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Mar 9, 2006 11:18 PM

Village Grounds – Serious coffee in Berkeley (Barefoot & Flying Goat) & Empanadas

  • r

This new café on Shattuck, almost across the street from Café Gratitude, serves coffee from Barefoot Coffee Roasters of Santa Clara and Flying Goat Coffee of Healdsburg.

This is the only East Bay coffee shop that I’ve found that is in the same class as some of the top SF coffee shops.

They are really good about asking exactly how you would like your coffee. They made the perfect dry cappuccino to my taste. The bean they use depends on the drink.

Espresso drinks use three different roasts
- mild – Barefoot – for cappuccino
- medium – Flying Goat – for espresso
- dark – Flying Goat – for mocha

For a plain old cup, it is Flying Goat Coffee, Mrs. Garland’s Blend. Prices are excellent too – small ($1), medium ($1.25), large ($1.50). Espresso drinks run from $1.25 to a top price of $2.75 for a large Tweek (double shot and coffee … that should wake you up).

Teas are from Bungalow Tea of Santa Cruz. It is loose leaf tea that they use to hand-fill tea bags. They have Earl Gray, Irish Breakfast, Orange Spice, Decaf Organic Herbal, Organic Ancient Forest Green Tea, and Dragon Phoenix Jasmine Pearl.

They also sell Chica Morada, a drink made of purple corn, juices and spices.

The Latin touch extends to some Mexican pastries and empanadas.

The empanadas are made by a family in San Jose, who from what I under stand only makes empanadas and wedding cakes. There are three types: Organic Chicken Mushroom, Beef, and Mediterranean. They are large lunch types for $4.50.

I had the chicken which had lots of chicken, fresh mushrooms in a light sauce. The crust was good too. It was filling yet delicate.

They have lots of other baked goods. There were some samples of an excellent lemon bun from City Bakery. There are also, biscotti, brownies, coffee cake, cookies, muffins, scones, pecan bars and sliced apple with honey. The only things that didn’t look interesting were the bagels and the croissants.

Very nice place with large windows looking out on Shattuck. Wooden Duck of Berkeley which makes “quality, simply styled furniture at the lowest prices possible while maintaining a commitment to the environment by using recycled materials whenever possible” made the handsome tables and chairs, including some pretty Moroccan tile tables.

WiFi is available.

It is a very pleasant café and the owners are a very nice couple. Beans can be bought by the pound also … and they will grind them for you if you would like.

Village Grounds
1797-A Shattuck Avenue (at Delaware)
Berkeley, CA 94709


Mon - Fri: 7am to 10pm
Sat - Sun: 8am-7pm


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  1. Is this the same Cafe Gratitude as in the City? It's almost more convenient for me to BART out to Berkeley for Gratitude + Coffee than to trek there in the city.

    Is it close to a BART station? TIA

    Final question: where in the city would you compare it to? My favorite is Ritual Roasters.

    10 Replies
    1. re: nooodles

      Yep, same Cafe Gratitude in the building that an Italian restaurant was and (sob) long ago a Polish restaurant. Haven't been there yet, but Morton posted about it and liked it.

      Finally got to Ritual, and IMO it is just as good without the attitude. That's what I liked best about Village Grounds ... you get a nice cup of coffee made with care without having to bow down and worship the barista ... sorry, but it's coffee.

      The owners at Village Grounds said they tried about 100 coffees from California before deciding on Barefoot and Flying Goat.

      I've been dying to try Barefoot, but haven't made it down that way yet. It was a nice cap. I might get it as an espresso next time to see how it tastes ... bare.

      I wouldn't travel from SF to go there for coffee, but I wouldn't travel to SF specifically for ritual either. It just annoyed me that there wasn't anyplace in the East Bay that was more than a place to park your pc.

      1. re: rworange

        >>> there wasn't anyplace in the East Bay that was more than a place to park your pc.

        Cafe Cole (formerly Royal Coffee) on College at 62nd.
        Caffee Trieste on San Pablo at Dwight.

        Cole is carefully designed so that there is no place at all for a
        laptop, and the Trieste is located at a safe distance from the
        computer people. Either one is as much of a destination as
        a coffee shop can be.

        1. re: Antwerp

          Thanks. I'll give Cafe Cole a try. I've been to all the Trieste locations and I like them ... but I think I like the atmosphere as much as the coffee. The Berkeley Trieste is a bit far from my house.

          I like Maggies in El Cerrito for a plain cup of coffee, but not impressed with the cap. There's a new place opening up in El Cerrito called Central Perk (yeah, I know), don't know how that will be. They took down the paper in the window today and it looks like it might be a combo coffee shop / collectable place. That COULD work if they serve good coffee.

          Sometimes these places need something else to keep them in business. Dynastea is like that. They would have closed long ago in that awful location, but they sell antiques as well, so it keeps them in business.

          Thanks for the suggestions.

