I have recently enjoyed some time in my hometown. Nearly three weeks of uninterrupted time has given me the chance to leisurely explore, and to find a new appreciation for my particular section of southern California.
On one particularly eventful day, I drove over to Chino Hills to visit Chino Hills State Park. In October, it happen to be 90 degrees, quite the unusually warm day to visit and hike around a park.
I enjoyed a nice breeze, some outstanding overlooks, and a short sweaty hike. It was a brief but beautiful visit. At its end, I really felt like something more than water, perhaps a good cup of coffee. Hello Google.
I had been researching local coffee shops since my arrival in southern California and I had stumbled upon Platform 909. It had peaked my interest but I hadn’t been close enough to make a stop. Turns out, it’s less than a mile from Chino Hills State Park!
Platform 909 is a Harry Potter-inspired coffee shop, which I did not realize until I entered it. For some reason I had focused on the 909 part, and fallen in love because this was my area code as a child. I just felt that it would be fun to go somewhere that was somehow honoring my original and specific Californian identity (someone from the 909).
The venue is relatively small, but there are plenty of options for seating (tall tables, small tables, a couple of cushioned chairs). The lighting is excellent, lots of natural light, which is my personal favorite. The parking is free and plentiful, which is important anywhere but certainly in southern California. Finally, the customer service is absolutely outstanding.
The woman answered all of my questions: they’ve only been open about a year, this is their only location, they serve tea along with coffee, and yes this a Harry Potter inspired place.
The barista also explained their Spanish latte.
Spanish Latte: coffee, condensed milk, a sprinkle of cinnamon.
Not overly sweet, not as much as you’d think; great hot or iced.
I decided to go for it–I purchased an iced Spanish latte.
It was delightful. The condensed milk was not overpowering, the drink had only a bit of sweetness. The cinnamon on top I immediately mixed into the drink, so when I was drinking I had hints of cinnamon here and there. The combination, the balance of condensed milk and coffee, was perfect for me. I had enough coffee and enough milk to enjoy my drink as well as get a dose of coffee/caffeine for the day.
If you’re in southern California, close to Chino Hills, make a stop at Platform 909, the coffee is magical.
- Dunkin’ Donuts
- The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf
- McDonald’s McCafe
- Peet’s Coffee and Tea
You know them.
You know their logos.
You know their colors.
You know what to order.
I am a huge advocate of local coffee shops.
I travel and search for the best local coffee shops. It is within the family-owned business, within the truly local scene, that you get a more personalized experience. It feels like your business not only means more in these places, but it has the ability to do more. Finally, it’s in these venues that you can explore the culture of a community. Locals patron local venues.
That all being said, there is something truly wonderful about coffee chains. I will not promote these brands with the same pomp and circumstance as Mothership, or Sunrise, or Affogato, but I will say that coffee chains are valuable and beautiful in their own right.
Coffee chains have standardized decor, menus, and processes, so you are quite guaranteed the same experience, and taste. Coffee chains are more likely to have drive-thrus, so you can keep yourself moving. Coffee chains are more likely to have rewards programs, so you can feel a little bit better about spending money on your morning cup of coffee. Coffee chains are by definition, everywhere–if I’m going to work, if I’m on vacation, or if I’m at my mom’s house, I know that there’s a preferred chain nearby–I know where I can get something I definitely like to drink.
These chains, by being ubiquitous, give you options. If you love a particular drink, but dislike a barista, or the parking situation, or whatever about that particular store, you don’t have to give up that coffee drink you love–you just have to hop over to a different location to savor the same coffee in a better environment, which ultimately enhances the taste.
There’s nothing wrong with a coffee chain.
I want to find the unknown location, the hidden gem, or the new hot-spot because it’s different and new. However, I do not condemn, or completely shun, coffee chains.
I like that there are certain places I am guaranteed to find wherever I go. That is security, and security feels good.
There’s no need to scour a menu or hope for a good recommendation or worry about the price. I know what I like, what I want, and how much it’s going to cost. That translates into even more security and comfort, even more of a good feeling.
What else is neat, arguably better, about coffee chains? Sometimes I find a new place and I think it’s only available to me for now, but then I discover it’s a chain within a specific region. That is an awesome surprise!
