Strolling into this sun-soaked coffee spot sort of reminds us of Cheers — everyone knows your name. Okay, that may be a stretch, but it definitely has a unique, neighborhood-centric ambiance. And if you’re a bike enthusiast, you’re in for a treat. Not only does it boast indoor racks, but it offers cool, cycle-friendly activities like “bike bingo.” Oh, and if you’re feeling artsy while you sip your java, mosey around — there are plenty of pieces by Oakland-based artists on the walls.
Actual Cafe, 6334 San Pablo Avenue (between 63rd and 64th streets), Oakland; 510-653-8386.
Guerilla Cafe 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 Cafe, 1620 Shattuck Avenue (between Lincoln and Cedar streets), Berkeley; 510-845-2233.
This gem of a java house is on our roasting roster for a good reason. The cafe soundtrack and the cups of coffee keep us captivated and coming back for more. Aside from those two elements, this space is homey (ample board games), light-filled, and… open until midnight? When does that ever happen in the Bay? In case you aren’t convinced, it also has cutesy old-school desks, a wine bar, and art galore. Check you there!
Awaken Cafe, 1429 Broadway (between Telegraph Avenue and 15th Street), Oakland; 510-863-1440.
Farley’s On 65th
Confession: This spot has the best selection of magazines we’ve ever seen at a coffee shop! And to us, that’s like striking gold. You name it, they have it — from art and fashion to design and tech! But, this airy auto body-shop-turned cafe doesn’t just sell smooth cups and glossies. It has scrumptious sammies (our mouths are watering just thinking about the egg and asparagus option), board games, open architecture, and stunning vaulted ceilings. On a mild East Bay day, this is where you’ll find us.
Farley’s On 65th, 1195 65th Street (between San Pablo Avenue and Vallejo Street), Emeryville; 510-879-7026.
This Temescal-based coffee joint is the place to park it if you’re looking for an airy, yet caffeinated escape. The modern, spacious setup mimics a cool, eclectic apartment (we want that chandelier for our pad!) and the mismatched furniture and expansive seating are incredibly inviting. We could hole up here for days (um, free Wi-Fi, anyone?). Plus, it serves velvety, French-pressed cups of Bicycle Coffee and light snacks that are pretty tasty. This is our must-hit java hut after strolling through the always-charming Temescal Alley.
Arbor Cafe, 4210 Telegraph Avenue (between 42nd and 43rd streets), Oakland; No phone number.
Modern Coffee isn’t your average, grab-it-and-go coffee place. Located in Oakland’s Chinatown and boldly placed next to Peet’s Coffee, it is an unsuspecting little haven that caters toward busy 9-to-5ers and coffee-shop loungers alike. With a warm staff, modern vibe, and high-quality beans (from multiple roasters), this java joint will turn you into a regular in no time. And on top of the exquisitely prepared coffee, Modern offers a variety of teas and locally made pastries. But remember to get there early, because the scrumptious sweets are always the first to go!
Modern Coffee, 411 13th Street (near Broadway Street), Oakland; 510-835-8000.
Blink and you’ll miss this quaint and tasty coffee haven politely perched on 40th Street. We’re feeling its simple, straight-to-the-point approach to both the décor and the brew. The space is tiny, but full of charm. From the walls dripping with plants by Crimson Horticultural Rarities to the antler chandelier — this place packs a serious punch in the cuteness department. Oh, and did we mention the coffee is out of this world?
SubRosa, 419 40th Street (between Shafter Avenue and Webster Street), Oakland; 510-653-2030.
The second we wandered into Remedy (not to be confused with nearby Remedy Salon) it was love at first sip. We felt an instant java connection to this Temescal haunt. Maybe it was the quirky phone booth, the gigantic Telegraph Street sign, or the crazy-good cappuccino. We’re not sure. But, if there’s one thing we do know it’s that we’ll be visiting Remedy Coffee on the reg.
Remedy Coffee, 4316 Telegraph Avenue (between 43rd and 44th streets), Oakland; No phone number.
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 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.
Bittersweet Chocolate Cafe
When we heard that there was a coffee shop and a chocolate cafe in one place — our hearts may have skipped a beat. Talk about a double whammy! This cute coffee-slash-choco spot churns out delicious mochas, hot cocos, lattes, and, of course, tons-o-chocolate. The interior is definitely cozy and rustic, so if you’re looking for a warm, cuddly place to chill (and indulge) — this is it.
Bittersweet Chocolate Cafe, 1438 Broadway Street (between Telegraph Avenue and 15th Street), Oakland; 510-238-8700.
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.
Caffe Strada, 2300 College Avenue (between Bancroft Way and Durant Avenue), Berkeley; 510-843-5282.
Blue Bottle Coffee
How could we cover the best East Bay coffee spots and not include the iconic Blue Bottle Coffee in Jack London Square? This is the mothership for coffee fanatics, thanks to its first-location status. This industrial, brick warehouse-cum-roasting facility boasts a coffee bar, cupping room, a kitchen, and more. Yeah, it’s pretty involved and is definitely worth the trip over the bridge.
Blue Bottle Coffee, 300 Webster Street (between 3rd and 4th streets), Oakland; 510-653-3394.
Photos: (Left to right) Philz Coffee, Bittersweet Chocolate Cafe, Caffe Strada, and Blue Bottle Coffee by Christine Ting