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May 17, 2006 12:46 AM

Berkeley - Guerilla Café – Wi-fi and waffles

  • r

It was a good thing Guerilla Café burned the polenta on one visit, otherwise the waffle never would have been ordered instead.

The big round waffle made with organic buttermilk was crispy outside, tender inside and topped with crème fraiche and perfectly ripened diced mango and strawberry. On the side there was a pitcher of organic maple syrup and a pat of butter.

Excellent Africano, a short latte with a shot of espresso but with less milk and served in a small cup half way between an espresso and cappuccino cup

Africanos are best if you can’t decide between a latte, cappuccino or espresso. There’s the espresso shout, a hint of milk and a whisper of foam on top.

Guerrilla’s is better than Caffe Trieste’s Africano which is the only other place that serves this locally. Trieste serves it in a small juice glass and it is very strong and bitter. Guerrilla’s is rich and balanced.

For the regular coffee, Guerilla uses a nice roast from Blue Bottle which is not made using a drip cone. It is made using a French press pot.

When I got my cup, I had to ask if it was Blue Bottle because 1) it was almost made instantly and 2) it wasn’t the usual tepid cup of BB, but a respectably hot brew that remained warm during lunch. They even gave my cup a refresh. This is the best cup of straight Blue Bottle I have ever had that I didn’t need to grind and brew myself.

The sourdough pannini of the day was cheddar, portabella and tomato on sourdough. It came with a side mixed greens.

There’s a delicious and pretty drink called a red, gold and green spritzer made with Crystal Geyser sparkling water, a shot of lingonberry juice, lemon, lime and fresh mint.

It was tasty, pretty and very refreshing.It might have been a bit better if the mint had been bruised a bit to bring that flavor out.

While commenting that a lot of care and work went into making this drink, I glanced up at the hat of the man who brought me the drink. I got it – red, gold, green – African colors.

According to the SF Chronicle, Guerilla Café is working with Oakland's Mo' Better Food to get produce from local African American farmers. Mo' Better sells excellent produce at the Saturday Mandela farmers market.

The café name? From the site (and printed on the coffee holders):

Guerilla: A member of a small independent group taking part in irregular resistance against larger regular forces.

As in a little Blue Bottle-serving coffee shop resisting the larger regular force of Starbucks.

For 33 years this space housed Smokey Joe’s Vegetarian Café until owner, Ned Getline, retired. This new restaurant serving organic vegetarian food opened two weeks ago.

The menu is a short one: pannini of the day, soup of the day, salad of the day, waffle of the day and a few breakfast dishes.

Coffee: Latte, cappuccino, espresso, Africano, mocha, coffee, French press pot

Hot Drinks: Chai, Mexican hot chocolate, hot cocoa, milk & honey

Tea: Assorted loose leaf teas including Earl Grey, Mint with tarragon, black tea, cinnamon spice. The tea menu is a work in progress.

Cold drinks: fresh organic grapefruit juice, fresh organic orange juice, organic apple juice, red, gold and green spritzers.

Other dishes

Polenta porridge with maple syrup
2 poached eggs with toast
2 poached Mediterranean eggs with feta, tomatoes
2 poached eggs with polenta and gorgonzola
Organic grapefruit halves with honey
Assorted cereals
Assorted pastry (nice looking pastry, too. Morning buns similar to La Farine).
Fruit bowl

The brief kids menu includes an organic peanut butter and Danish raspberry jam sandwich ($2.75).

It is nothing fancy or complicated. The ingrediants are high quality.

Artists Keba Konte, his wife, Rachel Konte, and Andrea Ali are partners in the shop and their art decorates the walls of the café which they describe as having a “70's retro atmosphere”.

The owners are young, friendly and pleasant. I don’t think they have personal memories of the 70’s. I was thinking that the café with a turquoise wall was pleasantly hip and new millennium looking.

There are two tables outdoors in the back of the café. Currently they are seating outdoors on Sunday.

