Don’t ask why it’s taken us years to formally review this place. We first got to know this location as the Espresso Royale Caffe dating back to the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. However, it was originally known as Lulu Carpenter’s saloon among the old-timers, and Manthri Srinath‘s café opening here (with the building’s earthquake retrofit) now pays homage to its original name.

Over time, the ownership — who also manages, and roasts at, the excellent Coffee Cat in Scotts Valley — has given much greater attention to the quality of the espresso here. What was once easily forgettable (and the prime reason why we neglected reviewing it for so long) is now notable for its coffee.

Gone are the plants that once gave this café the look and feel of an old library study in the midst of a jungle foliage invasion. In its place is a (still) darker interior with sunlight beaming through the rear windows by most of the seating. The brick walls remain, however, as does the sidewalk patio out front.

Entrance to Lulu Carpenter's Inside Lulu Carpenter's

They pull shots from a multi-group La Marzocco Linea with a deep, dark, thinner layer of crema. Like sister café Lulu’s at the Octagon (review forthcoming), the body isn’t terribly strong. Yet it seems to have more of a tobacco flavor here than at the Octagon.

All-in-all, it’s a solid shot. While not quite the technical mastery of nearby Verve Coffee Roasters, it’s a worthy espresso in a central, downtown Santa Cruz location.

Read the review of Lulu Carpenter’s in Santa Cruz.

Ordering counter and roasted coffee on display at Lulu Carpenter's The Lulu Carpenter's espresso

UPDATE: Oct. 19, 2009
Yes, even Lulu Carpenter’s can’t escape the renewed media scrutiny over Wi-Fi squatters: Downtown coffee shop pulls plug on power-hungry patrons – Santa Cruz Sentinel.