Upscale, Italian-styled espresso café at the base of the Sir Francis Drake Hotel also serves typical breakfast and lunch fare. Attracts better-heeled business types with a good international tourist contingent. One of the few SF places where you can down an espresso Italian-style: standing (or sitting) at dedicated bar space. But beyond this and the Italian pop music, the authenticity ends: the food is merely decent and the espresso machine is French.
Many nicely-surfaced indoor café tables, with several outdoors along the Sutter St. and/or Powell St. sidewalks. Illy to the core - down to the staff wearing black logo shirts. Very social and friendly baristas are more like chummy bartenders. Espresso is served from a two-group UNIC ZR with a direct pour into the cup. The crema varies from a moderate, deep, and very dark brown with some lighter stripes to an even, medium brown layer of decent thickness. Moderate herbal flavor served out of designer IPA Illy cups. Though the body has been thinner since around the spring of 2005 - resulting in a more watery, less flavorful cup. Still, pretty good for imported roasted coffee. And when it comes to milk-based drinks, it is particularly good if you like "dry," frothy cappuccino. [CLOSED: As of Feb 2008 after 14 years in business. By 2009 it was the Sir Francis Drake Starbucks - yet another bit of local color lost to the bland and ubiquitous.]