There are plugs on the walls for laptops and free wi-fi. Background music is interesting and eclectic. It can be jazz one moment with a country song thrown into the mix.

There are the usual opening kinks to work out. It is a first-time restaurant run by people with an art background who created a pleasant place to relax with some simple dishes made with quality ingrediants.

Orders are placed at the counter and they give you a numbered card with a a Guerilla "Hero” like “Bruce Lee, John Coltrane, Muhammad Ali, Bob Marley, Assata Shakur, and Nina Simone to name a few.” On the back of the card is a short bio with how these people contributed to make the world a better place to live.

I kept thinking how much more inspiring this was than the self-centered “I am wonderful” cards at Café Gratuitous … uh, Gratitude, down the street. The food is tastier too without trying as hard.

Guerrilla Cafe
1620 Shattuck Ave.

510-845-CAFE (2233
Hours: (It is new so call to check. The Chron said there might be dinner in the future).

Closed Monday:

Tues – Friday: 7-3
Sat – Sun: 8-5

The 'website' is really a blog and not super-helpful, but there are lots of pictures of the cafe and staff.


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  1. I know I've written this somewhere on this site before but I just wanted to put in a rave review for the G-cafe. I dropped in on a lark and had the best capuccino I've had in years. That Blue Bottle coffee, man.

    The decor is supercool 60s-70s, reminds me of an Almovodar movie. Bright turquoise and blue tile. Striking contrasts. I had no idea I could hang out there in the beautiful space with my ibook.

    I was between meals when I went the first time, but now I'm eager to try to food.

    1 Reply
    1. re: sarvey

      Trust me. It is super cool yet cozy, but NOTHING in the 60's or 70's came close to looking like that, and turquoise was the color of the 50's. In the 70's it was avocado appliances and gold shag carpeting. I have no idea where the 70's stuff is coming from. This is so much nicer and more tasteful (heh) than anything from the 70's.

      Anyway, yes. They do make a nice cup of coffee with out making a big deal about it. Same with the food. Just good simple food without fuss.

      They do need a more useful website though that has the menu and the pictures better organized.

    2. i love this place to death and as a from-the-very-beginning follower of Blue Bottle Coffee I think Guerilla presents it the best (outside of BBCC staffers, of course). I enjoy the food, although I've left hungry twice, but I go for coffee and atmosphere. Seriously some of the most ridiculously friendly people ever. I adore them, from the owners to the adorable singer--she said bye to my friend and i as we walked out in the middle of her song! (because we had to go, not because she was awful. she's FABULOUS!!!)
      I can't say it's a complaint because I understand that as a small new business they have limitations, but i would love to see them stay open later so I had a cool cafe to hang out in in the evenings.

      1. I overheard the owner (?) talking a week or two ago about how he wanted to start staying open in the evenings, but not for dinner. Something about putting in a blind for the windows so they could show films, maybe getting a liquor license for cocktails, that sort of thing. It sounded like a ton of work, but very, very cool.

        Oh, and this was after my polenta with poached eggs and gorgonzola, which was perfectly balanced and made the day feel sunny again.

        1. Glad to hear such positive stuff about this place. I haven't been yet, but I went to high school with Andrea Ali (one of the owners) and even though I didn't know her all that well I always really liked her. Looking forward to trying this.

          1. I just had to give this place a bit thumbs up.

            I've been going here for the past 3 years or so. Always loved the food and coffee but tolerated the cold, unwelcoming staff. I have always loved the food here, loved the decor and the art. . . but have never been a regular even though its in my neighborhood. I guess I just never felt comfortable there and the staff always seemed to be unhappy. . . espresso sans joy de vivre?? No thanks.

            Today three things happened that have totally changed my mind about this place:

            1) The workers smiled when I walked in the door and said, "hello."

            2) They made a minor mistake and actually apologized!! :)

            3) When I left they said "goodbye" and "thank you."

            1 Reply
            1. re: BeanBoy

              adding a link:

              Guerilla Cafe
              1620 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94709