South Bay Cafes?
- psb May 2, 2014 01:29 AM
Hi, can anybody recommend a cafe in the South Bay.
--I mean a non-Starbucks where I can work on my laptop or read papers for 2 hours. I have my own wireless, but it would be helpful if they had free Wifi and power.
--Los Altos/Mountain View/Cupertino/Sunnyvale/Santa Clara (trying to avoid Palo Alto/Stanford ... I know about places like Keplers and Coupa Cafe)
--I really dont care that much about the quality of the coffee ... so I'm not expecting Blue Bottle. I mostly drink Iced Coffee anyway. Decent pastries would be nice, but that's like a 3rd order consideration.
--I suppose parking is not really an issue in South Bay.
Power/outlets is the tricky thing.
Specialty's Cafe & Bakery (Sunnyvale) has plenty of room, outlets and wifi if you get there before noon or after 2 pm (it gets busy during lunch). It partners with Peet's. Peet's isn't my favorite coffee, and the food at Specialty isn't anything special, but practically guaranteed place to sit, outlets & wifi makes up for it. Plenty of parking.
Red Rock Mountain View has plenty of seating upstairs and wifi. Good espresso. Decent food choices on Castro street. Getting an outlet can be an issue. Parking can be annoying.
Downtown Mountain View from train station to ECR has, besides two chains (Peets, Starbucks), five small and two large independent coffee houses of a wide range of styles, some small and cozy, all with various food. I'm intimately acquainted with all of these places from multiple visits, generally since their inception, except Starbucks and Sufi (which is on ECR).
Red Rock (Castro at Villa) is a money-making arm of a church or something. Became a favorite of laptop-wielding software-industry hipsters who often crowd the place, especially since opening its 2nd floor a few years back. Buys (doesn't roast its own) beans. Light snacks, mostly sweet. I mainly order cappuccinos or espressos, and found those excellent in many visits to Red Rock. Various entertainment night times, open mike Mondays.
Dana Street Roasting Co. (Dana off Castro): hardcore central coffee house of the longtime downtown-MV world, hangout of local politicians, chefs, entrepreneurs, journalists, residents, professors, Chowhounders, one cartoonist, and random disaffected youth. YouTube partly got started around the big communal table. Customers overlap Red Rock's (yo!), but more diverse. Plenty of them use laptops too. One large bright room, which fills and empties throughout day, plus outdoor seating. Music (sometimes serious talent) certain nights. Dana Street not only roasts its own beans but imports them, contracting with small growers. Small kitchen makes sandwiches and salads to order, other snacks ready-made. I generally prefer it to Red Rock for funkier atmosphere, flexible seating, food menu, obsessively good independently roasted coffees.
You're more likely to find people acquainted with Marcus Gavius Apicius, Fernand Point, Molokhovets, et alii in DSRC than any other local coffee house, by the way,
Bean Scene Cafe (500 Castro at Performing Arts Center). Easily overlooked but cozy pleasant place, quiet, surprisingly wide food offering including morning crêpes, homemade soups, full meals, outdoor tables. Solid espresso drinks.
Cafe Romanza (301 Castro, inside Books Inc.) Upper loft level inside the local bookstore. Pastries, snacks etc.
Spica Coffee and Tea (650 Castro) Small, offbeat/eccentric; loungy layout w/sofas if I recall. Only been there a couple of times. Also sells jewelry. ?? still open
Olympus Cafe and Bakery (135 Castro at Evelyn, near station) Actually a Turkish bakery/restaurant with full meal menus, unique sweet and savory pastries, but frequented for coffee drinks too. Extensive pleasant outdoor seating.
Parking for all of these places is in the large public lots parallel to Castro in the center of each block. Yes, parking is difficult if you want to park at peak popular times (12-1, dinner time, Sunday farmer's market nearby 9-1, or occasional street fairs incl. this coming weekend), but I find it generally a breeze at other times.