          1. re: rworange

            I don't see much on this website about Peaberry's, but I think they make a fab cap. Milk is carefully steamed to just the right density and spooned into your cup. They also roast and sell beans, and fine teas. Very limited seating outside, and a few stand-up tables inside. Not open nights.
            It's in the Market Hall complex (Oliveto's, Pasta Shop, etc.) just across from the Rockridge BART.

            1. re: MargotB

              Peaberry's: bleh! Bitter coffee served lukewarm from a thermos left
              cooling on the counter. The thing I like best about Peaberry's is
              how it's only a few blocks walk to Cole.

              They weren't always bad; in fact a couple of years back they were
              one of my favorites. But maybe now they're going through a bad period
              of getting milk density right or something and forgot that they're
              in the coffee business?

              1. re: Antwerp

                I've gone there virtually every Saturday for over 10 years and haven't detected a downhill change. However, I always get a cap or other espresso drink, not regular coffee....

                1. re: Antwerp

                  I've gone there virtually every Saturday for over 10 years and haven't detected a downhill change. However, I always get a cap or other espresso drink, not regular coffee....

            2. re: Antwerp

              i and some of my friends have liked cole (formerly royal) for years. we've all left the east bay, but still make a point of going when we're over there.

              thanks rworange for the tip on village grounds. i've also heard good things about barefoot, but am not about to go down there just to try it out.

          2. re: nooodles

            Not *quite* on topic, but driving to work today I noticed an awning for a new Caffe Trieste on Market Street, right across from/in between Gough and Franklin. More convenient for BART, and MUCH more convienent for me than North Beach. Yay. (But maybe this is old news...)

            1. re: wlw18

              Not another one? I have to say I am a little saddened by their new expansion plans. The North Beach Trieste has a lot of history attached to it (San Francisco history, literary history, and a lot of personal history for folks who frequent the place.. including me) and having Trieste Cafes pop up around the bay somehow makes the place seem less special.

              Oh well.


          3. >>>... in the same class as some of the top SF coffee shops. ...
            >>> Espresso drinks use three different roasts
            >>> - mild – Barefoot – for cappuccino
            >>> - medium – Flying Goat – for espresso
            >>> - dark – Flying Goat – for mocha

            This is so ridiculously precious. Making up weird rules and following them
            like it's some sort of ancient tradition. Which are the "top SF coffee
            shops" you're comparing it to? As far as I know, Mario's and the Trieste
            don't stoop to this level. Others?

            7 Replies
            1. re: Antwerp

              NO! NO! NO! NO!

              This place is so ANTI-PRECIOUS and just about serving a good cup of coffee.

              My little rant ... I have YET to order coffee at Starbucks using their silly names for small, medium and large ... pretentious and in the end you don't even get a good cup of coffee.

              The places like Ritutal, Blue Bottle and the other one ... I'm blanking ... do make usually a fine cup of coffee, but I hate the whole crap that goes with buying a cup of coffee.

              And despite everything ... Graffeo dark roast is still my favorite cup of coffee. And quite seriously, Alioto's makes one of the best cups of cap in the city. And I'll pull out my coffee crawl of every North Beach caffe, if necessary. I can appreciate Cafe Roma as much as Blue Bottle.

              The reason Village Grounds use different roasts is because the feel they taste better in different preps, but you can get any roast you want in any prep you want.

              The owner thought that a mild roast of espresso was better with the cap giving it a smoother taste. That a dark roast stood up better to mocha ... which I totally agree with after having the rather assertive Blue Bottle coffee at Bittersweet. Add chocolate and it gives the coffee a great flavor.

              There are certain businesses ... I can't define it ... that are just about good food without the crap ... Lola's is like that ... so is Old Port Lobster Shack and someplace else I was recently that hit me that way. I like Bittersweet very much, but I always have the preciousness factor to get over.

              Village Grounds just serves a nice cup of coffee ... without the attitude.

              1. re: rworange

                Ahhh, sorry for the misunderstanding. It was probably your mention of
                Gratitude that pegged my precious-detector. That place gives me the
                creeps. I'll skip my usual Cole Cafe cup tomorrow and give this
                place a try. And be back with a pastry report (oh please please please
                have La Farine morning buns ...). Thanks!

                1. re: rworange

                  >The places like Ritutal, Blue Bottle and the other one ... I'm blanking

                  Probably Cafe Organica?

                  1. re: rworange

                    Do you mind elaborating on the "crap" that usually goes with getting a cuppa from Blue Bottle or the other place? Is it the lines?

                    Have you been to Caffe Del Doge in Palo Alto? To me they slipped a bit but was curious how you would rate or rated them.

                    1. re: KK

                      Yeah, I should never post late at night ... or when the word rant comes to mind, I should just turn the computer off.

                      When I'm in my right mind I substitute the word 'nonsense' for crap ... so if you see the word 'nonsense' in my posts, ya know what I'm thinking.

                      Yeah, I really want to try Caffe Del Doge. I never had a cup of bad coffee in Italy. While there was care and attention to brewing coffee, it wasn't the over the top coffee geek mentality.

