30 minutes.  I decided to head down the hill to the next closest coffee shop, What A Grind.

I’m friendly with two of my fellow tenants in my apartment building, and one of them told me a few months ago that What A Grind has the best coffee in San Francisco.  I was pretty skeptical about that; I’d waited at the bus stop in front of the cafe almost everyday for 2 years and I saw the volume of business they were doing.  If this place really had the best coffee in San Francisco some hipster would have found it out and it would have grungy kids queuing down the block.  Mostly the customers are burnouts and old Chinese guys from the neighborhood.  The place definitely inspires a fierce loyalty among some, I saw the same faces there the Sunday I stopped by that I’d been seeing every weekday morning for so long. 

I went inside and ordered a regular coffee and an everything bagel with ham, cheese and egg.  The interior was not at all what I expected, it was much brighter and filled with odd knick-knacks and framed photos.  There was a life size painting of Marilyn Monroe on one wall.  The small dining area, off to the right of the small entryway room that housed the counter and the kitchen, was homey with mismatched chairs and tables and potted plants.  I watched as Sam, the proprietor, who I recognized from my bus stop days, put my bagel on the toaster and sliced pressed ham on a meat slicer.  My breakfast sandwich was about 4 bucks, which is just a little cheaper than the non-breakfast sandwiches they offer.  They also have some deli salads that didn’t look bad at all.  I’m thinking this could be a decent place for a quick, cheap lunch.

That is, if my bagel is any indication.  I was put off a bit by the amount of liquid that came off the bagel, I’m not sure why it was so wet.  I mean, I guess it must be from the ham but it was a serious amount of juice.  It did not seem proportional to the amount of filling.  Beyond that initial weirdness, it was a pretty good breakfast sandwich.  The egg was fine for microwave cooked egg, the ham was standard, pretty salty but good.  The cheese was American, but I’m ok with that on a hot sandwich because American cheese has a pretty superior melt-ability.  The bagel was toasted enough that there was a crackly crust on the cut sides and the outside.  When I have a toasted bagel I want a well toasted bagel.  If I were to grab breakfast at What a Grind again, I’d probably get a bagel with cream cheese or tomato or something, because those bagels are pretty cheap at $1.50 and, though I found my sandwich quite satisfying, it probably wasn’t $4 worth of satisfying. 

Oh, and the coffee?  Not the best in San Francisco, sorry.  I knew you were hoping I’d be the hipster who discovered the diamond in the rough, but it’s not to be.  It was pretty good though.

What A Grind

881 Post Street

www.whatagrindcafe.com

Oh, something really cool about this place is that it’s in the same building as the apartment that Dashiell Hammett lived in while he was writing The Maltese Falcon, among other stories.  There’s a plaque on the wall near the gated entrance where you can read a bit more about it.  Neat, huh?  You can also check out this site for a photo tour of the building and apartment.

Honey Honey Cafe & Crepery

I went to crepe places a lot when I first moved to San Francisco.  I’d go to Crepevine with friends from school or take my family to Squat and Gobble for breakfast when they came to visit.  Creperies were very popular among white college students, I think because they were just different enough from the norm to feel slightly sophisticated and grown up but were not too far removed from familiar American diner food.  I can’t deny that I enjoyed plenty of meals at creperies, but after a while I stopped frequenting the establishments.  This was in part due to boredom, in part to a growing adventurous streak and in part to the realization that I could get better food at cheaper prices if I was willing to think a little outside the box.  Anyway, all this chatter is to set up that I had never visited Honey Honey Cafe & Crepery until a couple weeks ago.  I had taken note of it because it is on my route to work, it has a large pillar in front of the door with a simple face carved in it, and because of the name; I like to think it is named after the ABBA song.  The day I finally decided to go I was taking a couple friends, Erin and Austin (pretty NSFW), to a late lunch before going to the movies.  It happened to be the same day that I went to Moulin for breakfast, and the six cups of coffee I’d drunk there had me craving more.  I figured a crepery would be a safe bet for good coffee, and my friends and I would all be able to easily find something we wanted to eat (in my experience crepery menus are fairly extensive). 

Like many other crepe places, Honey Honey is counter service, which is not my favorite thing in the world.  I always feel uncomfortable standing in front of the cashier staring at the big menu board (especially when the menu is so large) when I know the cashier just wants me to get the heck out of his/her face.  Especially at a time like when we were there, when the place was nearly empty.  I guess not having printed menus keeps costs down?  Anyway, we ordered and gathered our drinks and picked a table by the windows. 

Here’s Austin’s water.  They have a neat thing they do with the water, they have two (or three, I can’t remember and I really wish I’d taken a photo) vintage-ey looking glass water coolers, one with orange slices and one with lemon slices (and maybe another one, I can’t recall).  Pretty fancy.  I don’t know which water Austin got, I got the orange slice water, it was very refreshing.

My coffee and Erin’s iced chai.  The coffee delivered on my expectations for pretty good stuff and I was happy to find my caffeine craving gone after only one cup.  The chai was unsuprisingly creamy and sweet with the flavor of honey and fragrant spices.  Well, let’s say “comfortingly” instead of “unsurprisingly” shall we?  Doesn’t that sound nicer?

