Thursday, June 18, 2009

Jay's Coffee House

Jay's Coffee House on Encinal has great ambiance and atmosphere. I enjoy the interiors of both rooms of the Cafe and it feels like a homey, neighborhood hangout. Friends of mine who have been customers at Jay's for decades had mentioned the comfortable surroundings and great cinnamon rolls once upon a time. I was told that somewhere down the line, the original owner sold the business and the cafe was never the same thereafter. For the time that I have lived in Alameda, which has been over a decade I don't believe the cafe ever changed hands.

Since the time I moved to the Island, I've been a regular customer of Jay's. I mostly go there in the mornings for breakfast pastries and in the late afternoon for baked goods. Each time I go there I am always wondering about the so-called infamous cinnamon rolls that old timers keep on talking about. A few times I did inquire about the rolls, but I was told that they didn't have them. I am still waiting. A friend of mine informed me the cinnamon rolls were a specialty of the original owner and not the forte of the current owner. Too bad because the rolls sounds delicious.
So while I am keeping my fingers crossed for the resurrection of the cinnamon rolls, I buy croissants and scones in the meantime. I have to say the plain or the chocolate croissants are better tasting compared to the meat and cheese croissants. For some reason, the meat and cheese croissants are not flaky enough for me. The croissant is too mushy for my liking and it ends up being flat as a pancake and it doesn't keep its shape. A good croissant is firm on the outer layers of the pastry while the center is soft.

The scones are decent and moist. The texture is soft, but with the right firmness. The icing adds a slightly sweet taste which is a quality I really enjoy. Some scones at other bakeries are dry and not sweet enough for me. The orange and pecan scone is a good choice because the flavors of the nuts are supreme.

As for baked goods, the cookies are okay and palatable, but the real prize are the brownies. The cookies taste like something that anyone could bake at home. My preference for the brownies over the cookies is that the brownies are intense in flavor and a better product than something homemade from a box.

My personal opinion on cupcakes are that cupcakes are for suckers. Bakeries charge too much money for a small cake with cheap frosting on top. Even though the mini cakes seem tempting and cute, the retail cost of a cupcake is not worth the $2 to $4 price. That is why I never buy cupcakes at Jay's or anywhere else on that matter.

The hot cocoa at Jay's is also a bust. The drink is warmed milk with a squirt of chocolate sauce. Nothing special.


Anonymous said...

Love the staff at Jay's and the chocolate croissants are the best in town, but cannot STAND the parents that let their toddler age children run all around the place, including behind the counter! Besides the irritation factor, the practice is totally dangerous for a place that sells HOT drinks. It seems crazy that a parent would put their child in that position, but unfortunately at Jay's they do.

Chattwin said...

Whoa! I'm wondering how long you've been going to Jay's? Since Barbara, the original owner, left, the place has gone way, way downhill in quality and in its offerings.

Before the current owner, everything was bright and fresh, and there was always something new, creative, and delicious to try.

The current owner has torn out the charming staircase that led to the loft and replaced it with a soft drink machine. Talk about tacky!

But the food has suffered the most. For example, I took my very picky mom there for a sandwich. She ordered her sandwich with sourdough bread, one of the choices on the menu. When it arrived on whole wheat, the owner announced, "It's better for you anyway," without an apology for not preparing it as ordered, or offering another choice.

I used to love the sweet potato sandwich. One day I ordered that, and the chicken salad to go. When I got home and went to eat these usually delightful offerings, I was almost in tears. The sweet potato sandwich was nearly inedible because of the way the sandwich had been constructed. The sweet potato was in big chunks instead of delicate slices, and fought for a hold on the bread with the likewise chunky avocado, but the real surprise was that instead of the swiss cheese that the sandwich calls for, it had provolone, as if whoever made it said, "Well, similar color, whatever."

But the worst was the chicken salad. The "chicken" was a rubbery, off-white cubed material that might have been related to a chicken once in its life, but only distantly.

What had once been a delightful place where I always took visitors to the island to show off our charm, has devolved into a lukewarm, it-will-do-in-a-pinch, slovenly-presented hole in the wall.

I much prefer Julies on Park.

Mush said...

I have to reiterate some of what Chattwin said. The original owner, Barbara, sold the place a few years ago. So indeed the business has changed hands. If you want verification, you can ask Barbara herself. She owns Daisy's on Park street. Very nice knick-knack shop. I still go to Jay's for the chocolate chip cookies. I think they're delicious. Taste, after all, is individual. I do like the brownies there also. And the new owner and staff at Jay's are friendly.

Don Marti said...

Best coffee cake in Alameda. Fresh baked, and they cut it into good-sized pieces. There's also free wireless access and a couple of power outlets, but not too many people turning the place into an office away from office, so that's good. (I have had the coffee cake from both the old and new management, and it's still good. Maybe even a little better.)