Bartavelle Coffee & Wine Bar 1603 San Pablo Ave./Cedar St., (510) 524-2473. B-L daily; $$. No reservations. The menu at this simple spot is short, but what it does offer is very tasty.
Start your morning with a perfect boiled fresh farm egg topped with olive oil, sea salt, and marash pepper; or add on a garnish of aïoli and anchovy.
Or maybe you’d like some slow-cooked porridge with assorted garnishes, or a complete Persian breakfast with Acme pizza bianca. I am a fan of the avocado toast, which is really a hefty portion of mashed avocado on chewy lightly toasted Acme pain au levain bread topped with a garnish of lemon juice and salt.
Lunch is a selection of sandwiches, toasts, and salads. Bread comes fresh from next-door-neighbor Acme, but most pastries are made in house or come from another bakery. Wine comes from another next-door-neighbor--Kermit Lynch. Counter service takes place inside, where a few seats are available, but most of the limited seating is available outside beside the small parking lot and includes a view of the line waiting to get into to the bakery, but no one seems to mind.
The background of this spot is interesting to know. It was named for the daughter of Alice Waters and was originally owned by Alice and her sister and brother-in-law, Laura and Jim Maser of Picante. So I wasn’t too surprised to see Alice herself walk in the morning I was here and step up to the counter to order! I have met Alice before at a media event and book signing, and though we made eye contact and I nodded, I was feeling too shy to strike up a conversation. After all, she is the foodie equivalent of a major rock star. This tiny spot is also where Cafe Fanny Granola originated, my favorite, which, thank goodness, is still available in supermarkets.
Before departing, stop in next door at the famous Acme Bread Company for a take-away baguette fresh from the oven. My favorite is the rustic sweet, and my favorite bread is the Upstairs—which refers to the bread served upstairs at Chez Panisse. The line is long, but it is usually also cheery and moves fast.
At the door it is reminiscent of the Seinfeld soup nazi episode—only two people inside the small space at a time, and you’d better think fast about what you want to order from their vast selection! It is cash and debit cards only here.
On the other side, Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, which specializes in wine made from small French and Italian wineries, opens at 11a,m, and is closed Sunday and Monday.
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images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers