I came to know Saint Frank Coffee, roaster and purveyor of very fine coffee, from its long-time home on Polk Street in Russian Hill. This was my last stop on my last day in San Francisco when I visited in 2017, at the end of The Grand Adventure. It therefore seems fitting that my first stop on my current trip was also Saint Frank Coffee, albeit out in Menlo Park.
These days there are four Saint Franks, including the original, a long-standing coffee shop on the Facebook campus (not open to the public), a pop-up bakery/coffee shop, also on Polk Street in San Francisco, and this one, which opened in 2019. Across the road from the Caltrain station, it’s the sort of coffee shop that could only really work in a place with the Bay Area’s climate, since the only seating is outside on the large, shady terrace.
When it comes to coffee, which is all roasted in-house, there’s the seasonal house blend, single-origin and decaf on espresso, plus two choices on batch brew filter, with a third on iced filter. Finally, there are four options, including a decaf, on pour-over, plus a small range of pastries if you’re hungry.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
Saint Frank Coffee is on the other side of the street from the northbound (San Francisco) platform of the Menlo Park Caltrain station, which is great if you like watching the trains come and go, although they do make quite a lot of noise. However, its proximity to the station makes it a great place to get your morning coffee before jumping on the train, and an easy enough place to visit, Menlo Park being about two-thirds of the way along the line between San Francisco and San Jose.
Saint Frank occupies a wide outdoor lot, set back from Alma Street, with the station on the other side. The lot is bounded by a large, modern, office building on the right, and an open-air parking lot to the left, while the front is open to the street. There’s a standalone, single-storey building to the left, with the seating occupying an L-shaped area to the right, shade provided by several trees and parasols.
The operation is fairly simple, with the narrow front of the building facing the street/station. You order here at a central window, with the menu to the right and a table holding retail bags of beans to the left. You then go around to the right-hand side of the building, to another window about a third of the way, where you pay and collect your drinks when they’re ready
The seating consists of 12 round three- or four-person tables with green metal chairs (although you can always rearrange the chairs according to your needs). These are arranged in two groups in the large space to the right of Saint Frank. One group of five is towards the back of the space, next to the building, with the space immediately to the right of the collection window left open. The remaining seven at the front, but on the other side of the lot, behind which is a small, bushy tree which provides shade to some of the tables at the back.
For somewhere that is essentially an outdoor coffee shop, Saint Frank is very well equipped with free Wifi, while there’s also a toilet at the back of the building (get the key from the window). Best of all, for a country with a coffee culture obsessed with throw-away cups, everything is served in proper cups or glasses, if you’re sitting in (well, technically out). The range of coffee is also impressive, with three choices on espresso, two on batch brew, one iced filter and five pour-over options.
The original Saint Frank is famous for its modular espresso machine, a precursor to the likes of the Modbar and Mavam systems. Here the equipment is more standard, but no less impressive, with a Victoria Arduino Black Eagle espresso machine, while pour-over is made using Kalita Wave filters on the Curtis Seraphim automated system.
I started off with a cappuccino made with the Little Brother house blend, the milk and coffee combining to provide a rich, smooth drink with classic chocolate notes. I paired this with a large mango and coconut Danish pastry from The Midwife and The Baker, which was very tasty.
I followed this up with a shot of the single-origin espresso, the Giku Hill Natural from Burundi. Served in a tall, tapered cup, this was a lovely, rich shot, complex and well-balanced, with just a touch of bitterness, the perfect reintroduction to Saint Frank.
|1018 ALMA STREET • MENLO PARK • CA 94025 • USA|
|www.saintfrankcoffee.com||+1 415 881 8062|
|Monday||07:00 – 16:00||Roaster||Saint Frank (espresso + filter)|
|Tuesday||07:00 – 16:00||Seating||Tables (outside)|
|Wednesday||07:00 – 16:00||Food||Cake|
|Thursday||07:00 – 16:00||Service||Counter|
|Friday||07:00 – 16:00||Payment||Cards + Cash|
|Saturday||07:00 – 16:00||Wifi||Free (with code)|
|Sunday||07:00 – 16:00||Power||No|
|Chain||Local||Visits||17th July 2022|
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