This coffee house, easily missed from the street, offers a wonderfully spent morning to any of its loyal patrons. With a granola-ey vibe and rich, rustic feel, the midtown Palo Alto Philz provides an ideal low key coffee-cozy shop. Sporting a colorful full-sized mural on the outside of its dark wood trim, Philz’s personality is displayed by decor. Inside the rather cramped coffee bar, collages and fliers are hung on the wall along with signed photos of baristas, who all seem happily busy to be working in such a happily cluttered place. For many, the eclectic style is a positive and thought to be what gives the cafe some personality.
The chain extends from San Francisco to San Jose, and it’s becoming impossible for any self-proclaimed coffee socialite to ignore the delectable coffee served at all the locations. Most accessible to students, is the earthy coffee bar in midtown Palo Alto on Middlefield Road. For those that would rather have convenience go along with their coffeeshop, don’t worry—Philz is most definitely worth the trip.
Philz takes their motto of “one cup at a time” to heart, as every drink is brewed to order. Each barista mans a station with three brewing spaces. Coffee beans are ground to order, with each cup then being made with its own large coffee filter in hot water (imagine making tea). This alleviates any bitterness found in most traditional coffee, home-brewed or Starbucks. Though the wait time for your coffee might be long, it is easily forgettable after tasting the coffee.
The baristas, mostly young, hippie-looking students, seem genuinely invested in the quality of each drink. If a customer is unhappy with their drink, they will eagerly fix or remake any drink as needed. Most impressive though is the quasi-community these hilarious workers seem to form. If one of them drops a metal scooper with beans that spill all over the floor, it’s followed by a chorus of “Ohhhhh!” and a round of applause.
The price, while expensive compared to home-brewed, isn’t much more than Starbucks or Peet’s, ranging between $3-4 depending on the brew and increasing by $.25 with each size increase.
As far as taste goes, Philz is hard to beat. With an exotic (and at times ridiculous) menu ranging from Jacobs Wonderbrew roast and iced mint mojito to the Philharmonic brew and French decaf, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. Simply take a step back, and read the descriptions below on their chalkboard. The Ambrosia Coffee of God blend and the Anesthesia to the Upside blend make much more sense after reading that they are medium blends with smooth yet strong finishes. Don’t let the quirky titles be intimidating. One can hardly go wrong with any beverage. An earthy richness can be expected from about every coffee, with a smooth finish that is easy to savor. Philz coffee makes drinking easier as they serve the coffee warm, not hot. The coffees aren’t completely acquired tastes, but they do take awhile to get used to.
Though few of their roasts are bitter, take into consideration that Philz doesn’t mess around with the strength of their coffee: Fainthearted should stray towards decaf. When asked if one would like cream and sugar, the answer should almost always be yes (not to worry, somehow Philz knows just the right amount to put in). This is partly because the coffee is strong, but mainly because at Philz, they don’t skimp on quality. When they say “cream,” they mean cream, not any mediocre creamer. Though it may not be a diet drink, the cream adds a smooth, silky richness to every cup that’s so satisfying one could almost count it as a meal in itself.
In fact, just drinking Philz as a meal is a better option than ordering their croissants or danishes. After a few bites it becomes clear that they were purchased from another location and heated up on site. While many eat them if they’re hungry enough, they aren’t worth the calories or the cash. They seem to be an option as more of a technicality than because they’re tasty: something had to fill the display case.
Compared to the more traditional “lounge” feel of their coffee shop in San Jose, or the modern feel of the Philz in downtown Palo Alto, this Philz is closer to a coffee bar, with little room inside the cluttered restaurant aside from a few benches and a place for the (always existent) line to stand. Where, then, do people enjoy their gourmet coffee? Right outside one of the two doors, which are kept wide open on sunny days, is a patio-style sitting area with circular metal tables and chairs. A wooden, vine covered structure provides pleasant shade and isolates the oasis from surrounding traffic.
Couples, runners, individuals with their dogs and college students are frequent customers of this local coffee shop. The amount of regular costumers isn’t daunting. It mainly inspires the first-timers to come more often to enjoy the comfort and 0riginality of Philz.