After work today I swung by Nicole's house to pick up Raul. I'd been wanting to pick his brain about some things I know nothing about but would like to, and he was generous enough with his time to agree to it. We ended up going to his favorite haunt, one of the most successful independent-like (it's not a giant company, but there are 8 locations now--so they're growing) coffeehouse stories in San Jose.
Today's New Activity: The Philz Experience
I know I'd stopped in at Philz once before, but it was just to buy a cup of milk for The Monkey. This was the first time I'd actually ordered coffee. And I didn't think anything about coffee could make an impression on me at this point, but today's experience truly did.
I was a little confused at first by the ordering process. You order directly from the barista, which wouldn't really be that confusing expect that a bunch of people are just kind of standing around the bar and it's difficult to discern if there's a line, who's already ordered, or where your place is in the scheme of things. Luckily the barista was used to sorting through the mess and seemed to have a good idea of who'd arrived when.
I ordered black tea with cream and honey for Raul (first time I've ever been to a place where the barista adds these fixings during the preparation), and an Americano for myself. He said that they don't make Americanos there but that he'd happily make a coffee for me. I didn't quite get at first how he was going to make a coffee just for me--just one cup of coffee, but after asking me a lot of questions to get to the bottom of what exactly I wanted, he said he'd do just that. This was great! The only reason I ever order Americanos (which I usually do any time after about 11am) is that most places stop brewing coffee very often once the morning rush is over, and I can't stand old, bitter coffee. But it's definitely a trade off. Americanos aren't nearly as strong or flavorful as brewed coffee. And plus you have to wait 45 minutes for them to have cooled down enough to be drinkable.
So it turns out all cups of coffee are brewed to order there, and I have to say the difference was evident. Drinking that fresh and super flavorful cup made me wish there was a Philz near me. And apparently the feeling is mutual. I looked the place up on Yelp: the reviews, given the high volume of reviewers, average out to the best I've ever seen I think. 418 reviews at the time I'm writing this and 4 1/2 stars. That's pretty amazing. I read a lot about their flavored drinks, but I'm giving them a rave review of my own on black coffee alone.
I also really liked the atmosphere--the multiple couches reminded me of the coffee shops I remember as a teenager, before they all got homogenized. Also, the Fanime Con convention was going on downtown, leaving the area teeming with kids dressed up as all manner of Anime, comic book and just general character. At one point, Raul exclaimed "Jesus Christ!" I turned around, thinking he was commenting on the pouring down rain that had just started. What a surprise to see Jesus Christ! Or a really good, costumed version of the illustrated Bible versions I've seen of him anyway. The whole thing made for some great people watching.
And that is all.