Home > Uncategorized > We need third wave coffee in Humboldt County!

We need third wave coffee in Humboldt County!

Remember this documentary I raved about a few months ago?  It’s a low budget thing this young woman did.

Well, it’s much more than an anti-Starbucks rant.  It also documents the emergence of the “third wave coffee movement.”  The first wave was Folgers and the like.  The second wave was coffee houses and Starbucks capitalizing on the idea to spread it well beyond the borders of bohemianism.  The third wave is represented by efforts like Blue Bottle Coffee, and Ritual Coffee Roasters, the latter of which was started by former Blue Bottle employees who may have pushed the standard even higher.

They have several coffee houses.  I got to visit the one on Valencia Street in SF this morning.  After their owners’ interview in the movie, and a subsequent interview on NPR, I thought there was no way that the product could match the hype.

As I drove through my old neighborhood on Valencia, noticing a plethora of coffee houses, each with a few customers, I could see as I approached Liberty Street a line coming out onto the sidwalk half a block up.  I figured that I’d found the place, and I was right.  By some miracle, I found a parking spot just around the corner of 21st Street – right up the block from the place.  I walked back around and got into line.

The first thing I noticed was the smell wafting out through the door – the richest coffee smell I’ve encountered.  They have a brewing operation in place, with funnels right up by the cash register, and the barristas hard at work constantly refilling the espresso machines – one drink at a time – although with the line in place I think they just keep loading them up rather than wait for orders.

I noticed something when I was waiting.  It’s still very much a bohemian neighborhood – all the same artists and politicos taking in their java with deep conversations and all.  But unlike the early 90s, some of them have reproduced.  There was one couple, and two mothers each with kids.  Smart kids too – infant to toddler, all expressing themselves with accute awareness of everything around them.  Maybe it’s the coffee.

It was only a few minutes I had to wait in line, and there were actually open tables in the back section.  I took my cappuchinno to the table and sat down.  Yes, it was the best cappuchinno I’ve ever taken in.  Actually, that doesn’t quite cut it.  It was the only true cappuchinno I’ve taken in.  Two years shy of 50 and I”ve just had my first cappuchinno.

It made me happy!

Seriously, next time you’re down there – give it a try!  And then come back up here and demand from our local coffee houses that they contact this business and learn!  The first one to do so will probably make a fortune.


Onto food.  Let me say that I do not post negative restaurant reviews online.  Not here.  Not on Yelp.  Nowhere.

The reason?  I don’t want to be a mechanism that costs someone his/her livelihood.  Period.  If the food is bad, the market will deal with it.  I don’t want to take a chance that my taste is merely different.  I don’t want to take the chance that I was there on a bad day.

And today, I’m especially grateful for my policy.

After the cup of coffee made me happy, I walked back to 17th and Valencia.  El Toro’s is there on the corner.  It’s one of the few good notions I kept from my high school days’ membership of the Socialist Workers Party, when I was introduced to the restaraunt.  It’s a burrito bar, and they used to make them the size of footballs, almost literally.  And it was delicious.

Most people don’t realize that the burrito as we know it is actually not from Mexico.  It first appeared in the Mission District – marketed as a meal in a single tortilla.  When you order them in Mexico you get something smaller and different.  There are about four or five establishments which argue that they made the first big burrito, and perhaps there was some synchronicity involved (Kind of like Newton and Leibniz coming up with the calculus theorem simultaneously).

This place was my favorite for a couple of decades.  Lots of filling options, and just good, with a line all day so that everything is fresh.

Now, I haven’t been to El Toro’s (or either of its sister establishments) for a few years now, because the last time I was there I was disappointed.  The burrito I bought was very thin, and the flavor just wasn’t what I had remembered.  It seemed like they had made all the ingredients early on, and the asada chicken seemed dried out like it had been sitting.  The magic seemed gone.

So with great trepidation I walked there for another try.  I was still giddy from my coffee experience, and didn’t want to experience a downer.  But El Toro’s had been faithful to me for so many years.  I had to give her another chance.

I wasn’t disappointed.  The burrito wasn’t quite football sized, but bigger than the last time – and I only ate half of it as I’m into portion control these days.  The food was cooking fresh, the lines were back, and they’ve upgraded with a salsa bar that includes about 8 different salsas both cooked and raw-chopped, and some fresh vegetables including radishes and peppers.  Limes.  And flame-roasted jalapenos!

And it was delicious.  El Toro’s and I are an item once again!

Addendum:  Eileen Hassi, owner of Ritual Coffee Roasters, contacted me by email to thank me for the compliments, but also to correct me.  She nor the others on her team were ever Blue Bottle employees.  I had bad information.

Also, Lucca’s is still open at 22nd.  Sorry Robie.

And also, someone else informed me that El Toro is spelled with one “r” not two.

  1. HUUFC
    January 18, 2013 at 4:47 pm

    Dog washers and water boys.

  2. January 18, 2013 at 5:54 pm

    The reason? I don’t want to be a mechanism that costs someone his/her livelihood. Period. If the food is bad, the market will deal with it. I don’t want to take a chance that my taste is merely different. I don’t want to take the chance that I was there on a bad day.”

    I appreciate that. I kinda do the same thing. If I do have a complaint, I’ll always qualify it with why, and suggest it might have been a problem on my end.

    Oh, and as far as burritos go, maybe you’re right about them not being from Mexico. I lived in Mexico for maybe 3 years as a kid. I can’t recall ever eating a burrito there. In fact, I don’t recall eating anything close to a burrito while I lived down there.

