David "Hooker" Williams at Hooker's Sweet Treats was an obvious choice for our first "Meet the Neighbors" interview -- he and his shop perfectly embody the local San Francisco flavor we hope our guests will experience.
In collaboration with hostel manager Sam Hussein, our "Meet the Neighbors" series will introduce hostellers to some of the many diverse businesses surrounding the San Francisco City Center Hostel.
Since opening last year, the local reaction to Hooker's couldn't be sweeter. Their sea-salted dark chocolate caramel won a 2010 Best of SF award from SF Weekly: "[These] just might be the most searingly adult confections to emerge from San Francisco." The caramel praline made 7x7's list of the 12 Best Cookies in San Francisco, and Bay Area Bites raves "You haven't tried a rich, buttery, complex salted caramel until you've tried one of his treats."
Little Saigon and the Tenderloin are areas often neglected by tourists -- Union Square is flashier; Fisherman's Wharf more prominent in guidebooks. But Hooker's is an example of the amazing spots in this little 'hood that seem to us more quintessentially San Franciscan.
Which brings me to David -- because few stories, Sam and I agree, are closer to the heart of modern San Francisco than that of the man (or woman) who leaves corporate America to hone a self-taught artisan skill and devote his or her livelihood to it. Especially when that trade is focused on keeping things local, sustainable, and/or delicious.
Around the time that the economy tanked in 2008, David was laid off from his corporate graphic design job. With no job market to speak of and plenty of time on his hands, he started playing around with recipes, trying to recreate a grocery chain's holiday salted caramel, which he had a craving for but couldn't find anywhere.
Using mostly organic ingredients -- and no refined sugars or corn syrup -- he finally perfected his original sweet treat. The feedback he got when he served them at an art gallery opening was the catalyst for his new shop, located less than two blocks from the hostel.
Sitting inside his quaint cafe at the huge wooden "community table" (where there is purposely no WiFi), David's outfit (grey t-shirt and denim apron) and demeanor (quiet, laidback) perfectly match the interior decor (rustic-modern lamps, dark blue-grey walls, and a single vintage mirror). He describes it as "Creole meets Old West."
The inspiration for Hooker's Sweet Treats -- other than simply the caramels -- was the idea of "bringing a little bit of home here," says the Louisiana native.
"The menu happened organically, making things I really enjoyed growing up," he says. Like peanut butter cookies. And his grandmother's bread pudding.
Combined with a perfectly spiced, not-too-sweet chai latte, my own salted caramel did not disappoint.
But don't take my word for it -- check it out yourself!
Hookers serves up Sightglass coffee along with the day's batch of sweet treats Tuesday-Friday, 8 a.m. - 4 p.m., Saturday-Sunday, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. Follow @hookerstreats on Twitter for updates on the sweets of the day.
This story was written by Sarah Trent, the marketing and communications coordinator for our eight Northern California hostels.
Stay at the San Francisco City Center Hostel, off the beaten tourist track but still close to it all.
Hooker's Sweet Treats
442 Hyde Street, San Francisco