While once the word latte only meant one thing—the traditional drink made with espresso and steamed milk—the category has expanded quite a bit. But we're OK with this transformation—as long as there are as many delicious incarnations as there are misguided eggnog-pumpkin-soy sugar bombs.
Given that latte actually means milk, it's not surprising that a good latte has a lot to do with how the milk is prepared. After being heated, it should be slowly added to the base (piano piano as the Italians say), ensuring a thick creamy layer that won't sink in on itself or lose the battle with the flavor base. Moreover, there should be a good ratio of milk to espresso, and a restrained hand if sugar is involved.
With these criteria in mind we went on the hunt for delicious lattes in San Francisco. Our top 5 aren't all traditional—one is made from sweet potatoes and another is topped with bacon—but they do make for a satisfying sip.
About the author: Carrie Vasios is the Community Manager of Serious Eats and writes the Wake and Bake, Cookie Monster, and Serious Entertaining columns. She likes perusing her large collection of cookbooks while eating jam from the jar.