What a strange café. This alcohol-free dive (unlike the drunken student bar across the street) has been an institution in downtown SLO for over 25 years. The place shows its age — with a lot of wood and furnishing wear by years of student traffic.
When you enter, there’s a room centered around the service area with a two-group La Marzocco Linea. But after 25 years, they don’t seem to have bothered to figure out an efficient service system: waits are typically quite long even when the lines aren’t. That exposes you to additional painful minutes of listening to some of their wretched folk singers in the back room. When we visited, even the payment process at the register was mathematically challenged: the prices listed on their extensive wall boards were not the amounts they actually charged.
There’s limited window-side stool seating along the street windows, which nicely open up to the occasional chaos outside. Think SLO’s version of Berkeley’s Telegraph Ave. — with a typical nighttime forecast of random yelling with a slight chance of vomit. But most of the seating in this dive is in the back (by the folk singers, unfortunately).
They promote their organic Fair Tradeness and use Alta Coffee for espresso and a combination of Alta and local roaster Joebella for filter drip. But they certainly serve more than just espresso and coffee, as the extensive (and almost fabricated) beverage menu will attest to many frilly faux espresso drinks such as white mochas, flavored lattes, etc.
Even so, to our relief they serve a properly short shot with a striped layer of medium and darker brown crema. It looks legit served in classic brown Nuova Point cups. The body is a little thinner than you’d expect with those looks, and there’s a balanced flavor dominated mostly by a muted herbal pungency. This is espresso, unlike what they serve at Uptown nearby. Still, the resulting cup is not significantly better than its downtown rival.
Read the review of Linnaea’s in San Luis Obispo, CA.
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