Coffee aficionados descended upon the corner of 18th and San Carlos this morning for the opening of Andrew Barnett’s long-awaited Linea Caffe.
“It’s almost like going to see the Pope — this guy is coffee royalty,” said Tom Chips, 34, a coffee enthusiast who made a special trip from Pacifica for the opening. “I honestly expected a line around the block because every barista in San Francisco is going to be here.”
Barnett, 57, has been in the coffee business since 1977, working his first espresso machine at Higher Grounds in Glen Park. But he’s best known for founding Ecco Caffe, which he sold to Intelligentsia in 2009. At Ecco, Barnett earned a reputation for his dedication to sourcing, developing relationships with farms in Brazil and Central America — relationships he will continue at Linea.
“Making an espresso and doing it really well can be as difficult as preparing the most complex fine-dining meal,” Barnett said while taking a break from greeting Linea’s first customers, many of whom were friends or longtime fans.
Gabe Boscana, the green coffee director at Sightglass Coffee at 270 7th Street, dropped by to congratulate Barnett on the opening. “It’s been over a decade waiting for this guy to open,” Boscana said. When asked whether he was worried about the new competition, Boscana shrugged it off. “This city has the density for it,” he said.
But Barnett is just one side of Linea’s star appeal. The space also houses GreenSalads.org, a takeaway salad bar, and Lt. Waffle, a Brussels-style waffle counter. Both are headed by Anthony Myint, who, as the founder of Mission Chinese Food, is no stranger to the restaurant-within-a-restaurant concept.
“I’ve been a fan of [Myint’s] since I ate at Mission Chinese Food,” said Doc Popular, a local artist and Mission resident, who was Linea’s first customer. “And this space has been empty for years, so I was really excited to see it filled.”
Like Mission Chinese, which has raised more than $211,000 for local food banks by donating 75 cents of each entrée, a dollar of every salad will go to support 350.org, a nonprofit that fights global warming. Taking a cue from his partner, Barnett says that 10 cents of every coffee order will also go to charity.
It only took about an hour from the time Linea opened at 8 a.m. for the line to spill out onto 18th Street. That was partially due to its size. At 292 square feet, there’s little space for a line to go anywhere else.
A mustached man wearing cuffed jeans and work boots paused while walking his dog down 18th Street to ask what was going on inside. When told it was opening day, the man surveyed the gathering crowd of customers. “At least they don’t have to worry about business,” he said with a shrug, and walked away.