Monday, July 31, 2017

Caffe Centro

Caffe Centro is yet another neighborhood cafe in San Francisco, one that has been around for more than 20 years.  It is small, not trendy, and really does have a community feel to it.  I was a bit disappointed when I started listening to conversations around me though and realized that nearly every person there was pitching start up ideas.  I'm not joking.  But then again, it is located right where all my startup friends hang out too, so, I guess that *is* the community.

Curb Appeal.
The location is adjacent to South Park, a park that was recently renovated and is now quite nice.  

It is a small cafe, open for breakfast, lunch, and happy hour, with a small breakfast menu, sandwiches and salads at lunch, and pastries all day.  The pastries are not made in house, which gave me a chance to try more items from wholesale producers that I've been trying from many other places around town.

I didn't find any hits on the pastry or coffee menu, but, the staff were quite friendly.
Sidewalk Seating.
If the weather is nice, and you are lucky enough to get one of the few small tables out front, the location right alongside South Park really is quite charming.  Or, now that the park is re-done, you can take your items to go sit in the sun in the park on a nice day, which is what I did, and recommend.

Most seating however is inside.

Breakfast Baked Goods

Caffe Centro does offer a full breakfast menu with egg sandwiches, bagels, toast, wraps, scrambled eggs, even acai bowls.  But I had my eyes on only one part of the breakfast menu: the baked goods.  I'm always excited to check out baked goods from new places.

Caffe Centro, like many other cafes around town, sources most of their breakfast baked goods from City Baking (like Caffe BiancoMartha & BrosPrima Cafe).  I was interested in trying more items that I hadn't found other places yet.
City Baking: Strawberry Scone.  $3.
"These moist scones are bursting with color and the sweetness of strawberries that melt in your mouth."

As you know, I've never been a fan of most of City Baking's scones before, like the blueberry triangle scone from Prima Cafe, or the mixed berry round scone from Diller's.  But, I was craving a scone again, so I decided to give another flavor a try.  I had the choice of a triangle strawberry scone, or a round cranberry scone.  Since I don't really care for cranberries, and had a vague memory that the triangle scones were slightly better than the round ones, I went for the strawberry.

It was a well baked scone, not overcooked, dried out, or even brown anywhere.  It had a decent crumble to it, and I liked the slight sugar topping.  It had a slight tang to the base flavor.

So the base scone was decent.  Not remarkable, but decent.  And, if it really was "bursting" with strawberries, it might have been a good scone.
"Strawberries"
But, it wasn't.  There was exactly one lone, tiny chunk of strawberry in the entire scone.  And it wasn't a petite scone.

The scone base was actually pretty good, better than other City Baking scones, but, there was only this one minuscule chunk of strawberry inside, so it didn't add any additional flavor, as the base was plain.

Luckily for me, Caffe Centro has a condiment station with peanut butter and jam for their bagels and toast.  The peanut butter was really basic, standard, creamy peanut butter, not that great.  It didn't belong on a scone anyway, but I of course couldn't resist trying it.  The strawberry jam was filled with HUGE chunks of berries, super sweet, somewhat candied even.  The jam really helped the scone out, and saved the day.  I probably wouldn't get this again though.

The $3 price was higher than anywhere else's prices for the exact same City Baking scones.
City Baking: Pecan Sticky Bun.
On my next visit, I was intending to get a scone, but I was really disappointed by the selection.  The only ones available were assorted berry scones, that I've never liked before.  I went to fall back on a muffin, but they only had black bottom muffins, which just didn't seem appealing.  The croissants didn't really like good.  The only other options were frosted cinnamon rolls, or pecan sticky buns, neither of which I was particularly excited by, but, given the choice, I obviously went for the more decadent offering.

This was one of the least interesting pecan sticky buns I've ever had.  It was dried out.  Yes, there was cinnamon between the folds of the dough, but it somehow didn't really have much cinnamon flavor.  The part that should have been the highlight, the stickiness, was also totally lacking.  Yes, there was a sweet moist topping, but, it didn't really have anything going for it.  The nuts were fine at least.

