Proust had his madeleine, Julia Child had her sole meuniere, and now I have an egg soufflé waffle.
What exactly is an egg soufflé waffle, you ask? It’s a specialty at the new Linea Caffe’s waffle emporium, Lt. Waffle: scrambled eggs cooked in a heavy waffle iron, spread with a generous smear of soft goat cheese and topped with a flurry of bright green herbs. Ever so fluffy on the inside and super-crisp on the outside with tangy, rich cheese in every bite, these waffles are a cross-continental reincarnation of many childhood Sunday morning breakfasts. One bite of the waffle, and I was transported back to my parents’ dining room table, legs swinging off the edge of my chair, and digging into a hot, buttery cream cheese and green onion diner-style omelet of my fathers’ creation.
Lt. Waffle’s soufflé waffle is, of course, much cooler than those omelets; its ingredients, its location, and its culinary architects have pedigree and style. It is but one item on one menu in one section of the tiny, talent-filled Linea Caffe, a sub-300 square foot storefront behind the Duc Loi supermarket on 18th street in the Mission. Andrew Barnett founder of Ecco Caffe and national coffee judge, is the brains behind the coffee counter, and Anthony Myint of Mission Chinese Food and Commonwealth, manages the kitchen, slinging waffles and creative salads for those that want a bite with their buzz. Linea opened shop in September, and glowing reviews have followed ever since.
I visited Linea with cautious optimism on a sunny Sunday afternoon. I know of both Myint’s and Barnett’s talents, but was, frankly, a bit wary of such a trend-focused café. After all, does San Francisco really need a micro coffee shop serving fairly expensive espresso, waffles and salads a la cart?
Given the level of care given to each component of the space, Linea certainly makes a case for its inclusion in the city’s pantheon of artisinal coffee shops. Much like Josey Baker and Four Barrel Coffee’s The Mill, Linea is a place where you will surely sigh when running your credit card, but soon forget the expense when muttering “so good, so good” in between taking gluttonous bites of your $9 waffle.
Indeed, the egg soufflé waffle is not the only thing worth ordering at Linea. The seasonal Thanksgiving leftovers-inspired sweet potato and Brussels sprouts latke waffle with luxuriously smooth cranberry applesauce and crème fraiche is that which Black Friday snacks dream of. Other savory options include a buckwheat waffle with salmon roe and a potato waffle filled with pastrami and sauerkraut. The sweet waffles are equally creative: yeasted waffles come plain, topped with fruit, yogurt, and olive oil or drizzled with spiced chocolate syrup and coconut crema.
Salads are courtesy of Myint’s GreenSalads.org, the charitable arm of the operation ($1 of each salad sale benefits 350.org). Right now, they’re serving a few leafy salads with romaine, mixed greens, or kale as well as both a rice and a quinoa salad. Each has clear Asian influence; ingredients like shoyu vinaigrette, shiitake mushrooms, and miso are all present. For those wishing for a less-virtuous meal, all salads can be gussied up with chicharones, chicken thighs, and/or Benton’s bacon. (The bacon is an import from Tennessee, and some of the best in the country.)
Of course, the coffee service is impeccable, but don’t come in expecting to grab a pour-over or drip. Linea sells only espresso, hand-selected by Barnett from Brazil, Ethiopia, Guatemala, and El Salvador and roasted by Ant Walach of Sightglass. Sticking to one preparation method allows Barnett and his team to focus on perfecting their technique.
In fact, all of the divisions in Linea are intended as creative “incubators,” so one can’t expect any part of the café’s line-up to remain static. I only hope that they continue to serve the egg soufflé waffle.