Monkey Forest Road (coffee bar on Grand Ave. in Oakland)
This is the new upscale coffee bar / gallery that's directly across the street from Boot and Shoe (in the space that used to be a blinds store, I believe). They just opened this week.
I had a Verve cappuccino (a holiday blend) and orange-cranberry scone, baked in-house -- both were pretty tasty and priced similarly to other boutique coffee shops (I think the capp was $3.25).
On the other hand, not to be a pessimist, but the way the business is set up seems like a great way to flush several million dollars down the toilet. The space is huge and airy and beautiful (completely rebuilt) in a Zen-minimalist way. 90% of the space is dedicated to displaying really expensive furniture and art, with an emphasis on Southeast Asia (Bali, specifically) -- beautiful benches for sale for several thousands of dollars, etc.
The "coffee bar" side of the business should generate some revenue, but as of now there's absolutely no seating indoors -- the only place to sit is along a counter facing the street in a sort of enclosed outdoor space. Lovely place to sit on a sunny day, but again, there's only room for three or four people. I think there some other chairs in that front patio area, but no tables as of yet.
I don't know -- just not sure the high-end furniture/art (the main focus of the business, it seems) will take off in this neighborhood, in this economy. But it is a lovely space.
I'm embarrassed to discover this place has been around now for a full year. (Who knew?) But I had reason to be on Oakland's Grand Avenue and literally stumbled upon this place inside of an old bank. (If not for an open parking place on a notoriously parking-is-difficult-to-find street, I never would have even seen it.)
Monkey Forest Road bills itself as a "Coffee Bar + Indonesian Art Gallery." It's a large place, as befits a former bank, and actually has a good sided outdoor seating area with tables. Inside is a counter with seats against a window, and several rows of chair-table-chair combinations (think airport departure lounge) in a room crammed with Indonesian art. That said, it's light, airy, and visually stunning, with large windows that open in warmer weather.
Monkey Forest utilizes a three-group La Marzocco Strada espresso machine, with both Mazzer Robur and Anfim Super Caimano grinders. They use Verve Coffee from Santa Cruz. (Yes!) They also make press pot and pourover (with individual Clever drippers), with a Mahlkönig Guatemala Lab grinder, using a variety of coffees including (seasonally) single origin beans. A wide selection of tea is also offered.
All their baked goods are done in-house from scratch with many being gluten-free and there are vegan options. Food offerings increase on the weekends. (NOTE: I didn't have any.)
I ordered a double espresso "for here" and a latte "to go." The espresso was GREAT -- served in a solid-feeling demitasse, it was as good as anything I've had at Verve, and better than any other espresso I've had in the entire East Bay. Seriously. The latte was velvety smooth, flavorful and darned near perfect. Truly. Excellent.
A quick digression: I have a commercial espresso machine and grinder in my kitchen, and a "prosumer" machine and grinder in my office. Most of us "coffee geeks" who go to this length for coffee know that our own espresso -- the stuff we make at home -- is, at worst, better than 99+% of the drinks we get in cafés. Monkey Road is in that rarified 1% -- it a place that I will definitely be returning to. It is highly recommended . . . AND they have their own private parking lot!
Side note: I cannot comment on the art/furniture and their prices. I didn't give the room more than a cursory glance, and -- to be honest -- was looking more for café seating rather than art to buy. It IS a tough way to make money, I agree. But while Lakeshore DOES have more foot traffic (and a Peet's and a Starbucks and a Noah's and a . . . ), it is worth noting that Monkey Forest does have its own parking lot!
vending food and bev for >$10. per customer in a place that's inviting for people to linger is a very tough way to pay the rent and bills, which is why the chains who can keep costs down are very successful, and the smaller, independent places that stay in bidness have to do a pretty high volume demanding intensive labor. even with more seating, that strip of Grand Ave might not really be able to sustain a steady high volume -- Lakeshore gets much more walk/park traffic. the money they make selling one piece of furniture, art, or set of tea ware could be the equivalent of their net from weeks of sales of the bev + food. that said, it wouldn't surprise any of us who've seen the small retail shops in the area turn over if Monkey Forest didn't stay around long.