Talk about an unusual opening in the West Union Square area in the past year. This café is the daytime sister to The Cellar next door/downstairs (they even share employees) and it turns to a bar/lounge at night. Across from the Academy of Art University, it doesn’t seem like much from the outside. But inside there’s a designer gas fireplace, dark wood floors, dark brown walls (13-feet tall), a wall that converts to a movie projection screen at night to go with the beer and wine served here.

The low-key entrance to Sugar Café Sugar Café from the inside

It’s a gallery-like space, with wide windows, modern furniture, and a long bar featuring twin superautomatic Schaerer machines. While that is a bit of a disappointment for everything put into the place, right next to these machines they employ an on-site SonoFresco (literally “I am fresh” in Italian) Live Roast coffee roaster. (SonoFresco has developed a scaled down, in-house, ventilated roaster the way that Fresh Roast Systems has talked about doing.) You’ll even see plastic cannisters of green beans stored nearby (they store the resulting roasts in the back). But a lot here has a DIY ethic, from the fresh orange juice squeezer contraption to fresh baked goods.

What's a coffee bar without a modern gas fireplace? Sugar Café is lounge-ready

They serve espresso in a short whiskey glass, and it comes with about a 2mm layer of even, textured crema. Flavorwise, it’s very mellow and muted. But it’s light without tasting diluted (eventhough the shot is a touch large). The freshness of the coffee, however, makes it mildly interesting over the usual swill at these kinds of places. And interestingly enough, the place does nothing to promote their on-premises fresh coffee roasting.

Read the review of Sugar Café.

Sugar Café's dual Schaerer machines with the SonoFresco roaster in back When Sugar Café serves a shot of espresso, they mean it