Here’s Austin’s blintz.  We were all rather taken aback when it arrived, I don’t think anyone was expecting this kind of presentation.  I didn’t try it, but when I asked Austin if it tasted as good as it looked he said no.  Because how could it?  It was tasty, but the appearance of the plate trumped everything else.

Erin and I both ordered crepes.  Erin got her Miami Heat crepe with potatoes.  She said the crepe was nicely spicy.  I wish I’d tried it because it sounds like a pretty delicious combination; cheddar, avocado, chicken, scallions and spicy hot sauce.  These days, I love anything with scallions.  I tried her potatoes and they were chewy-crispy and well salted.  I could get in a lot of trouble with potatoes like those.  I got fruit with my North Beach crepe.  After I placed my order I had a bit of a WTF moment, if you will.  It was kind of a weird thing for me to order, a crepe covered with hollandaise sauce?  But I ended up enjoying it just fine, the crepe itself was good, not extraordinary but good, the chicken was tender and all the vegetables (onion, spinach and mushroom) were well cooked.  The hollandaise sauce didn’t taste exactly as I remember hollandaise tasting, this sauce was slightly cheesy, but I still liked it.  I was worried that with the swiss cheese inside it would be too cheesy, but I guess there’s practically no such thing.  I love cheese.

I had a nice time at Honey Honey, mostly because I was with a couple of good friends, but also because it was familiar.  It looked and tasted a lot like every other crepe restaurant I’ve been to in San Francisco.  It’s not a bad thing.  It’s also not something I feel a need to experience on a regular basis.  If I were a person who didn’t go to work at 9am every weekday morning and I lived within a block of the place I could see myself hanging out here in the late morning or late afternoon.  As I’m not, and I don’t, and there are better breakfast and burger and sandwich places closer to me, I’ll probably only be back when I get a mad crepe craving.  Who knows, it could happen.  Though their draft beer prices aren’t bad, and you know that can tempt a girl…

A quick word about the neighborhood; this is one of the nicest parts of the Tenderloin.  It is kind of a stretch to call this the Tenderloin, I’d say.  The streets are clean and there are grand buildings all around, hotels or the homes of exclusive clubs and societies.  I was really tickled by a review I saw when I was checking Honey Honey’s yelp page last night; this particular reviewer said, although he thought the cafe was worthy of 4 out of 5 stars, he wouldn’t visit at night because “sketcherloin is not somewhere one should visit once the sun goes down.”  HILARIOUS.  He also said he wouldn’t because they’re probably not open, though their yelp page clearly states they’re open til 10pm.  People.  You have nothing to fear at Post and Taylor after dark, unless you are scared of douchebags who frequent bars like the Owl Tree or people walking home from shopping trips. 

Honey Honey Cafe & Crepery

559 Post St

http://www.honeyhoneycafeandcrepery.com

Moulin

As I was reminiscing on my visit to Moulin, trying to come up with something witty and interesting to say about it, I started to ruminate on this blog as a whole, and what my brain spit out after all this work is that I think if you were to sum up Goldentooth in two words, they would be “pleasantly surprised.”  In the cases of most of the restaurants I’ve visited for the blog that I hadn’t frequented before I was apprehensive and/or pre-convinced that they would suck.  But again and again my assumptions are coming back to bite me in the backside when I am served another delicious meal.  This all occurred to me especially with Moulin because I went there with the lowest of expectations. 

I had actually been planning to go to Brenda’s because it was a rare weekday off for me and I thought that the wait would be less on a late Monday morning.  Turns out I was wrong, as usual.  Moulin was a third choice after I decided I didn’t have time to walk the extra couple blocks it would take to check out the line at Dottie’s.  I’ve been aware of Moulin for some time, I’ve passed by hundreds of times and I’ve heard people talk about it like they used to go there and it was good, but they stopped going.  It is kind of weird that I’d never been there, considering that I live barely 4 blocks away, but in terms of breakfast greasy spoon spots, I’ve been pretty loyal to New Village on Polk.  I’ve been eating farmer omelets and hash browns there for going on 7 years.  That’s why it pains me a bit to say that I want to go to Moulin for breakfast now and forever. 

My preconceived ideas about Moulin started to change as soon as I walked in.  I had been expecting something dingier and dirtier with more booths.  Instead, the interior was neat, though a bit cramped, and it was bright in the front and shadowy in the back.  It looked a bit like a chalet or some sort of Disney version of Scandinavia.  I kept thinking that it felt more like a diner in Southern California than one in San Francisco.  It was easy to forget that the Tenderloin was bustling right outside.

The food at Moulin is cheap.  Not astoundingly cheap, not especially cheaper than other diners, but cheap enough.  I ordered my coffee and I ordered the French toast breakfast, which came with sausage and an egg, which I asked for scrambled.  As I drank my coffee and found it being refilled at an astonishing clip, I noticed that there were only two people working in the restaurant.  An older Asian man who was taking orders, serving food and coffee and running the register and an older Asian woman who was doing the cooking and picking up the slack on the other tasks when her partner got busy.  Only two people in a restaurant that was fairly full of customers, and my coffee never got more than three-quarters empty.  Also, nobody entered or exited without getting a sincere and cheery greeting or farewell.  Several customers they seemed to know and they would stop and chat with them for a moment or two.  And still my coffee and water stayed full and my food came out in a reasonable amount of time considering there was only one cook.

