Black Horse at Uptown

Overall Rating: 7.000

Address: 1065 Higuera St., Unit 101
Cross Street(s): Btwn Osos & Santa Rosa Sts.
City, State ZIP: San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
Phone: 805.783.1300
Hours: Su-Sa 5:30am-11pm
Type of Establishment: Espresso Bar (Chain)
Cafe Rating: 7.20
Barista: 7
Savvy: 7
Ambiance: 8
Presentation: 7
Consistency: N/A
Espresso Machine: La Marzocco
Coffee Rating: 6.80
Aroma: 7
Body: 7
Brightness: 7
Crema: 7
Flavor: 7
Taster's Correction: -1.0
Size: L
Primary Taste: Warming
Coffee Beans: Caribbean Coffee Company
Cup Manufacturer: Other Ceramic
Price: $1.90
Last Update: 11/21/2009
First Reviewed: 11/21/2009
Notes: Coffee Sales; Coffee Accessory Sales; Outdoor Seating

This has long been considered something of a San Luis Obispo County establishment. In the early 1990s, a couple friends of the owner, Randy Coates, operated the original Uptown Espresso in Seattle. Mr. Coates later paid $1 for the rights to slap that name on his own SLO café. (He has since renamed his chain Black Horse and kept the Uptown name for this location.) The location is a former automotive repair shop, and the front patio offers a bit of seating at a few large tables. 'Large' is the operative word here, as inside and out they regularly seem to pull in tables of 10 people or more. Inside there's a fireplace and some window counter seating as well - plus a "Wall of Fame" consisting of photos of celebrities (from Peter Fonda to members of Hanson) and tourists around the world sporting paper cups with the café's logo. Even if we feel that branding yourself as a quality product with paper cups seems more than a bit backwards. Also inside is a shiny red three-group La Marzocco FB/70, so you think they'd take their coffee seriously here. Ordering a single shot, they give you the second half in the double basket for free. But bizarrely, they serve it in a large, black coffee mug. They even call it a "mug". Espresso in mugs? Talk about unclear on the concept. The resulting shot looks it: it's of a large volume, with a medium brown, relatively even crema. It tastes of mellow pepper and a little malt even, but you could make the case that it tastes more like good filter coffee than a true espresso. Despite winning numerous awards from the New Times, we found it good but no better than the Peet's Coffee & Tea tucked in a pedestrian mall a block to the west. They serve and sell a branded blend from Santa Barbara's Caribbean Coffee.