This morning I had a seriously hankering for a shot of espresso. I considered going to the Calistoga Roastery, but there is another small, relatively new coffee place in town which I've walked past on several occasions and been somewhat curious about... and the nice thing is that it's on my walking route from the bus stop to the school, so I decided today was the day to give that one a try.
It's a small, minimalist place called Yo el Rey, tucked next to a beauty salon, which is right next door to the police station and the Sharpsteen Museum. I had assumed all along that it had a bit of a bohemian vibe (judging from the prominently displayed "Fair Trade Organic" signs), and boy was I right. The interior is sparsely decorated but consists of a few tables adorned with books about modern artists and animal rights -- the two I noticed were a Salvador Dali book and one about large-scale industrial raising of animals for food. The walls were decorated with some abstract paintings and had lines of poetry scrawled across them, all over the room, and there was some downtempo reggae/chillout music wafting from a couple of speakers tucked beneath the coffee counter.
I wouldn't say the Calistoga Roastery is "corporate", but Yo El Rey is even more bohemian; it feels more like the small hippie (and hipster) hangouts you might find dotted around Haight Street or Potrero Hill in San Francisco. If you have dredlocks and/or are a vegan, this is probably the place for you. But the atmosphere and (particularly) the organic free trade coffee comes at a price. The menu is more sparse and the prices higher here than at most coffee shops. I can normally get a shot of espresso for $1.50-$2.00, with 50 cents for an extra shot. At Yo El Rey, it's $2.50 for an espresso and $1 for an extra shot.
Considering that, I decided to go with a cappuccino, which was priced more on par with other places at $3.00. It was nicely made and I have to admit that the coffee had a good flavor (less "burnt" tasting than Starbucks and probably less so than Calistoga Roastery, as well)... it was served up with some sort of small cookie. Judging from the strange, brittle consistency of it, I can only conjecture that it was vegan and maybe even gluten-free, but I don't know.
Due to the prices, this won't be a regular hang-out for me, but I will probably be back whenever I am specifically in the mood for a cappuccino I can sip in a small, cozy setting surrounded by modern art and chilled music.