I've been walking by for months trying to peek through the papered windows. Hoping and hoping that one day on my stroll, the doors would just magically swing wide open. Sometimes I'd actually force myself to go a few weeks without checking, convinced that the next time I did, a new bustling cafe would be livening up the sleepy morning stretch of Grand Avenue that I call home. You see, for all of the cafes and amenities we have, we don't have an independent morning spot with great espresso, coffee and interesting morning pastries. Until now.
Now let's get one thing straight: Charlie Hallowell, chef/owner of both Pizzaiolo and Boot and Shoe Service, doesn't do things half-way (and thus, I think, the wait for the perfect time to take that kraft paper down from the windows). From wonderful fresh salads and delightful wood-fired pizzas at Pizzaiolo to those fantastic salty olives and strong cocktails (and pizza, of course) at Boot and Shoe Service -- there are innumerable reasons to visit both. And since moving to Oakland I find myself frequenting one of the sturdy wooden tables at Pizzaiolo drinking a macchiato, nibbling on a cinnamoney donut hole and stealing internet from the tenants upstairs. The morning service there is lovely and the locals have caught on: it's packed.
And finally: the new cafe adjoining Boot and Shoe Service, formally DiBartolo Cafe, opened last week and looks pretty promising. In short time, I predict, it too will be packed. Like Pizzaiolo's morning service, there are a variety of simple pastries and morning cakes and lots of seating (they are keeping it wi-fi free for now) at counters along the whole periphery of the space. The inside is spare and clean with high ceilings, brick walls, and fantastic light. Hallowell has opted to serve Sightglass coffee, and the staff and other customers I chatted with seem thrilled with the decision for a few reasons. It's local, it's excellent, and it's not Blue Bottle (which, while fantastic, is ubiquitous these days).
You can find a short list of coffee drinks including lattes, cappuccinos, macchiatos and the like along with a special mocha made with a housemade chocolate consisting largely of dark Valrhona chocolate. If you're into drip coffee they brew one cup at a time, taking just as much time and care with a simple cup of coffee as they do a more involved espresso drink.
They also offer housemade granola in a bowl with fruit and milk/yogurt or in a big ball jar for $10 ($1 of which is a deposit for the jar). I haven't had a chance to try the granola yet, but the staff insists it's the best you'll ever have. It's on my to-do list this week.
What I have tried are their perfect cappuccinos, crumbly currants scones and buttery almond cake. The pastries are all done in-house by the pastry chef at Pizzaiolo, so if you're familiar with the carefully curated sweets there, you'll feel right at home. I've always been a big fan of their scones because they're not huge and hefty, but rather: light, simple, and seasonal. And the almond cake is the perfect morning compliment to a cup of strong coffee: not too sweet, buttery, with a nice sweet layer of almonds on top.
While they're not currently rolling out any special savory items midday, there are plans to do a variety of breads and spreads and more fixed-menu sandwiches in the future. So stay tuned. And another exciting aspect of the space to come: there are plans to open in the evenings for espresso beverages, plated desserts, and cocktails. The idea is that it can serve as a spillover for folks waiting for a table at Boot and Shoe Service but can also be a new spot to come and snag a cocktail or have an evening espresso before a stroll around the lake.
So they're off to a great start. And like all great starts, there's a definitive reason to go and check it out now, but there's also promise in what's to come down the line. A most welcome addition to the neighborhood.
Boot and Shoe Service
3308 Grand Avenue
Oakland, CA 94610
Hours: 7 a.m.-3 p.m. everyday