Opening in August 2015 in one of the rougher parts of this softening town, Brett Walker combined his experience as a former Four Barrel Coffee barista with his love of houseplants and large-format prints of his photography in establishing what is very much a personal space. It also happens to serve coffee.
On the ground floor beneath new residential apartments (The Lofts at Seven) and nearby UC Hastings and its law students, this café’s name is an homage to his favorite book (John Steinbeck). There’s often a selection of eclectic music playing on the turntable, blaring through cheap speakers.
Besides Brett’s massive plot printer off to the side, the space includes two live-edge cut counters at the front windows with two wooden stools (courtesy of his wife, furniture designer Katie Gong). There’s also a short, two-person wood bench out front for sidewalk seating.
Inside the chairs are mismatched and, along with the occasional cactus, cover the concrete slab floors. He sells Chemex brewers, filters, and roasted coffee plus baked goods, pour-over coffee, and espresso from a three-group La Marzocco Linea Classic. There’s even a chalk menu of drinks and prices that states “Butter Coffee – Yes”.
He pulls shots of Four Barrel’s Friendo Blendo (he also serves De La Paz) with a moderately thick, even, medium-to-pale brown crema. Served out of a short glass jelly jar, it has a distinctive brightness that you can sense at the back of your throat and tastes of spices, some apple, and a little molasses. But this is mostly about the brightness.
Some SF smartphone zombies with a jones for the gram might whine about the lack of WiFi here, but that would detract from Brett’s one-man-show of a coffee space. This place reminds me of some of the edgier SF coffee bars of the 1990s — just with much better coffee.