A popular, often crowded, slow, and somewhat under-tabled and under-staffed Parisian-styled café that strongly emphasizes French details. (It changed owners in March 2004.) A somewhat confused system for getting a table when they are busy - you're not sure whether to grab a table yourself, to ask to be seated, etc. Black & white photographs and many indoors tables plus a small rear patio. Extensive sidewalk seating with parasols in front during warm weather, otherwise they'll put out a couple of café tables. Mostly a dining café, but they have a three-group Elektra that gets some use. More atmosphere than great food here, and that extends to the espresso.
Brewed more towards the authentically French style of weaker coffee: they serve espresso with a crema that can vary from a thicker, even, medium brown coat to odd "ribs" of thin, pale crema suspended on a dark brown surface. Filled to the very brim of an IPA Illy logo cup with sugar cubes and a spoon on the side. Naturally, it tastes rather watered down and over-extracted. They recently switched from Illy to Graffeo beans with much internal fanfare, but no quality bean can hold up to the unforgiving treatment they apply here. It primarily has an ashy flavor layered on top of a woody, drip-coffee taste that leans towards the lighter side of the Illy roast flavor spectrum (even if they no longer server Illy). There's also some spice and pepper in the cup, as well as some stray grounds dusting the saucer. Owner, Wayne Miller, strongly encouraged me to revisit and try their revamped espresso, but as often is the case: I noted no significant changes (for better or worse). This exemplifies a place that tries to do well but seems as if they haven't tasted the full potential of an espresso firsthand yet. As for their signature café au lait, it's obscenely large (even for an au lait), watery, lacking a coffee taste, and coated in large milk bubbles - unexpectedly and vastly inferior to their espresso.