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By Elena Kadvany

Find coffee and community at Palo Alto's new Backyard Brew

Uploaded: Feb 1, 2017

A new caffeine option is now open on California Avenue in Palo Alto: Backyard Brew, where a Palo Alto native is hoping to to build a space for both coffee and community.

Backyard Brew officially opened this weekend at 444 California Ave. in an outdoor space tucked between Country Sun and Terún, behind the Farmers Insurance building. The space was previously occupied by Toscano Garden, a garden decor shop.

Backyard Brew owner Ryan Khalil has added tables, chairs, heat lamps and a coffee-making station with an espresso machine, coffee grinder, French presses and other tools.

The setup at Backyard Brew, a new outdoor coffee spot on California Avenue.

Beyond fresh-brewed coffee and a few baked goods, Khalil, who was born and raised in Palo Alto, said he wants Backyard Brew to be a community gathering space where people can feel free to express themselves — literally. People are welcome to draw on the outdoor walls, scribble on tabletops, paint fountains left behind by Toscano Gardens or display their art. A large whiteboard hangs on one wall with notes scribbled from customers.

Customers should "think of it as their own little slice of freedom" in an increasingly fast-paced, high-pressure area, he said.

Khalil said he's wanted to create an open, community space in Palo Alto ever since the city's last bowling alley closed in 2011. Coffee is a more recent interest, though he's worked in restaurants and previously owned his own catering company.

When the weather improves, Khalil plans to put up a silk screen and projector to host movie nights. He's open to hosting any other "fun community things," he said, "whatever people want." The Backyard Brew website also advertises LAN nights (when people gather in the same place with their computers to create a local area network, or LAN, typically to play games together) every Friday and hackathons on Saturdays.

Backyard Brew serves espresso drinks, Turkish coffee, French press and tea. Khalil's focus is on Mediterranean-style coffees, such as the "Bedouin Brew" ($2), a lightly roasted green coffee with cardamom (his grandmother's recipe). He blends Turkish coffee with various spices, like vanilla beans and Lebanese sage. The coffee beans come from Highnote Coffee in Woodside.

The opening menu at Backyard Brew and an almond-milk latte.

Backyard Brew is open from about 7 a.m. to 5 p.m daily. (Given the fact it's a one-man operation, the hours are "not definitive," Khalil said.)