Epicenter Café has something for almost every denizen of SOMA. Nomadic nerds can park their laptop with a free wi-fi connection. People who crave some of the best coffee in the city can sip perfectly made espressos, cappuccinos and macchiatos properly served in thick ceramic cups. And for a light meal, Epicenter offers wine and food, like homemade hummus and soups, empanadas and other tasty bites. Epicenter is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Even beer lovers will find joy at this cozy café on Harrison, around the corner from Whole Foods.
The emphasis at Epicenter is clearly on the coffee: “We take our coffee seriously and hope to show you just how great it can be.” Coffeeratings.com, which evaluates gourmet coffee houses in San Francisco, says Epicenter serves the second-best espresso in San Francisco, just behind Blue Bottle. Coffeeratings compares espressos from all over the city, and I can attest that Epicenter pulls a great shot (I chose a macchiato rather than the straight espresso that Coffeeratings evaluates, and it was delicious). Great coffee starts with quality beans, and Epicenter’s coffee is sourced from one of the best providers in the Bay Area, Barefoot Coffee Roasters in Santa Clara. The baristas are friendly, skillful and artistic, and according to Coffeeratings, have no qualms about tossing a shot that doesn’t meet their high standards. Even in a neighborhood like SOMA, which is virtually soaked in coffee, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better espresso than Epicenter’s
Like tasting beer and wine, coffee tasting has come a long way in the past few years, and Coffeeratings does a good job keeping up with the evolving San Francisco coffee scene. Tasting coffee (called “cupping”) has a lot in common with tasting wine and beer, and according to Greg Sherwin at Coffeeratings, coffee has more than 1,500 aromatic and flavor components, compared with about 200 for wine. More than 1,000 flavor elements have been identified in beer; they’re categorized on a beer flavor wheel.
Happy hour (Monday-Friday from 5-8 p.m.) is a good opportunity to sample some of the many flavors Epicenter Café has to offer. Although the sunny café doesn’t have any beers on tap, it has some intriguing brews in bottles. On a recent visit, I sampled the house-made hummus, with pita and slices of cucumber and tomato, matched with two very simpatico beers: Allagash White, a Belgian-style wit, and North Coast Pranqster, a strong Belgian pale ale. Although both of these beers are made in the U.S., they are very tasty and faithful versions of the Belgian styles. The hazy, golden Pranqster is complex and spicy and tastes a little of coriander, with a slightly sweet finish. It’s also fairly potent, at 7.6% abv, so you might save it for the end of the day. Allagash White, cloudy and pale yellow, is also subtly spicy with coriander and has a hint of lemon. Both were well-matched with the fresh hummus and veggies. A perfectly made macchiato was the ideal punctuation on a light late lunch.
There’s no lack of coffee houses in the South of Market, but Epicenter Café is a standout for its superb coffee and its selection of light dishes and good bottled beer.
764 Harrison St
(between 4th St & Lapu St)
San Francisco, CA 94107