Saint Frank Coffee, Russian Hill

A beautiful espresso with milk, part of a split shot of a single-origin Guatemalan coffee in Saint Frank Coffee, San Francisco.Once again, I find myself following in the footsteps of Bex of Double Skinny Macchiato. Saint Frank Coffee, in San Francisco’s Russian Hill area, was the very last stop of my final day-trip to San Francisco, part of my epic four-corners trip around America at the start of the year. It had been a good day, starting with a visit to Four Barrel in the Mission and ending at Saint Frank, both recommendations from Bex.

Founded in 2013, Saint Frank’s a relative newcomer to San Francisco’s speciality coffee scene. This is its flagship store, with two other outlets, one on the Facebook campus (sadly, employees only) and a new venture, called St Clare Coffee, in the Mission (which sadly, has since closed). Saint Frank roasts all its own coffee (sadly off-site), working directly with a small number of coffee farmers around the world.

There are three options on espresso (house-blend, a single-origin and a decaf) through a bespoke, under-the-counter espresso machine. There are three more options on pour-over (all single-origins, one of which is a decaf) using the Marco Beverage Systems SP9. Finally, there are two further single-origins, one on bulk-brew and one available as an iced coffee. If you’re hungry, there’s a small but tasty cake range.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • On San Francisco's Polk Street, in Russian Hill, stands a welcoming sight. It's St Frank!
  • Stepping inside, Saint Frank goes a long, long way back. High ceilings too!
  • The view back towards the door, where Saint Frank is wide enough for a window-bar...
  • ... with three well-spaced bar-stools. Ideal for people-watching during the day.
  • The counter is a massive affair on the left-hand side...
  • ... while the rest of the (downstairs) seating is on the right.
  • There's a bench against the walll, lined with six two-person tables like these...
  • ... beyond which are two, larger, four-person tables at the back, with tall stools.
  • But that's not all. Saint Frank had very high ceilings, leaving space for this at the back...
  • Let's go up and investigate, shall we?
  • It's a mezzanine area, but not a terribly large one.
  • There's space for two four-person tables (with chairs!). Check out the skylights.
  • The view's not bad if you sit at the end!
  • I do like looking down at the counter...
  • ... or you can look down at the seating below.
  • Here's one of the four-person tables at the back.
  • Let's go back down, shall we?
  • Saint Frank has some nice touches, such as these flowers on the counter...
  • ... while there's a mission statement of sorts on the wall.
  • A roaster, as well as a coffee shop, Saint Frank has a retail shelf by the counter.
  • There's all the usual stuff, including bags of beans if you want them.
  • Retail menus hang handily on the wall to one side.
  • There are more retail bags next to the tills on the magnificently uncluttered counter!
  • Talking of which, I'm not sure I've seen a better display area for cake!
  • The drinks menus are above the cake on clipboards.
  • The pour-over options in detail.
  • Saint Frank is up there with the cutting-edge technology, including these SP9s...
  • ... although there is more conventional pour-over technology at the back.
  • The espresso grinders are on the side of the counter, facing the window.
  • There are three of them: one each for the house-blend, single-origin and decaf.
  • Talking of cutting edge, St Frank has custom-built, under-the-counter espresso systems.
  • I love watching espresso extract, and this makes it very easy.
  • Here the barista is making me a split shot.
  • Almost done.
  • Now to steam the milk. I love that steam wand design. It has a foot-operated pedal too!
  • Another neat feature: a recessed cooler in the counter-top for the milk.
  • Let the latte art commence!
  • Here comes the pattern...
  • ... built up, one element at a time.
  • Almost there!
  • And there we have it.
  • Beautiful presentation, along with my cake.
  • My split shot is worth a second look all by itself.
  • And take a look at the lasting power of the latte art. Always a good sign!
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Saint Frank Coffee occupies a long, high-ceilinged space. Done out in white and pale wood, it has a clean, not-quite-clinical look, very different from the post-industrial, warehouse look of the likes of Sightglass and Sextant, which seems to dominate the San Francisco’s speciality coffee scene. The front, which faces west onto Polk Street, is dominated by a massive big picture window on the left, while the door, also glass, is recessed on the right.

