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An afternoon at Robert's Espresso with a cafe Romano and some good conversations

By Jonathan Farrell
Posted Jul 12, 2012 in Lifestyle
Next month it will be the six month-mark for Robert Ayanian, since he opened "Robert's Espresso" in San Francisco's Sunset District. This reporter wrote a little feature about the new business as Ayanian was eager to let the neighborhood know he was open for business.
Some weeks have passed since I have visited Robert's Espresso and so when I was walking along Irving Street, I decided to stop by. Ayanian was eager to point to his newly painted signs on the window and the brand-new A-frame sign to display his daily menu to passerby on the sidewalk.
He also got the back wall painted and touch ups here and there. Yet more important is his expanding menu. Ayanian now offers a variety of "wrap-sandwiches." I had the "Mediterranean" which consisted of eggplant, bell-pepper, olives, onions and spices. Delicious!
For coffee, Ayanian recommended a specialty he had in Rome. "Cafe Romano is espresso served in a demitasse cup with fresh lemon essence and peel. At first, I thought "Lemon and coffee? Does that really go together?" Yet, I remember having gourmet chocolate with lemon and it was good, so coffee and lemon would not be that far off.
Cafe Romano is unique and very gratifying, especially I think for those who don't take milk or cream with coffee. The combination of lemon and coffee is very aromatic and tasty and delicious with a pastry like "Sweet Sue's" almond marzipan croissant. Does it compare with what is offered at La Boulange?
Well, it is very much like a soft "bear-claw" pastry with a buttery flavor a very fluffy consistency. Heated it is yummy. Yet it has no custard like the one at La Boulange only the marzipan filing, which is not too overpowering or sweet. Robert's Espresso now offers vegan treats such as a all natural granola bar that is totally vegan. Ayanian was offering free samples this past Thursday and hopes he will be getting more varieties.
Apart from the improvements, what this reporter found most gratifying about Robert's Espresso on this particular visit was the increased patronage. More people are stopping by and when chatting with someone like technical writer Riley VanDyke and others, it makes stopping in for coffee an uplifting experience.
VanDyke also enjoyed the "wrap sandwich" he had the breakfast-wrap, which is filled with scrambled eggs, potato, herbs, spices, onion and garlic, no sausage or bacon, totally meat-free.
As he finished his "breakfast wrap" we began our conversation first about the weather, it is very chilly in San Francisco in summer time because of fog. And then we talked about technical writing, which he said was satisfying as a career despite its ups and downs. And, then I said how much I like making things, building things, even though I am not as coordinated or possess any special dexterity.
VanDyke then explained that he is originally from Detroit and that he too, despite his success in technology, wishes more work was out there for people who like to work with their hands. Detroit one of the nation's major manufacturing cities has suffered a lot since the decline of the automobile industry and especially since the onset of this current economic recession which struck America in 2008.
He noted the dramatic decline in population in Detroit.
"The irony, said VanDyke, is that the City of Detroit was in a sense destroyed by the automobile because as it got fat in prosperity off of the automobile, the very thing Detroit manufactured pushed people out of the city, to the suburbs," he said.
He noted that people forget that Detroit became very affluent and people flocked there. "So much was manufactured there, in fact many of the homes that were built one could not build today," said VanDyke. "Beautifully crafted, well-built, no one today would know how to do that type of work," he said. So much of the work force today is technology driven, not blue-collar or vocational anymore.
This reporter mentioned in reply to VanDyke's comment, that a local SF Realtor Gloria Rogan, also said something similar in effect about the quality of the old homes once built there, as she too was originally from the Detroit area, something she is very proud of.
While even though he was raised in "the motor city" and had relatives there, he sensed the need to move on to better opportunities else where. "That was in 1976 when I was in my 20's. I had originally aimed for Oregon but made a detour to California to visit and then decided to stay." VanDyke does not regret it at all and considers San Francisco home.
Our chat then moved to bicycles as he too, like this reporter is a bicycling fan. He owns a 2009 "Presidio model" Gary Fisher. And, while we exchanged sentiments on what is most treasured about a bicycle, we both agreed that bike riders need to be discerning about bicycle shops in the area. Sometimes it is like a situation with automobile mechanics, "they can tell you anything to get you to buy or go along with a repair." VanDyke recommended "Avenue Cyclery" on Stanyan in the Haight-Asbury and Cole Valley area. He noted that the service was excellent and that they treated customers very well.
This is something that is not easy to find, especially when in dire need of an honest shop with good bike repair mechanics. One good spot this reporter recently found is "Everybody Bikes" on Irving Street VanDyke agreed as he too liked the vibe.
Then our chat turned back towards writing, especially technical writing. He noted that he does well in it because he developed a technical background over the years, long before the computer age boom in the 1980's and '90's.
"Back in the 1970's it was all about computer language and knowing the programing, there was no 'software' as we know it today," he said. So when VanDyke took the technical writing course at Webster and Associates, he was not intimidated by the owner, who by coincidence I had briefly met and worked for more than 15 years ago. We both agreed she could be condescending to people. And, while I considered her a bit arrogant and educatedly self-absorbed, he just smiled and said, "a bit eccentric."
We then included others who stopped by in our chat and was surprised to learn that the newly renovated area at Lands End at Ocean Beach is a great place to visit.
VanDyke noted that while the new California Academy of Sciences is something to see, "it is not worth $30.00 admission fee, wait for the free day," he said.
As VanDyke finished his coffee and left, in walked the artist who will be featured at the six-month anniversary soiree celebrating Robert's Espresso halfway point to the first anniversary since opening in March of this past year. Ayanian said he hopes to have a little gathering some time around August 15.
Local coffee places are the spots to catch up on what is going on in the neighborhood. And, hopefully one gets to join in some good conversation too. For more information about Robert's Espresso see the website. Or see reviews on Yelp.