I believe I ordered the *large* cappuccino?
November 22, 2010 7:56 AM   Subscribe

Best coffee shop in Berkeley, CA?

I want to spend a few hours this afternoon in Berkeley in a coffee shop, and would like a recommendation for the best one. Qualifiers are internet access, great people watching, cute neighborhood, and funky decor.

If there's some infamous cupcake or sandwich I should try I'm open to any of it. (Even if it requires a pre-coffee shop lunch). Or a walk through a nearby neighborhood would be awesome. I'll be driving in, first time in Berkeley.


Thanks, Mefites! :)
posted by letahl to Travel & Transportation around Berkeley, CA (15 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I think you want to go to Nabolom Bakery.

(Note: I am biased by the fact that I don't have a car and this place is within walking distance of my house.)
posted by madcaptenor at 8:04 AM on November 22, 2010

I love Sweet Adeline Bakery for its delicious and inexpensive baked goods (with vegan options). It has internet access and I like watching the huge variety of people who frequent the place. The decor, if not funky, is pleasant and the art is consistently nice, not awful. The neighborhood is next to two major thoroughfares, so it's easy to find. Because it's next to a big intersection, wouldn't call the neighborhood cute, but it is nice because it is set a distance away from the traffic. Since you are driving in, you'll be happy to know that parking is easy and free around there, unlike other many parts of Berkeley. Actually, you might want to amend your request to include the qualifier of easy parking.

After remembering the title of your post, I must admit that I don't drink coffee at all. If coffee quality is a factor maybe you could look at the Yelp listings for the shops covered in this coffee map.
posted by CCCC at 8:27 AM on November 22, 2010

If the weather's decent, I highly recommend Cafe Strada. This cafe will ruin all other cafes for you! Outdoor seating (heated now that it's cold), awesome drinks and really nice people watching. Light classical music, too.
posted by pluot at 8:48 AM on November 22, 2010

Best answer: Haha. There are so many that I want to ask you about ten questions about your pastry preferences, mode of transportation, and what you like in a neighborhood. How many students can you tolerate? Do you like hip neighborhoods or ones that are upscale, chic, bordering on yuppie or quaint?

I personally don't like Nabolom's coffee that well, but their pastries are unique and delicious. I prefer the big Cafe Roma right there on the corner of College and Ashby, at the center of this cute neighborhood. It's run by the same people as Strada, I believe. Strada is great, though the people watching there would be almost entirely students.

In Central Berkeley, Berkeley Espresso is overrun with the laptop types but it is good and a very central for people watching (partially a student district and also just very downtown Berkeley).

For more tree-lined quaintness, you can either stay near campus and head up Hearst to Euclid and go to Brewed Awakening. Good food options, lots of people in the cafe, not tons of street life passing, but a cute street. That'll still be 80% students. Or you could go to the Peets at Vine and Walnut. Peets is now a chain, but I believe this is one of the earliest. The bonus there is that you could grab lunch at either the Cheeseboard or the Juice Collective. This is right in the Gourmet Ghetto with all the fancy shopping there.

Now if you're willing to go a bit further afield, you might also consider Cafe 123 on San Pablo near University or (better value in my opinion) Real Cafe on Alcatraz and San Pablo (I would pick that over Sweet Adeline because of its local art).

Have fun and enjoy! Wherever you are in the city you'll have a few great options.
posted by salvia at 8:57 AM on November 22, 2010

Response by poster: Per Salvia's Qs: I actually don't prefer pastries, I am a savory person, but I will try a famous cupcake because why not. I am driving, so will need parking. I don't mind students. There's no way I'm saying I like hip neighborhoods, but I was recently told I am hip (oh, the shame). Definitely not chic/upscale/yuppie, but quaint in a European kind of way is awesome also.

Thanks, guys. I've got about two more hours to decide and get directions. :)
posted by letahl at 9:07 AM on November 22, 2010

Haven't spent as much time sitting in cafes as I used to, but some I like:

Yali's downtown at Oxford St. and Berkeley Way.

Mo Joe at Dwight and Sacramento, smack in the middle of town yet not very close to anything but that intersection's tiny retail district

People's Coffee and Tea downtown on Shattuck near University

All three have comfy seating; Yali's and the People's Coffee both have a bookcase of stuff to browse.

Cafe Strada at College and Bancroft just south of campus. Mostly outdoor seating.

All of the above have both savory and sweet... follow the links for more info on their food.

And here's a blog from Cal's newspaper rating cafe wifi.
posted by Zed at 9:25 AM on November 22, 2010

Well of course, the original Peet's, at Walnut & Vine. They have a new little gallery to the side with many old coffee machines, including an Atomic espresso from Italy.
posted by Rash at 10:40 AM on November 22, 2010

Best answer: A really nice place is Local 123 on San Pablo, right around University. It has really good coffee and is an interesting Berkeley place that's a bit further from the university, and so is less undergrad. Another good place is Nefeli on Euclid, on the north side of campus ...
posted by bsdfish at 11:20 AM on November 22, 2010

Best answer: Okay, on further thought and seeing the follow-up, I'll throw my support behind Cafe Strada, if you want to be near the campus shadiness and have guaranteed wireless, and the Peaberry's in Rockridge Market Hall if you want an equally-European-feeling experience but with a little distance from campus and with a willingness to potentially risk losing wireless to get it. Rockridge Market Hall is near a BART station to San Francisco and is a neat, diverse neighborhood, but it is also near some stores with organic yoga clothes. In between the two, also on College Avenue, is Cole Coffee, which definitely does not have wireless. Basically, if you got off 24 at Rockridge, you could drive north on College Avenue and pick either Peaberry's, Cole, Roma, Nabolom, or Strada. :)

But if you can't find parking at any of those, if you decide you are allergic to stores selling organic yoga clothes or students, if you want more urban edge, or if you'd like to support some recently-opened cafes by local people starting their first business, head down to San Pablo. You can choose between Actual Cafe at Alcatraz and San Pablo (it's my new favorite for good coffee, a community-supportive local owner who really likes the bicycle community, great music playing, and great displays by local artists) or head north to Cafe 123 (a bit quieter and more studious, also good local art, caters to true coffee connoisseurs, owned by two really nice women).
posted by salvia at 11:33 AM on November 22, 2010

Best answer: A really nice place is Local 123 on San Pablo, right around University.

I was just going to recommend the Local. Awesome, awesome coffee, pleasant people, good food, and a comfortable space.
posted by asterix at 11:37 AM on November 22, 2010

There's this checklist on Gowalla, which I think will let you click through to see recent visitors' comments and photos.
posted by tantivy at 12:13 PM on November 22, 2010

Another vote for Cafe Strada. The Americana is fantastic.
posted by mikeand1 at 6:32 PM on November 22, 2010

Wow, everyone seems to like Strada! I tend to avoid it because it would be awkward running into my students.
posted by madcaptenor at 7:44 PM on November 22, 2010

Well, don't keep us in suspense, letahl -- what did you choose and what did you think?
posted by Zed at 9:51 AM on November 23, 2010

Response by poster: I ended up at Local 123 for a few hours, and it was exactly what I had in mind. There was a high ratio of berets to humans. One thumb up. (The other was holding the coffee mug).
posted by letahl at 11:14 AM on June 25, 2011

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