Does Davis really need another café?
No matter how diverse your coffee requirements, there seems to be an establishment in town for every need. So, to try to muscle in on this market, especially during our current economic downturn, would be a sink or swim affair.
Barista Brew Café, located at the corner of Fifth and G Street, is surely hoping for the latter.
Opened at the end of last year, the café has already proven that it can adapt quickly. Early complaints said that their music and TV were too loud, but as I walked in on a sunny lunchtime the atmosphere was quiet and relaxed.
Though its location on the edge of downtown may not be ideal, it does hold a certain off-the-beaten-track charm. I was greeted by the comforting noise of daytime chatter mixed in with the heartening scent of oranges and coffee beans as I opened the door.
The place looked fresh and clean and although my initial skepticism was waning, my first impressions did little to convince me that Barista Brew Café brought anything new to the Davis café scene.
It seemed to be lacking in coziness; sticking too closely to the typical café formula. In short, I‘d seen it all before.
A couple of students sat working to the side whilst a table of older ladies pretended not to watch the muted TV that showed a scandalous episode of Jerry Springer.
My impressions began to change as I approached the counter to order.
As its name suggests, the café offers lunches with Italian flair for a cheap price. The menu includes wraps, paninis, sandwiches, salads, smoothies, soups and a diverse mix of warm and cold drinks. Each item on the menu caught my eye as being potentially delicious.
I ordered a Tuscan Pesto Chicken Wrap for $4.50 and a medium latte for $3.10, and my friend got the Grilled Chicken Club Panini for $5.75 and a double shot of espresso for $1.75.
The service was quick and efficient with the lady behind the counter being utterly charming. Unlike other places where an efficient staff can make you feel rushed and insignificant, here I truly felt like a valued customer.
Our coffees were brought over – mine in a mug so big I felt I could have dived into it – giving us the good morning jolt we both needed.
The food arrived quickly and with a jokey comment from the chef. Freshly prepared and well presented we tucked in expecting something good.
My chicken wrap was well balanced between salty and sweet. The zesty pesto and sun-dried tomato spread added a touch of Tuscan warmth to the bland chicken. Also inside was a sufficient mix of salad that provided crunch and vitamins without making me feel like a rabbit.
I stole a bite of my friend‘s panini, all in the name of journalism of course, and found that a similar thing could be said for this. Although more a toasted sandwich than a panini, it managed to walk the line between being full-flavored and being over-indulgent.
The panini was layered with bacon, Swiss cheese, red onions, delicious sun-dried tomatoes and spread with mayo and light mustard. Unfortunately it was once more the chicken itself that marked the only misstep. With a better quality meat the café could really produce something that would rival Davis‘ best.
A side salad drizzled with a sweet dressing provided a flavorsome accompaniment and all-in-all it was more than satisfying, especially for the price.
Now, weight-watchers be warned: as we went to pay for our meal it was almost impossible to resist a choice from the selection of cakes that you can find spread out along the counter.
Between us we split a Chocolate and Raspberry Ganache, and a Double Chocolate Raspberry Cake; each rich and gooey in chocolate.
To cleanse our palettes (and our consciences) we each finished things off with a freshly squeezed orange juice. Squeezed in front of us, it was sunshine in a glass and a great way to finish a lip-smacking lunch.
We both left fully satisfied, waved off by the delightful man and woman behind the counter.
Although still in its infancy the business is finding its stride and has already found a hardcore following of student patrons whom the staff know by name. With such charm and promise it surely won‘t take long for Barista Brew Café to become one of Davis‘ bigger lunchtime players.
CHRISTOPHER BONE can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.