On Shattuck, 2 blocks north of University, lies a gem of a cafe -- Berkeley Espresso, it's name conspicuously announced on a purple neon sign above the door. This is a great spot for getting work done AND also actually has good espresso, not an easy find lately, I've been noticing. Berkeley Espresso has large glass windows facing Shattuck, so you're never short on light. While the wooden tables are plain and the plugs for your laptops flimsy, this doesn't impact the pluses of the place: lots of good lighting, an airy feel thanks to a number of potted ficus trees and other plants, and ample seating so you never have to waste your time looking for a cafe which actually has seating.
The employees can be a little distracting, talking and laughing away amongst themselves. They're also flirtatous which may bother a particular breed of feminist. But they let me practice my Spanish and compliment me even when I've just rolled out of bed or am still wearing my dorky bike helmet, so I'm usually forgiving.
The coffee is strong, the espresso never burnt or lukewarm (sorry, as I said I've been having my fair share of bad coffee lately). If you are of the tea persuasion, they have a good selection of Republic of Tea teas to choose from.
I'm not usually a coffee shop luncher, so I can't attest to the food but they do have a wide range of munchies including bagels, sandwiches, salads, and quiche, as well as croissants and such AND some not-your-usual pastries such as a lemon tart or carrot cake. There's also some oaty treat enclosed in plastic that work for the wheat-free readers.
Fresh OJ, carrot juice, and lemonade are worth a gander as are their Italian sodas, if you're so inclined.
There's a number of outdoor tables for those increasingly rare Berkeley days of sunniness and warmth, and of course, the free wi-fi is what keeps me coming back.
It's cash only, though, so hit up the BofA a few blocks south on Shattuck, on the opposite side of the street or wander into one of the drug stores nearby (again south of Shattuck) and buy something you don't need just to get cash back.
Perhaps the best thing about Berkeley Espresso? When you've been working hard and are ready to reward yourself for your diligence and focus, head up the street 1 block and into Triple Rock Brewery for some excellent beers brewed in-house.
Thumbs Up: Free Wi-Fi, Outdoor Seating
Thumbs Down: Cash Only
1900 Shattuck Avenue
(between Berkeley Way & Hearst Ave)
Berkeley, CA 94704