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Palo Alto Online

Publication Date: Friday, December 28, 2001

Where everyone knows your name Where everyone knows your name (December 28, 2001)

by Joni Ratts

Are you looking for a place to get great coffee, a place to relax and hang out on a lazy afternoon, or a place to mellow out to some good jazz? The Dana Street Roasting Company has all that and more. The highlight of Dana Street, aside from the great coffee, is a San Franciscan coffee roaster. When owner Nick Chaput installed it four years ago it was Mountain View's first roaster, and as of October 17th it's paid for. Manufactured by the CoffeePER Company in Reno, Nevada, the roaster cost about thirty thousand dollars including installation. Dana Street is Chaput's first business venture. He wanted to own a coffee place with a roaster because he's passionate about good coffee, and because it's fun. A Menlo Park native with a background in film production, he learned to roast at the Palo Alto Roasting Company under the tutelage of Teri Hope. Chaput spent over two years fine-tuning his skills, and feels it's more craft than science. "It takes instinct to know when to drop a load," he says. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoon they roast their own special blends. From samples of green, unroasted beans, they do a "cupping", similar to wine tasting, and then select the best beans based on aroma, mouth feel, acidity and body. Buying raw beans allows them to control quality and cost. "We have a good quality product at a reasonable price," he told me. "And we're roasting our beans, our way." The roaster yields twenty-four pounds at a time. According to Manager Aaron Bratton, roasting uses all your senses to get it right,. "If it sounds right, looks right, and smells right, it's done." He apprenticed under Chaput for 2 1/2 years, and now is the caf»'s main roaster. He describes roasting, as "serious O chem -- the changing of complex carbo's into simple sugars." A Toledo scale and pallets stacked with burlap sacks of raw beans lend unique elements to the d»cor, but it's the casual, friendly environment that gives Dana Street its ambience. The caf» is unpretentious with its dated, pink and black check tile floor, and simple tables and chairs, some with the stuffing peeking out. One oversized antique table seems to be a favorite spot. Works by local artists are on rotating display, and laptops are a common sight now that Internet connections are provided. Whiteboard menus hang behind the counter. Early risers will find baskets of croissants, muffins, bagels and pastries, as well as mini cheese and bacon quiche and knish, to munch with their coffee (under $8.00 for two including blended coffee drinks). They are happy to toast your bagel and it comes with cream cheese. My friend ate chocolate cake ($2.95) for breakfast. But the big draw is coffee. It come in single, double and triple ($2.75 - $3.75). Several unique blends are caffe o'blarney, mocha Chiquita, mocha de menthe and caffe amaretto. The espresso drinks ($1.90 - $2.90) are made dry (extra foam), wet (extra milk) or traditional (1/3 milk, 1/3 foam, 1/3 espresso) and either long or short (on request). One popular choice is the "kick-in-the-pants", which combines espresso with drip coffee. For non-coffee drinkers they offer a nice selection of teas, including chai, and something called rice dream made with rice milk. You order and pay at one end of the counter and pick up at the other end. The same person taking your order often prepares it, so sometimes you have to wait, but no one minds. I found it much more pleasant than people shouting out coffee orders. Lunch is simple. Sandwiches are served on wheat, rye or baguette with tomato, lettuce, mayo, Dijon and onions. Choices include black forest ham, herb roasted turkey, tuna or turkey melts, albacore tuna, classic veggie and veggie melts ($4.50 - $5.50). They are large enough to share unless you're hungry, and come with chips or potato salad. Cheese and avocado are extra ($.75). We tried the 5 star mushroom soup and salad special ($4.75). The soup was rich and filling, with pieces of onion and mushrooms in an herb blend broth. The generous salad was fresh and topped with cucumbers, carrots, tomato, onion, and mushrooms over romaine strips. Additional salad options were: house, tuna, Caesar and turkey Caesar ($4.50 - $4.75). Coffee varietals, as well as decafs and blends, are offered by the pound and half-pound, and come ground or whole bean. The type and cost depend on raw bean availability, and include: Ethiopian Harrar ($9.00), Kenyan AA ($9.25), Zimbabwe la Lucie ($13.75), Java estate ($9.85), Sumatra Mandheling ($8.75), Colombia supreme ($8.60), Costa Rica la Minida and Guatemala dos Marias ($10.00). Coffee loses its fresh taste if not kept airtight in the freezer. Dana Street's coffee is used quickly and stored properly, so it's always at its freshest. A whiteboard calendar of events posts Dana Street nightlife. Every other Tuesday evening a French conversation group meets (7:45 to 9:45 p.m.). They welcome newcomers. On Friday and Saturday evenings it's live jazz. Groups usually begin around nine and play until closing. Mellow jazz, chocolate cake and coffee, what a combination! Desserts are plentiful. Recently, the Carte du jour included pumpkin cheesecake and pie, tiramisu, carrot, poppy seed and lemon/raspberry cakes, strawberry tarts, snicker layer cake, and my favorite, fudge cake ($1.75 - $3.95). There's always something sweet and delicious. The folks at Dana Street are approachable and friendly; there is little pretense so it's easy to strike up a conversation. One day I chatted with a man working on a wooden puzzle. The only negative is the lack of outside seating. I hope they bring it back soon. Chaput believes people will keep coffee treats in their lives even during slow economic times. He wants everyone to drink good coffee, and is happy to share information about a subject he loves. If you haven't discovered Dana Street Roasting yet, make a point to drop in. Dana Street Roasting Company, 744 W. Dana Street, Mountain View, (650) 390-9638 Hours: Mon.-Thu. 6:30 a.m.-10 p.m., Fri. till 11 p.m. Sat. 8 a.m.-11 p.m.; Sun. 8 a.m.- 6 p.m. Reservations: No Credit cards: Yes Takeout: Yes Parking: Street Noise level: Low Wheelchair access: Yes


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