Telescope brings Vietnamese coffee and elegant pastries to SoMa

It's Thursday, August 19.

Hey there, San Francisco. 

The South of Market area, on 9th Street between Harrison and Bryant, isn’t the most iconic stretch of San Francisco. There are no parks around, no cable cars–just a nearby strip mall with a Trader Joe’s, a busy road that runs to the Civic Center, and a Costco. 

But now, there’s also a little gem at 451 9th Street that’s the fruit of a friendship born in San Francisco years ago. It’s called Telescope Coffee

“One thing we want to highlight at Telescope is nostalgia,” said co-owner Jenny Ngo, a San Francisco native who opened the shop last Tuesday with her childhood friend Annie Ko. “We want guests to relate to our pastries or our drinks in some sort of form.”

For Ngo, nostalgia shines bright on Telescope’s menu. There’s a honeycomb latte, strawberry milk in a custom-made, strawberry-shaped cup, and her personal favorite, Vietnamese coffee, which is brewed using a small, metal cup with a filter plate and tamp, called a phin filter. It’s the traditional method for making Vietnamese coffee, and the way Ngo remembers from her childhood.

"I remember going to get pho with my parents...and ordering Vietnamese coffee and just watching it drip as you're enjoying your meal,” she told us when we visited the cozy, 500-square foot shop earlier this week.

Vietnamese coffee, which comes iced as well, is traditionally served over sweetened condensed milk, and Telescope has three varieties available: regular, oat, and coconut. All of their drinks can be made dairy-free. 

The sweet treats are also made in-house by Ngo, who trained as a pastry chef at The Art Institute of San Francisco, and they are not to be missed. Growing up in the Outer Sunset, Ngo’s s’mores cake pays homage to fond memories of bonfires on Ocean Beach. The chocolate chip cookies use Valrhona chocolate, which she fell for while working at many fine-dining restaurants including Eleven Madison Park in New York City and Michael Mina in San Francisco. As for the Peaches & Cream Puff, it’s all the sweetness of summer break, packed into a single pastry.

Commitment to the small business ecosystem is another key part of Telescope’s vision. Ngo worked with Cosmic Dust, a woman-owned roastery in San Jose, to develop a custom Vietnamese coffee blend that’s only available at Telescope. Their drip coffee and espresso also use Cosmic Dust beans, and their dairy-free condensed milks come from a woman-owned small business in Thailand. 

Ngo visits the Alemany Farmers Market (one of San Francisco’s largest, at the intersection of 101 and 280) on Saturdays to stock up on other ingredients, like strawberries, peaches, and cherry tomatoes. This reliance on local produce means customers can expect a menu that evolves with the seasons.

“A lot of people that live nearby have been waiting for us to open [in the morning], which has been amazing,” Ngo said. “The amount of support from [the SoMa community] has been spectacular.” 

Story by Natalie Mead

Telescope Coffee / 451 9th Street / M-F 7 am - 5 pm, Saturday 8 am - 3 pm 

And with that...onto some news… 

The city is planning to suspend some 40 employees in the sheriff, police, and fire departments who failed to disclose whether they had been vaccinated against the coronavirus, a requirement for government employees that Maylor London Breed announced earlier this summer. Next week, the 10-day unpaid suspension may extend to hundreds of more city workers who did not meet the August 12 disclosure deadline, the Chronicle’s Trisha Thadani reports

“The health and well being of city employees and the public we serve are top priorities during our emergency response to COVID-19,” according to the letter sent to the 40 employees, which was obtained by The Chronicle. “Your failure to comply with the vaccination status reporting requirement endangers the health and safety of the city’s workforce and the public we serve.”

San Franciscans who “meet specific criteria for immunocompromised health conditions, such as active cancer treatment, organ transplant, advanced HIV infection, and others” can now receive a third dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine, the SFDPH announced on Wednesday. The city health agency suggests eligible residents should “first seek out third doses through their health care providers,” though the shots can also be obtained through an SFDPH-affiliated site

As for how the broader swath of San Franciscans can expect to get their third dose, an SFDPH spokesperson told me on Thursday: “We anticipate a phased rollout similar to how the vaccine was initially distributed: prioritizing the most vulnerable, in collaboration with our health care and pharmacy partners.” 

Quick bits: 

  • 🔥 All lanes were blocked on the Bay Bridge heading into San Francisco this morning after propane tanks on top of a utility truck caught fire. All five passengers inside the truck escaped without injury, while commuter traffic backed up well past the toll plaza. SFGATE Editor-in-Chief Grant Marek snagged some photos of the situation from the ground. (SFGATE

  • 🎻 For the second year-in-a-row, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, San Francisco’s famously free music festival, will be entirely virtual. “Based on all of the information we gathered, it became clear that a live event in the park was not in the interest of public safety,” festival producer Sheri Sternberg told the Chronicle. 

    Hardly Strictly 2021, which will be entitled “Come What May,” will take place from October 1-3 and feature 27 sets, including Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle, and The Tallest Man On Earth. (Datebook

  • 🐔 Cow Hollow’s three Michelin starred Atelier Crenn took meat off its menu in 2019 but plans to serve lab-grown chicken once it’s federally approved as part of a recently formed deal between restaurateur Dominique Crenn and the Berkeley-based Upside Foods. (Chronicle

And finally… 

Thank you to everyone who followed up yesterday with their top, San Francisco burrito recs. Some spots that stood out included La Canasta, Olivio’s, and El Metate. Alex seconded my El Buen Sabor rec (thanks, Alex, you’re the best). While our East Bay friend Ron said that us “San Fran people'' need to check out Tacos Mi Rancho near Lake Merritt in Oakland. 😊

AND, just when you thought there couldn’t be any more burrito news this week, the Chronicle’s Elena Kadvany reported on Thursday that late-night favorite El Farolito will soon open a North Beach location at 1230 Grant Ave, the space previously occupied by House.

As local reporter Joe Eskenazi wrote on his text message alerts today, “The Farolito-to-be is one-tenth of a mile from Golden Boy. I foresee foolish eating challenges and the purchasing of many Tums.” 

That’s all for today! Thanks so much for reading y’all. And as a reminder, The SF Minute is Instagramming more. If you’re on Instagram and want another way to get local news tidbits, I’d love for you to follow along

See you tomorrow! - Nick B. 

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