    Then again, that was back in the late 50s/ early 60s. It’s been so long that I can’t remember all that much but enjoying it.

  3. A pesky fact
    January 18, 2013 at 6:25 pm

    Did a double take when I saw “market forces”, thought Mitch’s journey to the dark side was complete. Alas.

  4. Eric Kirk
    January 18, 2013 at 8:47 pm

    Fred – The taquerias in the Mission District make the claim, and one of the Food Network shows claims to have traced it to the one on Mission Street near 25th or 26th, with the big rounded entrance – for the life of me can’t remember the name though I went there a couple of times as a kid.

  5. jr
    January 18, 2013 at 9:09 pm

    The burrito is to Mexican cuisine as Chop Suey is to Chinese. Both are good, but both are an American invention. Burrito, Spanish for “little burro”.

  6. Eric Kirk
    January 20, 2013 at 8:35 am

    You can’t find chop suey anymore! In all the fads of “authenticity,” we may have lost a unique Chinese-Californian cuisine.

  7. Anonymous
    January 20, 2013 at 8:54 am

    In Mexico you order the ingredients for burritos and make your own for less than 0.50 each.

  8. Sunny Side
    January 20, 2013 at 8:58 am

    I didn’t realize we shared stomping grounds back in the day Erik (I was at 24th & San Jose in the 90’s), and here we are both in Eureka. Ha! The Mission moves north…
    Also, thanks for the update on El Toro’s (just one “r”)–always my favorite taqueria. (It’s the radishes that do it for me.) Good to know they’ve still got it! And thanks for the burrito history lesson. Didn’t know that it originated in the Mission. I’ll have to check out Blue Bottle next time I’m in the hood, although it sounds like it might be so good it’ll ruin every other coffee for me that I’ve previously considered “good.”

  9. Sunny Side
    January 20, 2013 at 9:04 am

    Oh also forgot to mention, I’m pretty sure the taqueria you were trying to think of where you say they traced the origin of the burrito to is at 25th and Mission and is called simply “La Taqueria.”

  10. Anonymous
    January 20, 2013 at 9:47 am

    Mexicans have been eating refried beans wrapped in tortillas forever. They also eat refried beans on pan. El Toro’s may have named them but they didn’t invent them.

  11. Eric Kirk
    January 20, 2013 at 12:33 pm

    This is what Wikipedia has to say:

    The origins of the San Francisco burrito, also known as a Mission-style burrito, can be traced back to Mission District taquerias of the 1960s and 1970s. This type of burrito is produced on a steam table assembly line, characterized by a large stuffed tortilla, wrapped in aluminum foil, which may include fillings such as carne asada (beef), Mexican style rice, whole beans (non refried), sour cream and light onion. Several theories account for the development of this style. It is thought that the original San Francisco-style burrito may have originated with farmworkers in the fields of the Central Valley, in Fresno and Stockton or with miners of the 19th century.[2][13]

    Febronio Ontiveros claims to have offered the first retail burrito in San Francisco at El Faro (The Lighthouse) in 1961, a corner grocery store on Folsom Street. Ontiveros claims credit for inventing the “super burrito” style leading to the early development of the “San Francisco style”. This innovation involved adding rice, sour cream and guacamole to the standard meat, bean and cheese burrito.[13][14] The San Francisco burrito emerged as a regional culinary movement during the 1970s and 1980s. The popularity of San Francisco-style burritos has grown locally, with Mission Street taquerias like El Farolito, and nationally with chains such as Chipotle Mexican Grill,[15] Illegal Pete’s, Freebirds World Burrito, Qdoba, and Barberitos. In 1995, World Wrapps opened in San Francisco’s Marina District, bringing a burrito-inspired sandwich wrap style to the restaurant industry.

    Oh, and Sunnyside – Blue Bottle is excellent, but I think Ritual Coffee is even better.

  12. Sunny Side
    January 20, 2013 at 4:58 pm

    Erik: Thanks for the tip on Ritual Coffee. I’ll check it out.

  13. The New Great Anonymous
    January 20, 2013 at 7:57 pm

    Who cares where or who it was invented by. Burrittos are delicious.

    The only problem is that they are too big. They are huge. I’m guessing 2,000 calories worth.

  14. Eric Kirk
    January 21, 2013 at 12:06 am

    Depends on what’s in them, and how much. This web page suggests the amount to be a bit lower.


    I care about the history, but then I’m a geek about history.

  15. Carly Cobb - Blue Bottle
    January 21, 2013 at 3:00 pm

    Hi there, I work for Blue Bottle here in Oakland and just wanted to let you all know that Cafe Brio in Arcata serves our coffee. You’ll find them on the Arcata Plaza at 8th and G St. I hear they’ve got really good food too. Enjoy!

  16. Eric Kirk
    January 21, 2013 at 5:00 pm

    I haven’t tried their espresso. I’ll try it soon. Thanks for the tip!

    I do remember that they brew one cup at a time and I did try it once. It was great coffee, but I don’t remember the experience sweeping me off my feet the same way. But I’ll give it another try as well.

  17. January 23, 2013 at 1:59 am

    I’m originally from the Chicago area (Kankakee, if you want to get specific) and there are two things I miss: Chicago Style Pizza (the real thing is not thick crust. The real thing is a thin crust, molded around a deep dish, and packed with ingredients from bottom to top, the sauce being mainly on the top. A healthy man can eat one, at the most two, slices. Most people are full after the first). The other is the Chicago Style Hot Dog. If any business anywhere in California can offer one of these, they will make themselves very wealthy.

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