I have always had a soft spot for funky, hole-in-the-wall coffee shops. As a result I was especially happy when a college alum I was going to be interviewed by suggested we meet at PIQ Bakery and Café in Berkeley. I had never been there before, so I was already excited to try it out.
It was really easy to find. I just took BART to Berkeley and walked around a corner. The place itself had an easy, European feel to it. The seats and tables outside were rod-iron, and there were beautiful tall French doors and windows all along the storefront – perfect for people-watching or as a provider of natural light to study by.
Before I even stepped into the shop, I was welcomed in by a troupe of live string musicians who were jazzing it out in the corner of the café. That alone brought a smile to my face.
I stepped up to the counter and ordered my Starbucks/Peets favorite: a caramel latte when the employee answered, “Sorry, we don’t have flavorings.”
I was taken slightly aback. “None at all?” I asked, to which I got confirmation that they did not.
A part of me was slightly sad – I had my heart set on some caramel – but a larger part of me shivered with a thrill of joy. Now this is the real deal, I thought to myself. They were a true European-style coffee shop. And so, with much pleasure, I ordered a latte and a custard-filled croissant.
Price-wise, they were only slightly more than what I would have paid at a Starbucks, but I gladly paid the few extra cents for the high quality food I received. And their menu extended far beyond coffee and pastries. Glancing down the granite countertop, I saw a mouthwatering array of breads, authentic Italian pizzas, paninis, and more.
The latte and croissant I had ordered were amazing. I have to admit, I felt rather bourgeois sipping my latte in the storefront window, bobbing my head to the smooth string music flowing from the violin, bass and guitars beside me.
As I was waiting for my interviewer to arrive, I wandered around the café for a while, peeking into the loft area and sniffing appreciatively the smells of bread coming from the back of shop. Everybody seemed so at ease, so contented with life.
I couldn’t help but become calm and happy in that sort of atmosphere, and I’m pretty sure that attitude helped me rock the college interview. Whether or not I get into that university, I will be forever grateful to the interviewer for introducing me to the magic of PIQ Bakery and Café.