Spro – Mission Dolores/Castro

My espresso, a washed Colombian from Black & White Coffee Roasters, served in an interesting cup at Spro Coffee Lab in San Francisco, along with three blueberries as palate cleansers.Spro Coffee Lab was recommended by the baristas at Devout Coffee in Fremont, who marked it out as doing some of the best espresso in San Francisco. Spro began as a trailer in Spark Social SF, which is still going strong, followed by a bricks-and-mortar store in Mission Dolores/Castro, where I headed on the day following my visit to Devout. Occupying a bright corner with plenty of windows, there are five tables outside on the pavement and a similar amount of seating in the minimalist interior.

According to its website, Spro Coffee Lab serves “specialty craft coffee, experimental mocktails, inventive eats and artisanal goods using advanced techniques in culinary food science”, which is as good a description as any. There’s a selection of salads, open-face toasts, soup and sandwiches, while if you want something sweeter, another menu, just as extensive as the savoury one, is dedicated to pastries and desserts. There’s even a (smaller) menu for dogs!

When it comes to coffee, Spro currently uses Black & White Coffee Roasters from North Carolina, with its current Classic espresso, plus decaf, on a concise menu, while there’s a blend and two single-origins on pour-over, plus the aforementioned mocktails and other drinks.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • My first sight of Spro Coffee Lab on Church Street, a block north of Mission Dolores Park.
  • There's seating outside on the pavement with two tables down the right-hand side...
  • ... and three more on the sloping Church Street as it heads down towards the park.
  • Mind you, my view was often obscured by passing Muni streetcars. Some are modern...
  • ... while others are of an older vintage, like this four-car unit.
  • And there's Spro, the streetcar heading down Church Street towards the park.
  • You can have just as much fun sitting inside, where the slope of Church Street is obvious.
  • Talking of inside, the door is inset on the right. Let's go in.
  • This is the view that greets you , with the counter and till at the back, opposite the door.
  • The counter continues to the left, almost to the left-hand wall. There are four red-mesh...
  • ... chairs at the counter, which provide seating, seen here head on.
  • There's more seating in the shape of two tables in the middle of the room...
  • ... occupying the space between the counter and the windows.
  • There's also another table against the left-hand wall...
  • ... which is a good place to sit if you need the power outlets.
  • Unlike the other tables, it's long and thin.
  • The last of the seating is at this four-person window-bar, which mirrors...
  • ... the four seats at the counter, seen here from the front, left-hand corner.
  • Talking of which, this is home to the retail and merchandising shelves.
  • It's always nice to have the name on the wall.
  • Obligatory light-fitting shot.
  • To business. You are greeted by the menus when you enter, which are on A-boards...
  • ... to the right of the till. There are two large ones and one small one.
  • The first of the large ones, on the left, is for sweet things...
  • ... while the one on the right is for savouries.
  • Finally, the small one at floor level is for dogs!
  • The (conventional) drinks menu is on the wall to the right...
  • ... with the mocktails and other drinks on the wall behind/above the counter.
  • Finally, there are seasonal specials on the counter.
  • The pour-over part of Spro is on the right, to the right of the till.
  • There's a choice of blend or two single-origins, with lots of details given.
  • There's also chocolate.
  • To the left of the till is the cake display...
  • ... and beyond that, the bright red Kees van der Westen Spirit espresso machine.
  • I started with lunch, ordering the Mash Up. The plate does it no favours, making it look...
  • ... small, but it was actually a surprisingly large portion and delicious with it.
  • Next, espresso, and the Black & White Classic, a washed Colombian.
  • I had this as an espresso, in a rather neat cup, served with a glass of sparkling water...
  • ... which came in an equally neat glass.
  • My espresso in more detail, served with three blueberries as palate cleansers.
  • However, I'll leave you with my dessert, the coffee crumble cake.
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Located a block north of the famous Mission Delores Park, Spro Coffee Lab is on the corner of Church and 17th Streets, where various of San Francisco’s Muni lines intersect, with streetcars coming east along 17th Street from The Castro turning onto the north-south line along Church Street. These are a mix of new and older streetcars, although if you’re patient, there’s an occasional historic streetcar for good measure.

Spro Coffee Lab faces Church Street, where four outward sloping windows run almost floor-to-ceiling on the inside. However, by nature of the steeply-sloping Church Street, which runs down to Mission Delores Park, there’s space under the left-hand windows for a pair of round, two-person tables, with a third a little way off at the edge of the pavement. And if that wasn’t enough, there are two more tables around the corner on (the much flatter) 17th Street, where there’s a single, narrow window

The door, meanwhile, is inset on the right, close to the corner. Even here, the floor is slightly above street level, so access is via a long, shallow ramp (so much more accessible than having a step or two). Spro is roughly square, with the counter, which is at the back, occupying maybe one third of the depth of Spro. It extends almost to the left-hand wall, but stops short to allow for access to the toilets. You order at the right-hand end, directly opposite the door, where you’ll find A-boards with the food menus, which are repeated in printed form on the counter-top. The regular drinks menu is on the wall to your right, with the mocktails and other drinks high on the back wall behind the counter. Finally, the dog-friendly menu is on the floor, conveniently located for the dogs, but less so for their owners.

The rest of the counter is given over to the striking red Kees van der Westen Spirit espresso machine and its twin grinders, with seating provided along the front on four tall, red-mesh chairs. Red and white is the order of the day, décor-wise, with the chairs in red and everything else (tables, counter, floor, walls, ceiling) in white. There are four more tall, red-mesh chairs along a window-bar at the front (one for each window), while two round, two-person tables with low chairs occupy the space between the windows and the counter. Finally, against the left-hand wall, is a long, thin, two-person table.

As lovely as the seating is (inside and out), the main draw is the innovative coffee and food. I had the Mash Up for lunch, an initially not particularly appealing combination of mashed potato on toast, topped by a pair of poached eggs. In reality, however, it’s a masterpiece, with a single extremely thick slice of toast topped with mashed potato the consistency of puree, flavoured with parmesan, while the poached eggs were the wobbliest that I’ve ever seen.

I normally order coffee with my food, but in this instance, I wanted to try one of Spro’s sweet treats, so I postponed my coffee until I was ready for dessert. Given the recommendation and the name (Spro being slang for espresso), I had to have an espresso, which was a washed Colombian. This was excellent, a rich, complex shot served with a glass of sparkling water and, in a first for me, three blueberries. The first sip was rich and complex, followed by the remaining sips (which I alternated with a blueberry between each sip) becoming increasingly acidic.

I was even more spoilt for choice when it came to dessert, eventually skipping the very tempting waffles for the coffee crumble cake, which was served warm and very much lived up to the billing, being both crumbly and having a crumble topping.

July 2022: you can see what I made of the original Spro Coffee Lab, the trailer in Spark Social SF, which I visited the following day.

http://sprocoffeelab.com +1 415 828 3106
Monday 07:00 – 17:00 Roaster Black and White (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 07:00 – 17:00 Seating Tables, Counter, Window-bar; Tables (outside)
Wednesday 07:00 – 17:00 Food Breakfast, Lunch, Cake
Thursday 07:00 – 17:00 Service Order at Counter (food)/Counter (coffee)
Friday 07:00 – 17:00 Payment Cards + Cash
Saturday 07:00 – 17:00 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 07:00 – 17:00 Power Yes
Chain Local Visits 26th July 2022

If you liked this Coffee Spot, then check out the rest of San Francisco’s speciality coffee scene with the Coffee Spot Guide to San Francisco.

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