Tully's, 2455 Fillmore, San Francisco
You usually can't sit at a Tully's. They're pretty small places. The coffee bar concept, as they like to call it. You pop in, get your double espresso and vroom. You're gone. Except for the Tully's at the corner of Fillmore and Jackson in Pacific Heights. They have a window seat. A great idea. If you sit at just the right spot along the window seat, you can rest your back against a wall or part of the window, and put your feet up on the seat. Kind of a chaise lounge effect. My own chaise lounge smack in the middle of Pacific Heights. I like that.
There's a lot to see from my perch at Tully's. The whole of Pacific Heights seems to be parading by. Bicyclists in spandex shorts riding expensive bikes. Moms with babies in strollers, dressed in Baby Gap. Men with expensive haircuts wearing seersucker sports coats. Seersucker? When was the last time you saw that in a coffeehouse? Think neighborhood, I tell myself. San Francisco is a city of neighborhoods, and I'm in Pacific Heights, not the Haight.
A little girl is sitting next to me. She tells me that she and her sister and mom and dad have just come in from the church across the street. The service was an hour and a half long and it absolutely wore her out. She wipes her brow as she tells me this, a bit of Scarlett O'Hara in her at the age of...eight? I tell her I'd certainly need a cup of coffee after that experience. Turns out she's drinking hot chocolate. Kids always drink hot chocolate at Tully's. It's almost as good as her mom's, she tells me. I think back to the only time I had hot chocolate in here, and it so happens I was with a kid. We both loved it. The kid spilled hers. We wiped up the mess and sat once again in the window seat, sort of embarrassed and hoping that no one had noticed. A few minutes later one of the waitstaff tiptoed over and put a cup of steaming hot chocolate into the kids' hands. He didn't say a word. Cool.
There is something soothing about this place. It's modern and clean. The walls are painted a deep green. There are several glass lighting fixtures hanging from the ceiling along with a couple of ceiling fans. The walls are devoid of decoration, maybe because there are so many shelves filled with coffee accessories. Coffee mugs, coffee makers, filters, canisters, accessories I don't even recognize. Does anyone buy this stuff? Maybe they just use it as decoration.
It's pretty obvious people come here for the coffee. That's what they always tell you. It's strong, they say. But not too strong, not overroasted. They also have the usual cafe assortment of pastries, muffins and scones -- and a couple of very special things. They have a pumpkin cream cheese muffin which I discovered around Halloweentime. I thought it would be gone by November, what with pumpkin season being so short. But they kept it around. I like to think my own personal lobbying campaign helped. It is sinfully delicious, creamy inside and not too sweet on the outside. This muffin has the potential to displace chocolate brownies as the object of my desire. They also have a puff pastry filled with lemon cream or cream cheese, and topped with fruit. I call it the butterfly, because that's what it looks like. Little wings of puff pastry reaching out to me. It goes very well with a strong cup a joe.
People also like to hang around outside Tully's. They just stand around and drink their cups of coffee, maybe chat with a friend from the neighborhood. Some folks sit at the edge of the flowerbeds lining the outside of the cafe. There's just a tiny row of bricks to sit on. This does not look comfortable to me. I ask a couple of guys why they're sitting outside. They tell me they can see all the attractive women walk by. Guess it would be pretty tough to talk to those women if you're sitting inside. They don't even live in the neighborhood, but they think this place is worth the trip. For coffee. And women.
The window seat at Tully's is reason enough for a visit. It's the one you wish you'd had as a kid in your bedroom. It's never too late.
© 1995 Elaine Sosa
Note: Tully's was known as Spinelli in 1995.