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Wednesday, 25 July 2012 14:40

The Cafes of San Francisco

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The Cafes of San Francisco

TCB Café Publishing

ISBN 978-0967489889

soft cover, 192 pages, $15.95


the cafes-of-san-fran

Subtitled "A Guide to the Sights, Sounds, and Tastes of America’s Original Cafe Society," The Cafes of San Francisco satisfies on several levels.

Six authors are credited with its reviews of countless cafes. Two other writers are listed as having provided "other text." Beyond that, comments from observers of the café scene, past and present, San Francisco and beyond, are included.

Crack open this book with a frame of mind too literal and logical and things may seem unfocused. Descriptions and great photos of cafes in San Francisco proper and the surrounding Bay Area provide solid foundation. Additional text, including celebrity quotes, recipes and several days entries in a café habituée’s diary may seem extraneous at first, but their presence goes a long way toward painting the big picture for the reader.

Primarily organized by San Francisco neighborhoods, The Cafes of San Francisco gives back-of-the-book listing of all its cafes alphabetically and by specialty. Live music in general, jazz, Bohemian atmosphere, poetry, dinner service and other emphases all find their own sub-listings.

Just what a café is may not be defined precisely in these pages, but plenty of individual interpretations are exposed. The gamut ranges from four Peet’s Coffee & Tea locations to Plumpjack and Zuni, which are much more restaurants than coffee vendors. Ten food recipes are included in a Cafe Cuisine section—hardly enough to be comprehensive, but they may add to the reader’s enjoyment generally and, in some way, to his overall feel for the café environment.

San Franciscans are frequently accused of an infatuation with their city and themselves. Quotes in these pages from Oscar Wilde ("It is an odd thing, but everyone who disappears is said to be in San Francisco. It must be a delightful city, and possess all the attractions of the next world." --Lord Henry in The Picture of Dorian Gray), and Rudyard Kipling ("San Francisco is a mad city—inhabited for the most part by perfectly insane people whose women are of a remarkable beauty.") tend to support that view, but they’re fun just the same. Also included is a less flamboyant commentary—and certainly a more contemporary one--from Spencer Christian, long-time national television personality who in recent years has relocated from New York City to the San Francisco Bay Area, "San Francisco has the best cafe culture that I’ve personally experienced outside of Europe. In fact, I have often found that the only one I can really compare it to is the cafe culture in Paris, which I often do. You can simply stroll down so many of San Francisco’s sidewalks and find cafes, unknown and unadvertised, where you are able to drop in and have a very nice time."

And what could be wrong with having a very nice time? The Cafes of San Francisco provides entertaining preface to such endeavor.


--reviewed by B.J. Shepherd

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