Sunday, March 2, 2008

Best Barista: Centrally Located

In a city like San Francisco, it is hard for independent coffee shops to compete with the usual suspect like Starbucks and Peets. Thankfully, some do survive including Central Coffee, which is located on the Northeast corner of Central and Hayes, right next to a Hayes bus stop which is great for the business and the businessmen alike. Central Coffee has managed to thrive by staying true to themselves and providing a cozy, laidback, and eclectic atmosphere for their customers. Central Coffee seems to break every rule that Starbucks and Peets stick to: none of the furniture matches, the music is anything but mainstream, and most importantly the Internet access is FREE! When you walk into Central Coffee you instantly feel comfortable, the music is relaxing and everyone inside are extraordinarily nice (customers and employees alike).

Ali, the owner of twelve years, has clearly worked very hard to set Central Coffee apart from the coffee industries moguls. It is a very “neighborhoody” place explained Michael, who has been a Central Coffee employee for six years. “We have a lot of regulars. We know their names and what they want. I think that is important…something you would not find at most Starbucks,” said Michael. Central Coffee offers a full menu, and Ali is adamant that everything they serve is made of all natural and fresh ingredients. Central Coffee has at least ten different types of bagels at any given time including jalapeƱo, plain, egg, blueberry, onion, combination, garlic, and pumpernickel! In addition to the wide variety of bagels that CC offers, they also have savory cream cheeses that will leave your mouth watering. The delicious cream cheese flavors include: roasted garlic with fresh herbs (my personal favorite!), smoked mozzarella with slow roasted tomatoes, smoked salmon with dill, and habanero jack with roasted peppers.

The cozy coffee shop has everything you need when it comes to the perfect cup of Joe experience. A random mix of tables and chairs are great for reading the Chronicle, getting work done on your laptop (using CC’s free wireless internet), grabbing one of the obscure books that fill up the bookcases in the shop, or just relaxing with a cup of coffee or a spinach pesto quiche. To be honest I have been a Starbucks fanatic for as long as I can remember and I even drank the same Venti Chai Tea Latte every single day. However, since moving 1/2 a block from CC I have ended my long-term relationship with Starbucks and always find myself at Central Coffee ordering a large (much sweeter) Oregon Chai Tea!