Coffee Shop

Kefa Coffee

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This place has a cult of appreciators for their breakfast sandwiches, which is why my visiting NC foodie friends insisted we check it out. It’s open only for breakfast and lunch and is located right off the fork between 29th and 23rd leading into Alameda.

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It is a simple fact of life that egg-and-cheeses are heaven on earth, and Kefa’s workers know how to offer them proper tribute. They take their preparations seriously, which results in a longer wait than you might expect for an egg-and-cheese. English muffins are toasted to a deep crisp, and the cheese is broiled to the point that it gets a plasticine outer shell. Note: that is not a complaint. True egg-and-cheeses bear both those marks of quality.

I went for the basic egg, bacon, and cheese.

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Top marks for the English muffin’s burnt edges, the cheese’s flavor and texture, and the sheer volume of egg, but my bacon was definitely burnt. As someone who microwaves her bacon because she hates it undercooked, that’s saying something. The bacon was rather salty as well.

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Éko Coffee Bar and Tea House

eko_01I’d been watching the Coming Soon! sign for this coffee shop with interest since I moved to Hayward in August. Downtown Hayward has few coffee options aside from the usual chain suspects. Though I enjoy both Snappy’s Café and the Bistro for my caffeine needs, Snappy’s is pretty small and the Bistro is more of a bar and music venue than a spot suitable for working. Sometimes, I just need that coffee shop escape from the home office.

Éko, which will have been open about a month at the time of this post, fits that bill. The contemporary atmosphere is appealing, especially the mod, black, circle chairs. Those are mixed in with marble tables, bursts of marsh green fabric along the booth row, and rust red and white walls. Excepting the fixed sunburst mirror and white decorative lamps in the alcove, the shop is decorated with local artwork.

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But atmosphere is only half the battle, and at a coffee shop, the coffee itself is of primary importance. Éko uses Mr. Espresso beans, which is based in Alameda and roasts its coffee over oak wood. You can taste that oak, whether having the coffee steeped through French press, pour-over, or cold brew. The baristas haven’t quite mastered all those techniques yet, but they’re getting there.

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I’ve had both a pour-over and a café au lait thus far and enjoyed the smoky and woodsy qualities they imparted. Those elements particularly shined in the pour-over; I’m still not entirely sure the café au lait’s milk wasn’t burnt, but I pretended otherwise and was perfectly happy with the drink. My husband had no complaints with his cappuccino.

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Caffe Greco

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Caffe Greco, just around the corner from Chinatown, is a North Beach institution operating since 1988. It’s a classic Italian coffee shop, offering both the warm service and the quality, simplistic espresso drinks I expect from such spots. Brass rails, cherry wood chairs, and fake marble tables appeal to me in a way that only Italian cafes in US metropolitan areas can. The wall decorations could be more imaginative than vintage Italian food advertisements, but I suppose that’s part of what makes it classic.

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Order at the counter, and make sure you have cash. If it’s a nice day, make use of their sidewalk patio while you enjoy your food and/or drink. All Caffe Greco’s espresso is made with Illy Caffe coffee. I opted for a house specialty, the café freddo Sambuca. I must give props to one of Caffe Greco’s long-term employees for making sure I knew what the drink was before he made it as Sambuca can be overwhelming if you don’t know what you’re getting into.

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It’s an iced espresso with Sambuca and a dose of foamed milk. The glass might seem small, but the licorice brio of the Sambuca encourages lingering over equally small sips. For an iced coffee, the foam impressed–it can be a challenge to do well in chilled drinks.

The barista followed us outside to chat with my friend and reminisce about the days they used to provide Italian newspapers to their customers before the store that sold them closed. While they talked, my friend sipped her café greco, a cappuccino made closer to the American style with plenty of milk.

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