“Thank you for coming here and saving this building,” said a customer today to a barista before placing his order in the airy, invigorating space that is filled with light even on an overcast, rainy day. The barista had heard it before, and modestly suggested that local residents would have been happy whoever had taken over the building.
True or not, the fact that James Freeman, owner of the burgeoning Blue Bottle empire, selected this 2,000 sq ft spot for his latest launch probably ensures the place will be hopping for the foreseeable future. Such is the allure of this cult, so-called third-wave coffee company.
The original assets of the 1905 building, a former car dealership on Oakland’s Auto Row, have been allowed to shine, including freshly painted white cornicing, the soaring, 20 ft ceiling, the original white-tile floor — even the ruined sections have been left as is — and the gigantic glass windows.
Seating is at one large round communal table and at a long, freestanding marble counter. There’s a custom-made stainless steel bar sporting pour-over coffee, and Kyoto cold drippers for iced coffee. There’s also a waffle iron, as the café is serving Liège waffles – a sweet Belgian waffle similar to those found at the Blue Bottle in Chelsea, Manhattan.
The pastry and cake selection is provided by Freeman’s wife, Caitlin Freeman, author of Modern Art Desserts, copies of which are available at the store. Savory bites include a Sliced Gruyère and Butter Sandwich, and a Salami and Goat Cheese sandwich, both of which are served on Acme baguette.
The most surprising part of the new space is its “espresso tech area” which is separated from the main café by a huge, see-through plastic curtain. This is the workshop where Blue Bottle is offering repairs and servicing for home espresso machines, as well as training on how to use home espresso machine for the public.
Blue Bottle in the W.C. Morse Building is at 4270 Broadway in Oakland (at the corner of Mather and Broadway). Hours are listed as Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., and weekends, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
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