I double check my GPS to make sure I'm not lost. With no commercial buildings in sight, I cautiously whiz by rows of cute Berkeley huts. Finally, the dense residential streets give way to a clearing.
Across an inviting stretch of lush lawn, I see a two-story brick building that sits at the edge of Berkeley’s Strawberry Creek Park. With no signage, the grand building seems to prefer anonymity. Embedded on its south side, is an aptly-named coffee shop called The Hidden Cafe.
A gathering cafe that supports artists and culinary artisans by providing a space to share their craftwork.
As I stroll towards the cafe, I take in the scene.
The usual suspects on a Saturday morning: teenagers lounging to lofi beats, parents chasing children chasing dogs chasing butterflies, and a stand with heaping stacks of brownies. 50/50 chance of being laced I think to myself.
Despite the chilling crispness of the Bay Area morning, the warmth emanating from the ambiance envelopes me.
The Hidden Cafe occupies itself behind 3 charmingly large factory windows. A poem just outside the door asks,
What if instead of a pinch of spice I wanted a whole handful of flavor?
Inside lies a humming kitchen, long oblong wooden table, and bookshelf strewn with verdant figs and sentimental knick knacks.
The fertile topography gives way to a large wreath of shrubs dangling tastefully from the ceiling. The hanging dead flowers cast a literal fore-shadowing to its relatives below. It’s not lost on me that the books sitting between life and death appear metaphorical.
As I silently think “this is why you don’t need brownies, Patty”, a pleasant voice snaps me out of my thought vortex and asks for my order.
I scan the minimalist menu and see anything but the usual line-up of caffeinated concoctions. My eyes stop at the Kokuto Latte.
Apparently Kokuto is a black sugar from Okinawa that infuses coffee with caramel notes.
I silently acknowledge my concession to this hipster trap, and order 1 to go.
Stepping outside, I nestle down on a French bistro chair overlooking the lawn.
I wrap my coat tighter, double palm my warm coffee, and close my eyes. With each icy inhale, a cloud of steam billows up to lick my nostrils. Cold melts into hot.
I am decadently cozy.
As I finish my drink, I head back indoors to learn more about the origins of the cafe. I soon learn that there’s much more that hides behind the “cafe” facade.
Outside of serving beverages, Hidden Cafe is dedicated to sustainable community support through the culinary and musical arts.
With a rotating menu of drinks and bites, the cafe opens its kitchens to food artisans in residency such as Cod Damn, Hella Bagels, MICHOZ, and Rasa Caffe. Furthermore, baked goods come exclusively from local bakers like Gluten Confraternity and Ono Bakehouse. Music concerts are often held on the lawn by local bands.
The intentionality of the space is a direct reflection of its creators - a couple of artists trying to keep space in the hands of local artists.
Co-founder Andy Kellogg is behind Adelines lab - a space for makers and creatives in the Bay Area.
His wife, Asako, runs Hana Flower which supplies the flora within Hidden Cafe.
Another co-founder, Makowski, ran a poem shop prior, and is responsible for the philosophical prompts pasted to the cafe windows.
Going back to my prior train of thought, I can’t help but to be in awe at the circular beauty of it all. A process by which artists influence structure, that serves other artists, who in turn, serve the broader community.
I could not have gaged this at all from a flattened yelp page.
Perhaps Hidden Cafe knows this.
Its very name provokes us to take a closer look at what’s seemingly hidden in plain sight.
The Third Space Rating
Total rating: 25/30