Oakland Coffee Trail: Beans To Go

Beans for the road

This morning’s coffee retrieval errand was a lesson in customer service and satisfaction.

Anna and I are spending as much time together as possible in anticipation of our time apart over the coming months, so we decided to go out for breakfast at one of our old favorites, the Oakland Grill in the produce district near Jack London Square. Oakland Grill was conceived and opened by our friend Bill, who had previously been the proprietor of the Diggery Inn on Park Blvd. (Brother Jon earned his superior cooking skills as a line cook under Bill’s tutelage. Jon also made omelets at the Egg Shop and Apple Press, where Bill served as a consultant for a while.) Oakland Grill used to run pretty funny ads (featuring a cartoon gorilla in a chef suit) in the paper that reflected Bill’s sense of humor and disdain for children. (I think the disdain for kids was a ruse, but he worked pretty hard to appear serious about it.) Anyway, the cuisine is workmanlike and appropriate for a cafe in this particular location. I think Bill has long since sold the place, but the decor and menu is relatively similar. While enjoying your breakfast you look out at streets where forklifts and handtrucks are moving crates of produce from warehouses onto vehicles to be delivered to dining establishments all through the East Bay.

We enjoyed our breakfast and planned a few errands. I want to bring Jon a couple kinds of coffee for his espresso setup, so we stopped at Blue Bottle (a block south of the Oakland Grill). I explained my coming railroad adventure to the cashier. The barista, overhearing my needs, pulled away from his espresso machine to help with the decision about which beans to buy. All had been roasted on Wednesday, so we just needed to decide about which roast to try. Since they sell beans in smallish packages, and my goal is to bring Jon a sampler of options, we decided to take two bags—one each of the Roman Espresso and the Hayes Valley Espresso.

Then we hopped up Broadway to 13th for a quick stop at Modern Coffee. I hoped they might have some of The Sermon from Verve Coffee Roasters in Santa Cruz. Sure enough, I walked in and Robert pulled a bag of The Sermon from behind the drink menu and handed it to me. He and Kristen had seen my tweet about my morning coffee acquisition errand and set the beans aside. How awesome is that? Not only do they set the standard for an excellent shot of espresso, they set a very high bar for spectacular customer service. I’m sad I’ll be far away for two months and unable to visit them for a while. (It’s just one more thing to look forward to coming back to Oakland for in May.)

If you haven’t already visited Modern Coffee — it’s on the ground floor of the Historic Tribune Tower on 13th Street, just East of Broadway — then you owe it to yourself to stop in for a cup. Robert and Kristen are friendly, cheerful, and very thoughtful. If you visit, say hi for me.

Breakfast at the GrillOakland Grill

Thursday March 4, 2010 — Mark —