Saint Frank is surprisingly wide, only seeming narrow in comparison to its great depth and height (it is possibly taller than it is wide). There’s enough space for two tables outside on the pavement in front of the window, which also houses a three-seat window-bar inside, although you could probably squeeze four or maybe five stools in if you wanted to. Then again, uncluttered seems to be a watch-word for Saint Frank.

There’s a retail shelf on left-hand wall, then comes the counter, a massive affair, all sweeping lines, which occupies most of the left-hand side. There’s a short section facing the window, which houses the three espresso grinders, then comes an elegant curve which houses a glass display case for the cake, the menus neatly displayed on the glass top on clipboards. The long sweep of the counter continues, running lengthways down the store, punctuated by the twin group heads of the espresso machine, the two tills, two more group heads of the second espresso machine and, finally, the tall, black cylinders of a pair of SP9s. Everything, it seems, comes in twos at Saint Frank.

A long bench runs along the right-hand wall opposite the counter, six two-person tables lined up against it. Then, at back, two high, four-person tables jut out from the wall. Above these is a small mezzanine area, accessed via steps on the left, which holds two four-person tables, the only part of Saint Frank where you’ll find chairs. The ludicrously high ceilings, the windows at the front, twin skylights in the middle and at the back of the ceiling, and the uncluttered layout, all combine to give Saint Frank an unparalleled sense of space.

The coffee used to be roasted (by Saint Frank) at Ritual, another San Francisco legend, but at the start of the year, Saint Frank moved into its own dedicated roastery. The single-origin filters change every two/three weeks, using coffee from Honduras, Guatemala and Kenya. Saint Frank uses Kalita Wave filters with its SP9s, serving your coffee in a carafe with a cup on the side.

Tempted as I was, I was drawn to the espresso system, custom-built by a local engineer when Saint Frank opened in 2013. Although looking similar to the Mavam and Modbar modular systems, each machine is a single unit, boilers and pumps below the counter, connected directly to the twin group heads and steam wands, leaving the counter-top wonderfully clear.

There’s a seasonal blend (Little Brother), with a single-origin which changes every week. Undecided, Lauren, my barista, recommended a split shot of the single-origin, a Guatemalan Las Palomas. This arrived, beautifully presented, on a wooden tray. It went well in milk, where it was very smooth, coffee and milk complimenting each other perfectly. However, I preferred it on its own, where I found it beautifully well-balanced with a great mouthfeel. I was struck by rich, chocolately notes, particularly on the first sip.

I paired this with an outstanding cornmeal galette, with an apple and date filling, the perfect combination of sweet and savoury. The rich, cornmeal pastry had a sweet layer of dates (a bit like jam), topped with chunks of apple.

July 2022: On my return to the Bay Area, I visited the new (to me) Saint Frank Coffee in Menlo Park.

2340 POLK STREET • SAN FRANCISCO • CA 94109 • USA +1 415-775-1619
Monday 07:00 – 18:00 Roaster Saint Frank (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 07:00 – 18:00 Seating Tables, Window-Bar, Tables (outside)
Wednesday 07:00 – 18:00 Food Cake
Thursday 07:00 – 18:00 Service Counter
Friday 07:00 – 18:00 Payment Cards + Cash
Saturday 07:00 – 18:00 Wifi Free (weekdays only)
Sunday 07:00 – 18:00 Power Limited
Chain Local Visits 1st February 2017

You can see what fellow-blogger Bex, of Double Skinny Macchiato, made of Saint Frank when she visited as part of her own one-day whirlwind tour of San Francisco.

If you enjoyed this Coffee Spot, then take a look at the rest of San Francisco’s speciality coffee scene with the Coffee Spot Guide to San Francisco.

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1 thought on “Saint Frank Coffee, Russian Hill

  1. Pingback: Saint Frank Coffee, Menlo Park | Brian's Coffee Spot

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