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Jun 15, 2009 03:48 PM

Very promising cafe opens in Berkeley

Just came from Cafe 123, which opened yesterday at 2049 San Pablo, just south of University. Due to stomach problems, I am currently unable to drink coffee, so I can't opine on the quality of the coffee, but everything about this place suggests that it is going to be an East Bay destination for serious coffee lovers.

They have a beautiful La Marzocco machine and are pulling shots via bottomless portafilters, which is a very good sign. (This means there are no spouts to direct the espresso into one or two cups; if you look at the bottom of the portafilters you just see the bottom of the basket that holds the ground coffee. If the barista isn't well trained, a bottomless portafilter is going to spell real trouble, but the barista was pulling beautiful shots that hung down straight and true, like warm honey--exactly what you want to see.)

It's owned by two women, and they are using coffee roasted by Flying Goat, a serious roaster in Santa Rosa. They are also preparing drip coffee to order, another good sign, and are serving teas from Flying Goat as well. I was treated to a nice cardamom shortcake, fresh from the oven, but was so fixated on the coffee setup that I didn't make note of what other food they're offering.

Anyway, check it out. I've got a good feeling about this place.

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  1. Correction:

    The name is Local 123, not Cafe 123.


      Local 123
      2049 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94702

      1. Thanks for the heads up. I'm not much of a coffee drinker, but want something very fine when I do choose to have a cup. When Flying Goat opened its first cafe in Healdsburg, it finally weaned several friends off Peet's. Until then, i was the mule shuttling beans from the original Berkeley store to the North Bay.

        Flying Goat Coffee
        419 Center St, Healdsburg, CA 95448

        1. Stopped by yesterday afternoon--I have been somewhat anxiously awaiting the opening, since I live around the corner, though unemployment means I am going out to cafes less and will not be able to enjoy a morning cup before hopping on the transbay bus. Still, it is a nice addition to the area.

          The interior is nice, a bit bare-bones and streamlined--with all the hard surfaces, I could imagine it getting pretty noisy in there. However, they do have a couple little nooks, such as a couch or two around the corner from the cream-and-sugar station, maybe that will dampen future noise inside. There is also a small patio in the back, though I did not get a good look at it, since my dog was tied up on the sidewalk and I didn't want to leave him alone too long. I had a shot of espresso, which was short, dark and syrupy--really an excellent shot, though not much crema on top. I tried a small pouch of cardamom shortbread, a nice treat for $1. They were rich and buttery but the cardamom flavor was barely noticeable.

          There did not seem to be too much of a crowd for their first day, though it is not as though there was any noticeable advertising. I am sure word of mouth will spread, it seems like a nice little spot, and aside from Trieste 6 or 7 blocks away and Cafe Zeste, which has limited hours, there is no competition in the immediate area for a sit-down cafe.

          1. Went by for a cup of coffee today and thought it was a lovely space, actually, especially the charming back patio--open air with high brick walls (from photos on their facebook page, it looks like there used to be a roof back there that they tore off). That whole area in the back, including the nook with the couches, is nice and bright in the morning--I could see myself bringing my laptop and doing work here on a regular basis. They do have free wifi, I believe. Didn't see any outlets in the back, but there were several by the tables in the front. Nice sturdy wood tabletops.

            My $2.00 cup of Sumatra drip coffee was very good. They were also offering a Guatemalan, an El Salvadoran, and, I believe, an Ecuadorian. Also had a decent pain au chocolat for $2.50. Saw some pre-made sandwiches on sale too--looked like some kind of roast beef and arugula combo, but I'm not certain.

            7 Replies
            1. re: abstractpoet

              oh hello.