This was truly, truly boring, which makes no sense, given what it was.  Maybe it would have been better warmed up, although Caffe Centro did not offer that.  But still, too dry, too flavorless.  I somewhat wished I'd tried the cinnamon roll instead, although I imagine the dough would have been the same, but at least it would have been covered in icing?  And who knows, I did actually end up liking the cinnamon roll from 7-Eleven ...
City Baking: Blueberry Buckle Coffee Cake. $3.50.
"This moist cake is bursting with flavorful Maine Blueberries. The crumb topping adds a great texture and sweetness to every bite."

Finally, I went for coffee cake.

Ok, when do I ever get coffee cake?  Pretty rarely.  But the only scones that Caffe Centro carries are the berry ones I already know I don't really care for, the muffins are only bran (which I didn't like when I got one at Prima Cafe or black bottom (which doesn't make sense as a muffin to me), and the croissants just don't ever look very good.

Thus, I was left with coffee cake.  And honestly, it did look good.

It wasn't bad.  It came in very distinct layers.  The base was very dense, clearly loaded with butter.  It was fairly plain, not particularly spiced or flavorful, not particularly moist nor dry.  Just, there.  This layer I wasn't excited by.

Next, a generous layer of blueberries, still a bit plump.  They added moisture and flavor.

And then, the top, the most distinctive feature.  There was just as thick of a layer of crumb topping as there was base to this cake.  It broke off easily in little chunks, which I loved, and was sweet, but not too sweet.  A good crumb topping, but, not remarkable.

So, overall, it was fine.  It wasn't a showstopper, but there was nothing bad about it either.  It did go well with coffee, which is sorta the point of coffee cake.

I felt a bit strange having it for breakfast however, as it was clearly so loaded with butter and sugar.  There wasn't any part of me that could justify that this was an ok thing to have for breakfast.  Uh, it had fruit?

It was also massive.  The slice was $3.50, which is more than the other baked goods at Caffe Centro, but, did reflect the size.  I would have been much happier with a smaller slice.  However, I just had half for "breakfast", and saved the other half for dessert after lunch, which also worked perfectly well.

Dessert Baked Goods

The dessert lineup is mostly bars, brownies, and cookies, from Ultimate Cookie (who makes wonderful oat cakes) and City Baking.
Ultimate Cookie (?): Pecan Chewy Bar.  $2.75.
"Shortbread crust topped with a blend of honey, butter, walnuts and pecans. OUR NUMBER ONE SELLING BAR for over 20 years."

I think this was an Ultimate Cookie product, rather than City Baking, who provided the other items I tried.

A pecan bar, with shortbread crust, gooey layer, pecans and walnuts on top.

I love pecan pie, so I was really excited for this bar form.  The part of the pie that I like is the gooey layer and the nuts, so I didn't care that it was in bar form with a shortbread base rather than pastry dough.  Both can work for me.

But ... this was not good.  The shortbread was mushy.  The gooey layer had no flavor.  I guess it was sweet, but all one note.  And the nuts?  Bitter and stale tasting, likely from the addition of walnuts.  I rather suspect that this was baked much earlier in the week, and had been sitting there unloved for quite a while.

Definitely not tasty, I wouldn't get another (the $2.75 price seemed high too).

Drinks

Caffe Centro offers standard espresso drinks, brewed coffee, tea, and hot chocolate, plus cold beverages such as lemonade, soft drinks, and beer.
Decaf Macchiato.  $2.25.
I'm really not sure why I choose a macchiato, as I normally go for just an Americano.  But somehow a touch of foam sounded appealing.

The espresso was strong and very bitter.  It definitely had the decaf "funk" to it.  I didn't care for it.  The foam was decently done though.  No latte art or anything, but good microfoam.

The coffee condiment station was simple but adequate, with sugar in the raw and splenda, milk and half and half, and cinnamon and chocolate powders.

$2.25 price was standard, but I wouldn't get another.
Caffe Centro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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