                      First let me say that I really, really respect someone who is into the quality of their product and would never ask someone to change that ... however, this whole "third wave" thing just gets me insane ... I'm not even sure that they based it on Toffler's evolutionary theory. I hope no one is taking it that seriously.

                      Link below is to one of the endless discussions on coffee geek. It is about basically turning coffee into a wine type of commodity where it goes beyond type of bean to the plantation it came from, vintage, etc. etc. This whole little exceprt is from one of many, many references

                      " ... a 'barista' was someone who merely operated an espresso machine, a Third Wave barista is a student of the bean ... A Third Wave barista is a coffee ambassador."

                      Maybe it is the product. I can take all of this with my vegetables, or chocolate, etc ... but coffee is about the caffiene for me and I don't have the patience for this type of talk and attitude in the morning.

                      And too many of these places it becomes more about the bean rather than the customer. And as much as I appreciate the care that goes into BB, it still just gets me annoyed that it has to be served at a temperature that is less than what I'm looking for ... ok, I'll concede there is some extra flavor there ... or that with a coffee grinder 2 feet away they won't grind the beans due to preserving freshness ... AND ... anyplace that sells the stuff has to agree to all these conditions.

                      And the crowd at Cafe Organica (that was it) and Ritual is just as annoying in their own way as the crowd at the original Pete's in Berkeley. Gary does have a point about that black-rimmed eyewear. I know, unfair. (No spotting of glasses at Village Grounds and the Pete's crowd hasn't invaded yet).

                      Places like Ritual, Organica and Blue Bottle are into this Third Wave stuff seriously. That is fine. I'm not into discouraging someone's passion. However, somewhere along the line, they left the customer out of the equation. If I want coffee that isn't luke warm, that is MY decision. Serve it to me the way I prefer, coffee barbarian or not, because it is MY money paying for it. And that's were it crosses the line for me. I'll try your rules, but if I don't like them, then respect my tastes. I don't feel these places do that.

                      A lot of the North Beach places put care into the bean without the pretense, however a few of them let things slip with beans maybe not roasted as carefully as they should be. I still like those places for a basic cup. And they are just about buying a nice cup of coffee and enjoying it.

                      I haven't found that same thing in Berkeley for the most part. The quality of the coffee is pretty substandard. I will try Cole though.

                      Anyway, general discussions about coffee pretensions, uh, third wave, should go on the Not About Food board. I just can't persue that.

                      Disagreements, if any, about the SF coffee scene should go here ... but maybe not ... since the local boards are about locating good eats and this really may not have anything to do with that other than Village Grounds had a nice cup of coffee, IMO.


                      1. re: rworange

                        Maybe if one is stuck in a dead-end job like counterperson in a coffee shop, it's only a matter of time before some frantic character starts exercising their marketing skills to remake themself as an "amba$$ador of coffee".

                        1. re: rworange

                          rworange, another vote for Cole. And they sell morning buns from La Farine, which is a huge bonus if La Farine isn't open yet or if you don't want to make another stop.

                  2. Now...back to the discussion of Village Grounds...I've tried it and it's great! The coffee was terrific, the selection is great, the atmosphere is friendly and the owners are dedicated to making their customers comfortable and happy. Step away from your computor and give it a try. You'll stop writing about other places and just enjoy yourself.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: anon

                      Thanks for bringing the post back on track. I too, will try Village Grounds after hearing your thoughts on it.

                      And, for the record, I agree with all sides of this discussion, TO SOME DEGREE...

                      I believe in customer satisfaction and if I order something specific, then I should be able to have it the way I want it. I am the one paying for it after all. Otherwise, why go out to a coffee place and spend the money when I could brew it at home. On the other hand, the whole idea of maximizing the flavor of these unique and wonderful beans is, well, a science. Therefore, those that choose to go into the coffee business should rightfully become "coffee geeks". In my mind, that is what we are paying them for... their knowledge and expertise of coffee.

                      Having said all that, I agree about disliking the "coffee pretensions"...

                    2. Village Grounds has great coffee and some really lovely art on the walls, too. The atmosphere is warm and informal. I went there for the first time a few days ago and will definitely be back.

                      1. Thanks, rworange, for the tip about their beans. Without it, I might never have checked them out! For the record, they no longer serve Barefoot roasters - too bad. I didn't see any empenadas either. Drats! I personally found the drip coffee to be decent, but not stellar. Their (or Flying Goat's) espresso, on the other had was really fantastic. This place really was a nice surprise.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: ManSeekingCoffee

                          Actually, if you're looking for Barefoot coffee, I just found out that cafe Mediterraneum on Telegraph - the famous spot from Moe's books as seen in the graduate, yet overrun with gutter punks and crazy people - serves it. And they do a good job with it as well. They're under new ownership (about a year and a half now) and although the location hasn't changed much, they now have pretty stellar coffee.

                          1. re: ManSeekingCoffee

                            Thanks for the tip.

                            Mediterraneum Caffe
                            2475 Telegraph Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704