              1. yes they have free wifi
              2. yes, the kinda cool back patio used to be a horrible covered space they tore
              the roof off of [the space used to be a defunct video store and a beauty parlor of
              some kind.]

              i am not a coffee expert but the brief sip of my AMERICANO before i m usual
              giant amount of SUGAR and HALF-HALF seemed pretty good.

              aside from coffee, the usual types of cafe snacks ... the morning bun i bought was
              pretty good, and reasonably priced at $2.25. the only non-snack food appears to be
              something like salami or sopressata sandwich. unless you count the boiled egg ...
              the food prep area seemed pretty large, so i was curious if they had greater ambitions].

              nice folks. i hope the location works out for them.

              1. re: psb

                By induction, I believe they have a different sandwich every day. Today it was egg. They also have rather substantial prepared salads, but they were sold out on my second visit so I wasn't able to see if they also change daily.

                Today they had what looked like Moroccan style mint tea, but they sold out while I was drinking my coffee. Not sure if this is a normal menu item or a special.

                1. re: mattg

                  >Today it was egg
                  maybe they didnt sell as many boiled eggs they planned on the day before :-)

                  >...different sandwich every day ...
                  >Moroccan style mint tea ... menu item or a special ...
                  > with which coffee is made...
                  yeah, they are clearly invested in the operation and not just
                  phoning it in. i guess they are the owners? marx would be proud
                  of their non-alienation.

                  anybody have a conjecture on where they source their morning buns from?
                  in restrospect, i liked it quite a bit.

                  ok tnx.

                  1. re: psb

                    The morning buns are from Hopkins Bakery .. woo hoo !!! I love those ... and another place to get Hopkins Bakery items I asked if they were selling Hopkins donuts, but alas, no. It turns out the donuts are not ready for the early morning delivery.

                    The donuts are Pepple's vegan donuts. You either like them or not. I personally think they are very good and they had a number of flavors.

                    Rolls, croissants and chocolate croissants ... or whatever the chocolate ones are called ...are from Acme.

                    The only thing they made in-house on my visit were the oatmeal chocolate chip cookies which I liked because they were not sweet and had a nice crumbly oatmeal texture. They said they will make more in-house baked goods in the future.

                    I had the sandwich with the hard boiled egg slices on an Acme roll. It was a nice satisfying simple sandwich. Some sort of herb thing on it and lettuce and maybe something else. The sandwiches are on plates. There was a salad available.

                    I accidentally ordered the side of oilves. I was was just asking about what it was ... couldn't read the handwriting ... and they thought I ordered it. Not something I'd normally do at 9 am. However they were really good with a nice citrus dressing. If you get a sandwich, these are very nice with them.

                    I had a cappuccino which had a pretty decorative top and I enjoyed more than many I've had from the hot new SF coffee houses. They were taking time to train the staff on how to make them.

                    The real star for me though was the cup of drip coffee I had to go. There are four beans available and I asked for the strongest. I forget which it was ... I'm no damn good early in the morning at remembering stuff especially before major coffee infusions ... but this was so nice ... it had character yet was sweet. It did not have the sourness so many of the much lauded roasters have. It was not burnt. I enjoyed it very much and even considered going back for another.

                    This is a nice relaxing place. They have the option to roll up the front of the cafe so it is open air. There was a sidewalk table in addition to the patio out back.

                    I liked it. IMO, it beats most SF places. Great addition to the East Bay.

                    1. re: rworange

                      Did you notice what kind of salad, please?

                      1. re: sydthekyd

                        9 am ...syd ... 9 am. I'm lucky I remembered i went there. I'm kind of a night person. Really nothing is registering. At this point I don't think it is any destination place for food, but if making it a destination for coffee ... which it is ... then the food probably won't dissapoint.

                        1. re: sydthekyd

                          I snapped a pic of the food menu. Here's my attempt at transcription:

                          1) croissant with homemade quince jam, meyer lemon curd or herbed butter
                          house salad: happy boy farms mixed greens, beets, carrots, egg. with side of olives
                          2) eggman sandwich: boiled egg, herbed butter, capers and mixed greens on acme baguette
                          3) soppressata sandwich: fra'mani handcrafted salami herbed butter and mixed greens on acme baguette
                          4) side of olives