I also enjoyed Santa Clara's Barefoot Coffee, but haven't been there recently, since the Barefoot name was sold or whatever.
"Et alii" indeed ... "Eatzalot's Commentaries on the Cafes on Castro" ...
Thanks for the spectacular answer. This is very useful to me. It's sort of amazing these places are open till 10/11 ... which is hard to find in SF.
>people acquainted with Marcus Gavius Apicius,
>Fernand Point, Molokhovets, et alii in DSRC
touche. (I had to google Molokhovets).
The alii abound, but I didn't want to stray far off topic.
Forgot to mention earlier: All downtown-MV coffee houses cited are within walking distance of each other, most within three blocks distance. Convenient to the Caltrain or VTA Light Rail lines which converge off Castro St, or to parking anywhere nearby. The farthest two coffee houses from the station (8 blocks) are a very competent little Peet's and Sufi, on El Camino slightly off Castro. Sufi was recommended by trusted locals, but is distant enough from other downtown locations I frequent that I just haven't gotten around to trying it.
Red Berry Coffee on Main St. in Los Altos opened up a month or so ago. GREAT coffee from many different top roasters (Intelligentsia, Temple, Verve, etc.). Plenty of place to spread out upstairs. Wireless. Small selection of very good pastries. The make cold brew/slow drip coffee too. Parking is much easier than downtown Mountain View.
Interesting, thanks -- I'm often in that area.
Why do you say "Parking is much easier than downtown Mountain View?"
Both dowtowns have similar midblock public lots though Los Altos's are more linear, less planar, with handy driveways feeding from one block's to the next. But in 20+ years of frequently parking in both, I've found roughly similar _patterns_ to what I reported above for MV. Parking in downtown MV is consistently a breeze _unless_ you choose to go there at mob times when everyone else also wants to. It also has two supplemental, relatively recent multistory downtown public garages off Bryant St. I've had similar problems to MV at lunch time, parking near Main St in L'Altos. Parking demand ebb and flow in L'Altos is less intense however -- reflecting the different business mix: far more grooming establishments in L'Altos (Red Berry indeed is in a former salon location), far more restaurants and coffee houses (above I mentioned nine) plus Performing Arts Center, in downtown MV.
Someone trying to park near, say, Palo Alto's California Ave. for lunch could easily conclude it's impossible, with the added special little trap absent in many other peninsula downtowns: numerous various special-permit spaces bearing fines upwards of $100 even if the little warning sign is obscured by landscaping. Manpower is spent on enforcing the restricted spaces rather than trimming the plants so the warnings are clear.
Bitter+Sweet in Cupertino (20560 Town Center Ln, Cupertino, CA 95014) has excellent drinks, pastries, and Humphrey Slocombe ice cream (not a big fan myself, but it's nice to have a scoop of San Francisco's trendy foods in the 'burbs.) Nice atmosphere, too.
In MV, my choices are Red Rock and Dana Street and Bean Scene - etzalot's characterizations are spot on. If you do care about coffee, notice Red Rock has two "coffee bars", the regular and the single origin (like Sightglass on Valencia but they were doing it years before, and espresso quality at the highest level). All of those places wouldn't bat an eye at hanging out for 2 hours. Bean Scene is/was always a favorite because no one knows about it, although I've been in and out of Dana St quite a bit (by far the best old-school geek spot) and I'm not telling you my other secret mountain view hideouts. In that area, I would also eyeball bagel places - I've hung out at the Posh in the afternoon.
Although we have few informants regarding downtown San Jose, there is a Philz, and if you're looking for the late side, I'm a huge fan of the Cafe Stritch atmosphere - 4pm to whenever, check out the burger, upstairs and outside is quieter when the atmosphere turns bar. Very solid wifi.
There are probably PA/MP places you don't know about outside of the "normal set", like my favorite Cafe Zoe. Really pleasant atmosphere, above average coffee (at least, they've taken the time to know how I like my espresso pulls).