It’s not too far-fetched to think of coffee as a training aid. It helps motivate the start of many people’s days, and keeps us on course for whatever endurance test awaits.
But finding the right cup of coffee is another matter. Like the varying personal preferences in running shoes, coffee drinkers aren’t always easy to please.
Fortunately, the Monterey Peninsula has plenty of keen coffee houses. Runners visiting the area for the Big Sur International Marathon should easily be able to find a satisfying brew.
Here are four favorites, two in Monterey and one each in Seaside and Carmel:
Acme Coffee Roasting Company, 485-B Palm Ave., Seaside. (831) 393-9113. www.acmecoffeeroasting.com.
The Embassy Suites hotel stands as a monolith just off Highway 1 in Seaside, a few miles from Monterey. Find your way there and it’s a few-block walk to the not-so-easy-to-find Acme Coffee. It’s built in the warehouse-garage of a former abandoned alley, and it’s worth getting lost a time or two to find it.
There are no tables, a few plastic chairs, a small narrow counter and a one-of-a-kind slogan, “Resist Corporate Coffee.” Business folks in suits, retirees, police officers, car mechanics and students all stand around, exchange pleasantries and drink powerful brew made inside the tiny old building.
Regulars are called Acmeholics, and with good reason. Ask for Papua New Guinea a well-bodied dark roast, or the Uganda, a french roast with a hint of dark chocolate. You’ll be set for a few hours.
Plenty of other choices are equally good, and there’s a small selection of fresh pastries, and a lot of good neighborhood karma. There’s only one downside. Acme is open Monday through Friday, 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday. But it’s closed on Sunday.
Carmel Coffee House & Roasting Company.Ocean Ave., Carmel (Between Delores & San Carlos). (831) 626-2095. www.carmelcoffee.com.
Walk down a narrow, brick-lined alley and quaintness unfolds at the end of the path. Powerful coffee choices like Ocean Avenue and Carmel Sunrise satisfy are roasted in small batches and are 100 percent organic.
Specialty drinks are done right and lots of pastry choices abound. There are two equally good seating options. A few indoor corner room tables are quiet in the late morning for reading or computer time. But the courtyard tables provide Carmel ambience at its finest. Locals bring their dogs and there’s a coziness amid the bricks, shrubbery and close-knit quarters.
The website lists the coffee house as the only micro-roaster in Carmel and the results are available daily 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
East Village Coffee Lounge, 498 Washington St., Monterey, (831) 373-5601. www.eastvillagecoffeelounge.com.
Manager Tarin Muir bounded in one recent morning with purpose in her gait. She moved a few chairs, turned on a few lights and said a vibrant hello to two co-workers who emerged from cave-like side rooms.
East Village serves keen coffees, espresso drinks as well as wine and bottled and draft beer. And there’s a plentiful selection of pastries, breakfast burritos, sandwiches and homemade soups. But its uniqueness is the building, one of several business in the combined residential and commercial neighborhood made of Carmel sandstone.
It’s an ideal place for music because of the acoustics, and when Muir became the manager about nine months ago she brought energy and her experience as booking agent. Now there’s music three or four nights a week during the extensive hours, Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., Wednesday and Friday, 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
East Village has a main seating area and varying-sized aforementioned cave-like side rooms, some conducive for an intimate meeting, other better for reading or a quiet meal and afternoon break. There’s plenty outdoor seating, too. Eclectic artwork decorates the bespoke wood and stone walls. The varied music, a flamingo guitarist to young indie bands, is delightful, relaxed and intimate.
Plumes Coffee House, 400 Alvarado St., Monterey. (831) 373-4526. (No website).
As a former jewelry store, Plumes has a unique U-shaped window and it’s situated perfectly for patrons to sit with a cup of coffee and an accompanying sweet treat and watch downtown Monterey unfold.
Plumes is the oldest coffee shop in Monterey and it serves more than 35 varieties of Fair Trade organic coffee. Slow drip coffee is the way to go, and Sweet Italian and Heart of Darkness from nearby Santa Cruz Roasting Company are favorites.
Like other small are businesses, Plumes relies on local suppliers for its pastries. One late-night “secret” is the steam apple juice. Ask for it extra hot and frothy. Vintage rock & roll visitors are in luck. The walls are lined with posters from bands from back in the day, Jefferson Airplane to Santana, Big Brother & The Holding Company to the Grateful Dead. It also seems like Plumes is always open, which is almost true. Hours are daily 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
(Originally published on Runner’s World.com, 4/12/2016)