It’s easy to miss Cafe 504. It’s located one block east of Oakland’s Lake Merritt on quiet little Wesley Avenue in a kind of quasi-business district consisting of not much more than a laundromat and pizza place. In fact, I learned of 504 over a a year ago on Chowhound where there were rumors of two roasters – Blue Bottle and Ritual – but it was just enough out of the way that I somehow promptly forgot about it. When I finally arrived, I was almost surprised to find a cafe here and certainly surprised to find a good one. How can my neighborhood be so devoid of good coffee when this sleepy little section of Oakland gets two roasters under one roof? That’s right, Cafe 504 does carry both Blue Bottle and Ritual coffees; it’s another, perhaps one of the first, double-roaster indie coffee shop clients in the Bay Area.
Outside, Cafe 504 offers a couple of colorful tables and chairs, but due to the relatively short depth of the shop and the ample front windows, there’s plenty of natural lighting inside as well. They’ve done a good job of not overdoing the interior – you can still catch glimpses of the original building. The owners opted for adding touches of modernism that distract and conceal the less attractive older parts without gutting or destroying the general shape and feel of the original design. The end result is a homey, classic atmosphere, like the black and white tile backsplash combined with modern elements like the reclaimed material bar and wooden, rectangular suspended light fixtures.
Shots are pulled from a La Marzocco Linea and alternate between Blue Bottle’s Espresso Temescal and Ritual’s latest seasonal blend. On my visit it was the Temescal, which which was overall quite nice, with the overall smokey-sweet flavor profile I expect from this and many of Blue Bottle’s blends, although this one was perhaps a tad thin. Unfortunately, I’m lacking in greater detail. It seems I, or perhaps someone else who likes to “type” on my ipod, deleted my full tasting notes for this visit. That said, this espresso came in around a 3.
For brewed coffee, Cafe 504 offers both a daily Ritual Coffee French Pressed into an airpot or your choice of individually prepared Blue Bottle coffees from their pour over stand. Given that I was having Blue Bottle for espresso, I opted for the Ritual via French Press. I was also curious whether I too could taste the peppers in that days selection of Sumatra Sidikalang. Although not my personal favorite, Cafe 504 did do a terrific job with this coffee: roasted peppers with the slightest bit of heat and a touch of that sage-like herbal quality you often get in a lighter roasted Sumatra, without it being overwhelming. Full-bodied, but not too heavy, this was a nice cup of coffee.
It’s worth mentioning that Cafe 504 also offers a delicious looking array of homemade foods like their sage and onion quiche, various breads and a couple of sandwiches made with various organic and sustainable products. Probably my only real suggestion besides some espresso tweaking, would be that 504 offer more coffees for sale. Currently you are limited a few Blue Bottle and no Ritual beans for sale. Then again, given that I probably wouldn’t stock up on coffee here anyway, these final thoughts can probably be ignored!