Early Morning Walk Through San Francisco’s Fog to Reveille Coffee
I stepped out of my hotel on to the cold wet pavement. The streets of North Beach in San Francisco were quiet except for the occasional sound of a bus lumbering by, the twang of the power cables reverberating off […]
I stepped out of my hotel on to the cold wet pavement. The streets of North Beach in San Francisco were quiet except for the occasional sound of a bus lumbering by, the twang of the power cables reverberating off the surrounding buildings.
I pulled my jacket tighter around me trying to fend off the chill of the early morning fog. It was one of those days in San Francisco where the sky was a dull monotonous gray and the buildings seemed to blend into it seamlessly swallowed by the low hanging mist.
Turning left I made my way up Columbus Avenue walking past rows of quaint storefronts that were still closed at this early hour. The smell of freshly-baked cornetti wafted out of the Italian bakeries, the hint of powdered sugar hanging in the damp air.
As I turned onto Union Street the sounds of the city started to fill my ears. The chime of a bell from an early morning patron on his way into a local store for his donut fix. A delivery truck beeped as it backed up slowly into a side alley bring in its daily deliveries. A group of seagulls screeched as they fought over a discarded piece of bread partially moistened by the wet mist. It was all part of the urban symphony around me and I revelled in every harmonious beat.
San Francisco winter mornings were particularly cold but despite the frigid air I found myself drawn to Jackson Square in North Beach. As I walked down this neighborhood’s historic streets I felt a deep sense of nostalgia. This was a neighborhood that had seen it all from the raucous days of the Beat Generation to the tech boom of the 21st century. And yet despite all of those world impacting changes the neighborhood still managed to retain a sense of timeless charm.
As I walked through Jackson Square I was struck by the beauty of the area. The square was surrounded by elegant brick buildings their facades weathered by time and history. There was a sense of vitality. Despite the cold the morning traffic was stirring in the city as people bustled about their day sipping coffee at sidewalk cafes or darting in and out of trendy boutiques just opening their doors for early morning patrons. It was a place where the old and the new collided and somehow managed to coexist in perfect harmony in this truly unique corner of the city.
I spotted the mute grey corner building creating a wedge between Columbus and Kearny, the small black and white sign of Réveille Coffee hanging sharply overhead pointing towards the direction of the Transamerica building.
I joined the queue and stepped inside, my nostrils inhaling deeply taking in the aroma of freshly roasted and ground coffee beans, the baristas working in a perfect quartet behind the round middle island, steam bellowing out around rapidly moving hands. The air was warm inside and the hum of conversation from the other customers reverberated around the glass room. Croissants, kouign-amanns, eggs and avocado on toast created a sea of aromas all combined with the nutty scent of freshly pulled espresso. As I neared the central bar I placed my order for a cappuccino and a croissant – just the right amount of sugar, butter and caffeine to wake me properly and bring me back to my senses.
I sidestepped and waited for my order taking a moment to look around room. The interior was sleek and modern with a long counter and stools lining the sides of the open space. The large wall of windows on either side of the coffee shop brought in a plethora of light, the overall effect was one of understated sophistication.
Early morning locals sat around the outer walls reading newspapers, typing on their laptops and phones, while others engaged in deep conversations over their morning ritual; an Americano, a cappuccino, a pour over with a chase of espresso. Each person had their own and unique favorite morning preference.
When my order was ready I gently carried my coffee over to the side of the room and took a seat by the window savoring the first sip of my cappuccino. The flavor was bold and complex with notes of chocolate and caramel. It had a sweet bitterness that was both nutty and creamy that lingered with every sip. It was the perfect antidote to the chilly weather outside. I wrapped the fingers of my hands around my cup letting the ceramic warm my palms as the aroma of the creamy milk mixed with thick espresso wafted up to my nose.
I took a small bite of my croissant feeling the crispy, flaky layers shatter in my mouth revealing a soft buttery center that’s almost too good to be true. It’s a magical experience, like taking a bite out of a cloud if clouds were made of pastry and filled with the promise of a new day. Every bite is a reminder of the simple pleasures in life, of taking the time to savor each moment and appreciate the little things and experiences around you. Whether enjoyed alone or with a cappuccino it’s a humble delight that never fails to bring a smile to my face.
As I sipped my coffee my eyes panned around the room and I watched life happen around me. North Beach is a vibrant neighborhood full of characters and stories. A group of middle-aged Italian men sat at a nearby table speaking in rapid-fire Italian and gesturing wildly making wide-eyed expressions and laughing together between sips of their espresso. A couple with matching yoga mats slung over their shoulders walked by deep in conversation about their morning class. A man with a battered backpack and an unkempt beard shuffled in and ordered a black coffee to go in a rush to his intended destination. It was a slice of San Francisco life and I savored every amazing moment.
As I finished the last of my croissant and pulled the final globs of milky foamy espresso into my mouth, I ordered a second cappuccino to go and decided to take a walk around the neighborhood. North Beach is known for its historic architecture and I always enjoy simply walking through its amazing streets and alleyways taking in the ornate details of the buildings.
I slowly walked up Grant Avenue in North Beach my cappuccino warming my fingers. This amazing little street is lined with Italian restaurants each one boasting a menu more tantalizing than the last. As I strolled slowly from block to block enjoying my coffee and the sights that surrounded me it was hard not to absorb the energy of this bustling neighborhood.
The Italian colors of the running lights strung up and down the street added to the charm of the place. At night the green, white and red lights illuminated the cobblestone pavement below capturing the essence of North Beach – vibrant, eclectic and unapologetically Italian. I watched as locals and tourists alike bustled about each with their own purpose and destination. The morning rush was in full swing as the city fully came to life with locals and tourists alike flooding this historic neighborhood’s streets and it was a joy to witness the colorful chaos of it all.
As I turned back onto Columbus Avenue I paused for just a moment taking in the view and slowly savoring a sip of my cappuccino. Since my very first visit and throughout most of my life, every time I return here I remain struck by the sheer beauty of this vibrant city. The crisp cool air danced on my skin as I gazed down the street towards the iconic TransAmerica Building. A needle pointing up piercing the misty vail towering high above the rest of the skyline. The morning traffic continued to build cluttering the streets and the bustle of the city escalated as people scurried about their daily routines.
But here in this moment, on a street corner on Columbus Avenue, everything seemed to slow down. Bringing my cup closer to my face I took a deep breath inhaling the aroma of my freshly brewed coffee wafting up from my cup. The sound of cable cars in the distance added to the symphony of the city creating a harmony that was uniquely San Francisco.
It was a moment of pure bliss and a reminder that sometimes the most profound moments in life are found in the simple acts of stopping and appreciating the world around us.
Marat Oyvetsky is a storyteller and adventurer from San Diego, CA. He is a writer, always searching for a great story to tell from his travels around the world or experiences from his own backyard. Marat has an insatiable appetite to explore, never afraid to discover something new. His writing reflects his curiosity and passion to discover the world one story at a time.