I’m adding Mojo Bicycle Shop and Cafe to my growing list of cafes combined with other business. A fully functioning and more or less separate cafe occupies the front have of this partially sunken, Manhattan-like basement shop, while the back half is filled with bikes, service for bikes and sundry bike accessories. Not actually owning a bike (I know, this is sacrilege in the Bay Area) or being all that interested in them, I actually never ventured into the back half of the store.
The thing that drew me to Mojo – the cafe half that is – is the fact that their coffee is from Ecco Caffe, one of the Bay Area’s best roasters, but one whose beans are still somewhat difficult to find at cafes. I was recently saddened to learn that Bakesale Betty, despite my earlier report, is temporarily, and maybe permanently, shutting down their espresso operation, thus making it no longer possible (at least to my best knowledge) to find an East Bay source of Ecco Caffe beans. I felt the need to seek solace in the familiar, even if it required a trip to San Francisco.
I should add to this discussion that getting supplied by a good roaster certainly doesn’t guarantee that a cafe’s coffee will be good, but I do contend that it is single biggest explanatory variable when it comes to cafe coffee quality. Of course, my motivation to visit was certainly not diminished by report from another coffee reviewer who found that Mojo did a pretty good job with the stuff.
I rolled in there during the late afternoon to find the place surprisingly lively given that it was closing in just one hour. I gave them immediate good marks for their equipment, a 2-group LaMarzocco Linea, and also for the fact that the cafe itself is very pleasant. Despite its quasi-underground status, there is lots of natural light that pours in through the big front window. The space is also well-used with one long wooden bench and several small tables. The honey colored wood feels warm and the business in the back plus the inclusion of beer, wine and food on the menu certainly helps keeps things hopping.
I ordered a decaf espresso, which is probably unfair since it is rarely a reliable test of a cafe’s true merit. That said, they did a very nice job. It was, presumably the Swiss Water Decaf (since its the only decaf option) and was full of tobacco with nice acidity and mildly sweet burnt caramel flavor topped by a nice head of crema. There was only a slight something bitter in the back of the throat. I wanted to try some brewed coffee, but since it was the end of the day, the cafe had run out.
Based on my limited tasting, Mojo has a lot of potential. The biggest limitation for me is that the coffee selection includes only the espresso, decaf and Brazilian coffee – I’m not sure which one – that they use for brewed coffee. On the plus side, the menu does include a Gibraltar. My ability to buy beans was also hampered. They were out of beans to sell and wouldn’t get a new shipment until the next day. Always check before heading to a cafe to buy beans, I guess. These aren’t huge drawbacks, but you should know what to expect when you visit.
Also, while the barista pulled a decent shot of decaf – a hard thing to do – I wasn’t particularly wowed by her knowledge of the coffee itself. I realize not everyone gets geeked out on coffee in quite the way I do, but I would like the barista to be more readily able to answer the extent of the coffees they offer when the selection itself is so small.
Overall, though, Mojo works because it is a good cafe and not merely a cafe stuck in the corner of a bikeshop as an afterthought. It’s cozy, lively, uses good beans, has good equipment and, most importantly, produces good coffee with them. It’s certainly worth a visit if you’re in the neighborhood or just happen to be riding by on your bike.