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On the east side of San Francisco Bay, there is a little hill. When this was Spanish land before 1823, the hill was called "el cerrito", which means (duh) "the little hill," and the adjoining land was a mission ranch named after Saint Paul. Under Mexican jurisdiction, Rancho San Pablo became a land grant, and after California joined the United States, the town of El Cerrito grew around the northern end of the little hill. In 1934, an Art Deco movie theater called the Cerrito was built, which later languished as a furniture storehouse until the community revived it in 2006. Last night we saw "Babel" there, coincidentally apt because the film explores the long-term close ties between Mexico and California. However, this is not about movies, it's about coffeehouses.
There are two cafes in the movie theater complex, which actually serves meals (!!!!!!!!!) in the screening rooms. One cafe is in the theater itself, and the other is on the corner of the building, and is called "Central Perk." Initially I didn't get the pun, although the cafe is at the corner of San Pablo and Central avenues. Then, as a former New Yorker, I remembered Central Park. It turns out that the owners of the new cafe are recent former New Yorkers, and great collectors of toys and 1950's memorabilia. A small part of their huge collection is on display in the cafe. I am sitting right here in the Central Perk writing this post to Jonathan's Coffeeblog.
Their roast comes from Peerless, a family-owned San Francisco company founded in 1924 by John Vukasin. Their prices are modest, there is plenty of table space to sit and blog, and the Wi-Fi is (ready for this?) free. What could be bad? Nothing I've found so far. The Starbucks up the street has serious competition, though toy-haters will prefer it.
Almost two years ago I posted a list of eight cafe categories to Flickr's cafe group. The Central Perk scores high on at least four of these categories: Neighborhood, Hangout, Bohemian/Funky, and Blogger. It's the only local cafe to do so, with the exception of Espresso Roma. Now which of the two makes better coffee? That's a question for another post to Jonathan's Coffeeblog.
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