Seeing how Farm:Table–our favorite morning spot in the hood–is closed for a couple of days, we decided it was the perfect day to be adventurous and try some of Hooker’s Sweet Treats. Taking over the old Chez Momo space (which I regret to admit we always meant to visit but never did…), this new, cool café opened only two weeks ago in a soft launch that will last for around a month while they tweak their menu according to the customers requests (their grand opening is supposed to be around the 17th).
In spite of the location in the heart of the Tenderloin (not the Tendernob like so many snotty food blogs have insisted on placing it), this café’s namesake has nothing to do with the naughty shenanigans afoot in the adjoining streets otherwise it might have easily been called, “Tranny’s” or “Methy’s”. As it turns out, the owner Dave Williams’ nickname is ‘Hooker’ apparently because he liked to call his buddies ‘hookers’. This doesn’t make a tremendous amount of sense and may just be a Louisiana thing that someone should ask Brenda about. But, seeing how nice and soft-mannered he seemed when we talked to him, I assume that the hooker-calling only comes out after a round or two.
The star item on Hooker’s Sweet Treats menu are the sea-salted chocolate-covered caramels. They’re the reason why many San Franciscans already know Dave Williams, and are now flocking to his new café. Bite-sized and at $2 each they are a bit of a luxurious indulgence (perhaps fare for the first of the month?), but definitely worth the splurge when in need of some glamor amidst the otherwise down-to-earth neighborhood.
In case you’re not one of those in-the-know foodies in San Francisco, this article in SF Weekly explains how graphic designer Dave Williams became a confectioner:
Those caramels ― covered with 72 percent bittersweet chocolate, sprinkled with Welsh sea salt smoked over smoldering oak ― grew out of an off-season craving. Williams loved Trader Joe’s salted chocolate caramels, but they showed up in stores only around the holidays, and this was summer. “I thought, ‘Where am I going to get some of these?'” Williams says. So he made his own, refining the recipe to get it right. This was in 2008, just about the time Williams’ partner Rod Hipskind (along with business partner Kelly Ishikawa) were opening The Perish Trust, the vintage home and collectible shop on Divis.
”I made a ton of them for the opening party, without any intent to sell them after that,” Williams says. “But everyone that was there fell in love with them, and the big question of the night was how I could make these to sell.” Through word of mouth, Williams ended up selling his caramels at Miette and the fancy boutique Carrots, The Perish Trust and Sightglass, too (Hooker’s candies are no longer available at the first two).
But besides these rightly famous chocolate caramels, Hooker’s most popular treat is Louisiana-style bread pudding. For instance, today’s special was with fresh blueberries, nectarines, bananas and walnuts picked up at yesterday’s Civic Center’s Farmers Market. Although I didn’t get to try it this time, the air of the café was filled with such a pleasant smell of freshly-baked bread pudding that, combined with the smell of hot caramel in a pot that Dave was stirring, is a sure guarantee that I’ll be back mighty soon.
I’m also happy to report that a couple of days ago Dave decided to include a savory option in his sweet menu: biscuits! Today’s special was covered in cheddar (and filled with something that I think were green onions) and was particularly delicious. It’s too bad they don’t serve lunch snacks; at least for the time being…
But what about the beverages? Well, the menu consists mainly of coffee. And coffee-obsessed tenderneighbors will be happy to learn that Hooker’s Sweet Treats serves coffee from Sightglass, a cult coffee roasting company on Seventh and Folsom that has been operating for about a year [side note: Sightglass has also been carrying Verve, the Santa Cruz-based coffee roaster served at Farm:Table]. Hooker’s coffee menu is simple but solid, as proven by the cappuccino I tried, made of the powerful Owl’s Howl blend – perfect for those who like a strong and fully-flavored coffee to kick-off the day in style. Also worth mentioning, they roast their own coffee daily and they sell it for home consumption.
As some tender readers already know, we at Tenderblog are not ashamed to admit that we are more tea than coffee geeks so I naturally asked about their lack of tea offerings in the menu. Apparently tea is going to be in the menu, but for the time being Dave is looking for a tea blender of his taste. I’ll obviously have to come back to find out which one he has picked. Let’s hope it’s loose leaf because damn mother of the virgin almighty these sweets are freakin’ wicked good with a cup of strong loose leaf black tea!
As for the interior design of the space, the overall ambiance is very American classic with vintage furniture and rustic decoration elements. In fact, when I came in “As time goes by” was playing in the background, and jazz music was in the air the whole time I was there. I’m sure you’ll be “surprised” to find out that the main sitting area is … a farm table! complete with mason jars and lavender bouquets. The counter (pictured below) is apparently from an old candy store, with the front decorated with photos from Louisiana taken by Williams’ grandfather. Ironically, these black and white shots feature the Shrimp & Petroleum Festival, happening every year on Labor Day weekend for the last 75 years to “prove that oil and water really do mix”. Apparently, BP was so totally right…