Sometimes, a novelist needs a quiet, cozy corner. A place to immerse oneself in a character, a scene, an emotion. At those moments, I seek out a coffee shop with a soft couch, dim lighting, and a quiet hum of white noise in the background.
But sometimes, a very different kind of ambiance is in order.
Any serious writer must, on occasion, come down from the clouds and get stuff done. Allegro Coffee Roasters in the Berkeley neighborhood is one of my favorite destinations when I need to act more like a deal-making entrepreneur than a moody artist.
Allegro's flagship location occupies a corner on Tennyson Street, set amid new boutiques, restaurants, and a few old-school storefronts. It's pretty much impossible to miss. With massive windows on either side, Allegro's modern loft-like space is on full display. Here you'll find bright colors, exposed brick, geometric light fixtures, and soaring wooden rafters. A coffee roastery takes up part of the shop, with--of course--another big window so you can see the real-time roasting happening within.
The ample seating--at big tables, counters, and even on oversized, tiered benches--make Allegro a great spot to meet your writing group or critique partner. But plenty of people are working solo at their laptops, too. Allegro is the ideal place to say to the world, Hey, see me? I'm being productive! And getting into the right mindset is half the battle, right? It is for me anyway. The openness of the space means that anyone and everyone can see what you're working on, which is a great incentive not to stray over to YouTube and watch last night's Late Show monologue.
As you'd expect from a shop with in-house roasting, the coffee is great here. They have their own blends, available as pour-over and in the usual espresso drinks. But don't forget to check out the drink specials. I particularly like the rotating cold brews, which often have subtle flavors like maple syrup or cardamom. They're not too sweet, and they're usually served without milk. Perfect for a coffee lover who wants something a little different.
The pastries are gorgeous, tapped from local bakeries. The lemon curd muffin and blood orange bread alone are worth the trip. As with the featured drink selections, the pastry offerings vary. There's always something new to try.
Allegro is full of light and energy. The music is loud, the conversation plentiful. It's also full of potential distractions, which makes Allegro a less than ideal place (to me, at least) for drafting a complex scene or getting into the head of a character. But that same excitement creates the perfect setting for the business side of writing. It might be prepping query letters. Updating social media. Or what about researching comps, outlining a new project, or catching up on publishing news? Dress the part--think part hipster, part startup CEO--and you're ready to get some things accomplished. Maybe it's not actual novel writing, but if you're wearing a blazer, it still counts as work!
All that Allegro energy translates to lots of check marks on my to-do list. Isn't that the best feeling? It's almost as much fun as wasting time on YouTube. Which I will do, guilt-free, as soon as I get home.