As the third wave continues to roar its way around the bay, we have a lot to be thankful for as coffee people. The coffee we love is seeping into the cracks of our neighborhoods. We don’t have to travel nearly as far to find it, to stumble on coffee that’s thoughtfully prepared, comes with a story, and tickles our palate in a way that keeps our hearts hooked on exploring the craft. As more cafés with this ethos open month after month, their directions and aesthetics merge: clean and sleek interiors, baristas more devoted and skilled than ever, an obsession with quality (and probably The xx Pandora station). We’re not complaining, but a part of us misses the dirty hangouts of the 90′s, the “come all, whoever you are” appeal of spaces that invited you in and gave you a place away from home that felt like home, and didn’t pour copious tasting notes and fancy brewing equipment all over you (even though we kind of love that).
But that’s what makes Farley’s so refreshing—the brand has managed to embrace the growing obsession with quality while retaining a healthy dose of humility and a steady, comfortable emphasis on community. The company is over twenty years old, after having started out with a location in Portrero Hill serving up coffee from a one-man operation called Sunrise, and a pocketful of pastries. Since then, the Hillyard family has opened up two more locations, one in Oakland and one in Emeryville, changed the coffee offering to De La Paz and built out full kitchens in the East Bay locations. The switch to De La Paz came after a fairly thorough sampling through Verve, Sightglass, Equator, and other California darlings. De La Paz fit the profile Farley’s was seeking. The company was small, like Farley’s, and the coffee tasted sublime.
You can also get your hands on some stellar food options. At the time of writing, we’re glimpsing tuna paninis, raw asparagus and fennel salad with crispy prosciutto and lemon cumin dressing, alongside a veggie frittata and rosemary tomato soup. The pastries are equally enticing, with a steady rota of vegan donuts, housemade chocolate chip sea salt cookies (crumbs of which are forever lodged in our keyboard and heart), bagels, breads, fruit and sandwiches to go.
Farley’s is thoroughly invested in the community. Every month, the front window is dedicated to a different nonprofit for whom the café holds a “happy hour,” dedicating 20% of proceeds from a selected time frame on a given day to the cause. A “news stand” of local and national magazines lines opposing walls, letting patrons read for free and buy if they wish. We caught programmers and poets working at the same table, and a cartoonist sharing a lunch table with a business meeting. A second floor offers quieter space for working or lunch, and outside you’ll find the coolest parklet in the East Bay.
When we inquired about what made Farley’s special, we heard a heartening sentiment. “It’s a place people come to be creative, to be fueled. We’re just here to support the community in doing what they do, in being creative and productive in their lives,” said Josh Rosenberg, the café manager. Seems to us like it’s working sublimely, and we’re glad they’re here.