Oakland Coffee Trail: Actual Cafe

Bike Rack at Actual Cafe

The twittersphere is buzzing about Actual Cafe at San Pablo and Alcatraz in North Oakland. The cafe is a hopping spot for bicyclists — it has an indoor rack for hanging your ride while you sip java. It features a long communal table next to the bike rack, a couple of couches, several seats at a high-top bar and a couple of booths. There were at least a dozen patrons when I dropped in at around 12:30 on Saturday, and several bikes hanging on the rack. It was an eclectic clientele, representative of the neighborhood. Some students, some middle aged and older adults, some youngish hipsters. The address situates the cafe in a little sliver of Oakland which cuts between Berkeley and Emeryville.

The coffee was good. (I ordered a shot of espresso.) It wasn’t as fruity as the shot of Verve Streetlevel which I drank at Modern Coffee on Friday, but it was well pulled and featured a nice crema. I didn’t ask what beans they were using, so I’ll need to revisit for more info.

My favorite part of the place is the big table. The bike rack is a fun novelty, but it’s a little awkward. There’s a dedicated door for bikes that is well marked which makes getting into the building easy, but while I sat at the big community table sipping my coffee I watched three people struggle to get bikes in and out. It didn’t help that some people just rested their bikes against the railing that separates the rack from the cafe — that just made it harder to slip through the already limited space. The table, though, is really great. It reminded me of a great cafe Anna and the boys and I visited in New York several years ago. It’s just more fun to sit at a big table and engage with those around you. Even if you don’t have much to say, it’s nice to make eye contact, share a smile, and acknowledge a common appreciation for a good cup of coffee.

It’s a bit of a hike from our neighborhood to the cafe — a shade over 3 and a half miles. I don’t know enough about the side streets between here and there yet to know if there’s a nice, quiet route, so I rode along Grand to San Pablo and then straight up to Alcatraz. San Pablo has no bike lanes so I’d hesitate to take Anna that way. And with other locations within easy striking distance of our place, I can’t see myself riding over to Actual Cafe more than once a month, but it is a fun place. Definitely worth a visit.

Saturday January 9, 2010 — Mark —