Sunday, February 5, 2012

Philz Coffee (Downtown Palo Alto) - Review

What was all the fuss about Philz Coffee?  No matter when I pass by this glass-walled cafe, I see tons of people inside. Nevermind about the spectacular customer reviews.
Disclaimer: this is based on one visit on a springy, Sunday February morning.
Tip: Order first at the barista bar and then go to the cashier and pay.
  • All coffee is made to order.
  • Service is efficient even though the coffee prep takes time.
  • Vibe on a Sunday morning: all kinds of Palo Alto types, slim, trim and wiling to pay $3.25 for a small cup of black coffee. So they are 20-40 somethings typing into laptops and adults with children in jeans, hoodies, button-down shirts, and Patagonia jackets. Some customers are alone
  • Pastries to stay are served in huge coffee filters. 
  • Baristas take care of your cream and sugar if you want any.
  • Lots of individual attention and coffee counseling (as needed). I felt like I could take my time talking (unlike at some places I love in SF) because there was not a long line of customers behind me.
  • Lounge chairs, tables, and lots of natural light. Bottom line: I am intrigued! I like it!
Went in and wasn’t exactly sure where to go. The place is big and there was a cluster of people both by the cashier and on the other side of the deep barista bar.  But since the staff is attentive, listening was all that was required to figure it out.  Still, maybe Philz could benefit from having someone out on the floor guiding people.

I asked for a black coffee.  I barely glanced at the menu in part to avoid being overwhelmed with choices (I had heard that so many drinks were good here) and because I just wanted black. But the Philz’s hot chocolate was tempting me.  Anyway, I ordered. “This your first time here?” said the long haired man behind the counter. He had a cross earring dangling from his left ear.  He could have been a professional wrestler. In fact the entire line of baristas looked as ethnically and culturally diverse as what you’d find on BART.

He told me: every serving is brewed individually and that I should try Tesora, described on the menu as “a grand representation of our coffee and they way coffee should taste."  He also asked: cream or sugar? We prepare that back here.
At the cash register I asked a kind kid who looked like a graduate student in CS to recommend some pastries. He likes the chocolate croissants best.  When I kept probing, he also suggested the almond twist and the apricot bar. I went with the bar. But I will be back for the other two.

Philz Coffee
101 Forest Avenue
Palo Alto, CA 94301

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