I was astounded by the efficiency of the proprietors, but I was most astounded when my breakfast arrived.  It was GOOD.  And I don’t mean “good” like, “oh yeah, it was pretty good.”  This was one of the more delicious breakfasts I’ve had in a while.  The french toast was eggy and light and sweet after I drenched it in syrup.  The sausage was cooked in such a way that a crust formed on the outside of the link that you crunched through to reveal a juicy interior, yet the usual slime of grease you find with your breakfast sausage was absent from the plate.  And the egg…this was the highlight of the meal for me.  So many times you get scrambled eggs at a diner and they seem kind of like a throwaway; almost always they are cooked incorrectly, either they’re too dry or too runny.  These eggs were cooked absolutely perfectly, they were soft without being wet, they were fluffy and moist.  And to think that this level of perfection was achieved in a kitchen with just one cook.  My loyalty switched as soon as I put the first bite of egg in my mouth.  And everything was served on pretty fiestaware!  Moulin forever. 

Can I say more good things about Moulin?  As I mentioned before, the people working there were so so nice.  The cook, Janet I assume, cleared my empty plate from my table and remarked “you finished everything!  good for you!”  Too adorable.  As I paid (I think my bill ended up being about 9 bucks) and walked out of the restaurant, I was escorted by a chorus of “goodbye, thank you, have a nice day!”  I could still hear it as the door closed behind me and I was back in the world.  Luckily, morning is the nicest time to be on Geary Street.  The streets are cool and quiet, the odors are relatively non-offensive, and everybody on the sidewalks seem to be in a better mood than they are in the afternoon, when the street denizens seem not as happy to be alive.  I walked back up the hill home with a spring in my step, already looking forward to my next trip to Moulin.

Moulin

887 Geary

Their Yelp page

farm:table

 I wanted to go back to farm:table a second time before I wrote this post, but I also wanted to get a post up without any more waiting.  I’ll try to go back soon and then I will update.  I feel like this is necessary because I don’t think I got the whole experience on my visit.  I didn’t even get any photos of the food or the interior!  I went around 10 am on a Saturday morning.  farm:table is TINY.  I’d heard that it is really small, but I wasn’t prepared for just how small it is.  The customer area is maybe 8′ by 8′ and most of that is taken up by a square wood table that is surrounded by benches.   Each side of the table can fit two people comfortably, three if you are with your best friends and don’t mind rubbing thighs.  The morning I was there I thought it was busy because there were six people at the table already.  It turns out it was actually quiet that day; when I walked by the next week people seemed to be spilling out the window it was so packed. 

farm:table has a daily changing breakfast and lunch menu (you can get updates on their twitter feed) and I was tempted to try their bread pudding or their hard boiled egg sandwich of the day, but I was deterred by the communal seating situation.  It’s one this for me to sit and eat a muffin and have a coffee while sitting with my face just four feet from a stranger’s, but another thing entirely to try to eat a meal with a fork and knife and all.  This is probably just me, but I’d be way too self conscious.  I ordered what seemed to be the house special drink, the tendernob, and a buckwheat banana cake thing.  The girls running the counter were super super sweet, and they did an amazing job with my drink.  I didn’t catch all the components, but it was espresso, steamed milk and something else in a tiny glass cup, maybe four ounces?  Anyway, it was the most velvety steamed milk I have ever had.  It’s been a long time since I’ve had drink with hot milk because most places can’t make it for shit.  This froth redeemed my faith in humanity.  I think you could have put any sludge in that milk and I would have been okay with it, but of course they had a pretty lovely espresso too, very mellow with a definite floral end note.  It was the perfect sip for a chilly San Francisco morning. 

The little cake was slightly disappointing.  The banana flavor was good, and it was moist on the outside, but the interior was dry.  It was sticking to the inside of my mouth in a most unpleasant way.  Even if it had been the best breakfast bread ever, I probably wouldn’t have been able to enjoy it fully because I just felt too awkward sitting at the communal table.  I was all alone and hadn’t brought any activities with me, everyone else at the table was either there with friends or had a paper or book to read.  I was just sitting there, eating my food, trying not to look at people…it’s just not my thing.  I know plenty of people love this kind of seating, but I can’t get down with it, certainly not when I’m alone.  As I left, I noticed two outside tables that I wish I’d seen on my way in.  I would have been so much happier out there, even though it was pretty breezy. 

I’d really like to try farm:table again, their menus always sound super delicious and I want to try their drip coffee and for sure the latte.  If I can’t round up any dining companions, or if the people are packed in like sardines I guess I’ll have to inquire about their to go options.

farm:table

754 Post St

http://www.farmtablesf.com/

PS – If anyone can tell me exactly what’s in the tendernob, I’d be much obliged.