Cool Berkeley coffee joints to get your caffeine on

Guerilla Café. Photo: Christine Tang/Refinery29

As home to the first Peet’s, opened in 1966, Berkeley has always been a coffee lovers’ town. Espresso, Americano, soy lattes — you can find almost any variation on brewed coffee in almost any neighborhood in Berkeley.

Some call the recent resurgence in coffee connoisseurship the Third Wave of coffee. First came Peet’s. Then came Starbucks. And now there are a host of independent coffee roasters – Blue Bottle, Four Barrel, Ritual, Ecco, Sightglass, and Barefoot among them.

Refinery29, an online fashion and lifestyle magazine, recently ran a feature titled “13 Cool East Bay Coffee Joints To Get Your Caffeine On,” detailing some of the great coffee shops in the region. Four were from Berkeley.

Here’s an excerpt from Angela Tafayo’s piece:

Guerilla Café

Guerilla Café is an earthy café nestled in the heart of Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto. Pouring Blue Bottle coffee and boasting a wide range of preparations (from European to Latin American), this spot oozes the worldly vibe that coffee enthusiasts crave. Its noms are nothing to sneeze at either — fresh, healthy ingredients, and a clear view of the kitchen means great food in a warm and cozy environment, marked by a stunning bright-blue mural.

Guerilla Café, 1620 Shattuck Avenue (between Lincoln and Cedar streets), Berkeley; 510-845-2233.

Local 123

Local 123 is the spot for the serious coffee enthusiast. Knowledgeable baristas with excellent brewing skills mean a practically perfect cuppa joe. And its seasonally changing coffee menu will keep your taste buds flavorfully in flux.

The sleek, yellow-hued haven is nothing short of darling and if you’re feeling like a little beverage switch-a-roo it has you covered in that department, too. The on-tap wine and beer will definitely do the trick. Plus, fresh noshes and an outdoor patio assist in getting your work done sans a carb coma. If you get the chance, visit Local 123’s Albany location tucked away in the lush, plant-filled Flowerland (a.k.a. the Flora Grubb of the East Bay). It’s definitely a doozy!

Local 123, 2049 San Pablo Avenue (between University Avenue and Addison Street), Berkeley; 510-647-5270.

Philz Coffee. Photo: Christine Tang/Refinery29

Philz Coffee

Philz Coffee serves the epitome of bold, always-hits-the-spot, takes-you-to-your-happy-place brews. Featuring worldly blends like Turkish and mint-mojito iced coffee, it’s the quintessential Bay Area spot to awaken those tired taste buds. Mosey on up the stairs and toward the back for an area chock-full of lounge-y sofas and chairs while you relish in your cup. If you’re not into holing up inside, check out the quirky patio (always a good place to people watch). Also, the whip-sharp baristas have all the answers to your pressing java Q’s! We mean that.

Philz Coffee, 1600 Shattuck Avenue (between Cedar and Lincoln streets), Berkeley; 510-705-1083.

Caffé Strada

Okay, we’ll admit that this place gets a little flooded with UC Berkeley students, but you don’t have to get all academic to pay a visit. The gorgeous patio is really a sight to see — it’s brimming with natural light, seats, and cool vibes. Plus, quick noshes and a midnight closing time means you’ll never go hungry or without that sometimes-necessary late-night caffeine fix.

Caffé Strada, 2300 College Avenue (between Bancroft Way and Durant Avenue), Berkeley; 510-843-5282.

Read the rest of the Refinery29 article.

What did they miss? We would nominate PIQ Bakery on Shattuck and The Alchemy Collective Café on Adeline for sure.

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  • Alan_Tobey

    ExCUSE me — first came Cafe Mediterraneum on Telegraph, the mother of all quality caffeine in the East Bay.

  • EarlyMorningCoffee

    Guerilla Café has great coffee, but the two times I have been there I thought the loud and blaring music was annoying. The first time I thought it was a fluke, but the second time the music was even louder. Boo.

  • Frances Dinkelspiel

     Alan, you are soooo right. Please excuse the error. Cafe Med has been serving up excellent coffee since 1957 – caffeinating the Beatniks, the Free Speech Movement, the anti-war movement, the People’s Park protestors, and more.   

  • Caffe Strada was around before Starbuck’s big push…it was called Caffe Roma a long time ago and changed its name in the late 80s, about the time that Starbuck’s began popping up all over the world.

  • I love the Guerrilla products, but I have always had interminable waits there as the hiply disinterested staff is chatting with some friend of theirs not buying anything or otherwise not paying attention.  Once I forgive, twice is a trend, 4 times and I don’t go there anymore.

  • The Sharkey

    Huh! I remember visiting a Cafe Roma when I was visiting a friend in Davis in… I think the late 90s?

    Any relation?

  • sarahhenry

    It’s my understanding that so-called third wavers see an equal relationship between farmer, roaster, and barista. And some may quibble that the first wave of coffee in America came in cans from companies like Folger’s and Maxwell House. For more on the matter, check out this story by Luke Tsai in the East Bay Express:

  • onesmallhand

    Most likely all part of the same ownership:

  • EBGuy

    Informal poll:
    How many people, when new to Berkeley, have tried to order a cup of coffee at Strada?

  • patsypol

    don’t forget the Berkeley Coffee and Tea Festival on August 18.  It seems to have all the best coffee roasters in the area and we can make up our own minds…organic tea vendors and local bakeries also.  Perfect Saturday morning adventure.  Shattuck Hotel ballroom.

  •  And possibly Mr. Pete and Mr. Starbucks.

  • My one and only visit to Caffe Strada was around 1997. It’s 9PM and everything looks closed. I am desperate for caffeination. I am from out of town and didn’t know what options there are in the neighborhood.

    My brief interaction went like like this.

    Me: I’d like a coffee please.
    Her: We don’t serve coffee. We only serve espresso drinks.
    Me (In disbelief. “Don’t serve coffee”?): Only Espresso Drinks?
    Her: Espresso Drinks… Espresso, Cappuccino, yadda yadda yadda.
    Me: I know what an espresso drink is.

    I have no idea what i ordered. But I’ll remember this little bit of coffee snobbery for the rest of my life.

    And yes, the barrista had *that* horrible, snobbosh accent that you are imagining in your head, the fake “way cooler then you” accent.

    -= Stefan

  • Rob

    Alchemy Collective link just sends me to the Refinery29 article rather than anything related to that cafe.

  • Sorry about that. I’ve fixed the link.

  • Rabobank

    The accent and the haughty attitude certainly remind me of interactions and experiences one could have at the now shuttered Fanny’s…

  • EBGuy

     That is the type of story I was looking for… it captures the experience perfectly.

  • Interestingly enough, the article mentions the place rather than the coffee, which seemed to be the article’s subject.  Strada was never for an exceptional cup of coffee, just a jolt of caffeine and place to hang out and take in the sites, flirt, etc.  Roma was pretty much the same.  Across from the law school, art, architecture, and music buildings of UC, and close to the dorms and frats/sororities, it was a place to be and see…never about the coffee.  It was always open fairly late, and during the semester, there would be a line out the door about 11:40pm of law, art, and architecture students getting their buzz on for all nighters.  If I remember correctly, the people who ran Roma weren’t allowed to renew their lease, and the landlords started up Strada.  Hence the name change.  But that was oh so long ago, in a time called the 80s.

  • Oh yes, it was never about the coffee…espresso drinks only.  There was also a barista there, I think from Istanbul, who made the best Mocha on the planet.  He had a following.  Again, that was during the time when it was Caffe Roma.