Places like Philz Coffee, Blue Bottle, and Dutch Bros. I originally thought were local gems have grown into, or been discovered to be, smaller chains. I don’t have to only be in *insert specific city* to patron this particularly awesome locale.
Smaller chains provide a measure of novelty as well as security–they may not be near me, but I’m traveling this summer and two of my favorite smaller chains, unavailable to me at home, are available during my travels and that’s exciting! If I want the comfort and assurance of great coffee, I already know where to go.
Each coffee shop, even each chain, has its perks and pitfalls. So, there is always room to explore and grow as a coffee drinker.
For instance, seasonal drinks: I love when new drinks or season-based drinks come out. It’s something to look forward to, or crave, even if it’s just temporary. It’s a way for a coffee chain to entice me to them–above all others–for just a few months.
The merits of a coffee chain are plentiful, and it’s okay to go back and make sure that our preferred drink from *insert favorite chain* in Ontario, California is just as good in Henderson, Nevada.
So I say go ahead and have your standardized, reliable cup–a cup you can get anywhere in case of an emergency. Enjoy the smaller chains, know you are special to live or be in a place where this brand has been established. When you travel, find comfort knowing that a big chain, or smaller chain, is available to you to fulfill your coffee needs. Relish in that feeling, enjoy that experience.
It is an amazingly secure and comfortable feeling created by a menu you know and trust. I can’t deny it, and that’s why coffee chains, big and small, are actually kinda magnificent.
Yes, coffee chains, you have my full love and support. Cheers to you!
Thank you to all the coffee chains for giving us all something so dependable in our hectic lives.
Welcome to my favorite part of the world: the Bay Area.
I have a deep love, unconditional love really, for the Bay Area, specifically San Francisco and Berkeley.
I consider the Bay Area more than home, it is heaven on earth.
One day . . . when I’m a millionaire . . . I’ll live there. For now, I’ll just visit and encourage you to do so as well.
When you visit San Francisco, and I know you will, and you really have to, I recommend a stop at Home Cafe.
Enjoy the hills! Enjoy the outdoors! Take the Muni, get a Lyft, or walk over to Noriega St. and 20th Ave. It’s part of the experience.
It’s a small venue and there is no outdoor seating.
I went on a Saturday morning and had to take my food and drink to-go. It was packed–line out the door.
As the line moved, I noticed long tables, seats next to big windows, and a fun policy: no devices.
While no one is going to kick you out, I saw someone on a laptop, this establishment encourages conversation. I appreciate that, and it plays well into this idea of “home.”
Well, it’s not pictured because I took it to-go, and I opened it up, and I tasted it, and then I devoured it. I’m not sure how I breathed I ate so fast.
What did I get? Condensed milk toast.
I feel like San Francisco is the only place where toast could be marketed and purchased as a meal. I would say I fell for it (I bought toast?), but honestly it was an amazing dessert, or large pastry. So amazing, when I opened my container I couldn’t stop to take a picture or consider anything but shoving it into my mouth.
Now, this trip was made possible by one of my best friends who lives in San Francisco. She got some toast as well, but hers was the special of the day. We both shared some of our toast with her baby. Her baby loved every bite–every bite we managed to share with her. So that’s three great reviews on the toast–that means get some toast!
And what goes with toast?
If you look at reviews online, one thing people keep saying is: drinks are great for Instagram!
Well, as important as pictures may be to some, and I understand presentation is crucial, let’s face it: it needs to taste good.
And this is where Home Cafe won my heart all over again. I ordered their famous birthday cake latte. Presentation and Instagram worthiness: A+. Then, the first sip.
It was sweet, but not overdone. It had a creamy feel to it. It wasn’t exceptionally strong, but from what I gather it’s not meant to be a strong elixir of coffee or caffeine. It was just delicious.
I’m not a chugger of coffee, I usually allow it to cool for about 5 minutes and then I sip for a good 30 minutes. That did not happen. I drank this quickly. It was simply a perfectly balanced drink. Truly delicious. I craved it every day after our visit.
My friend? She got a coconut almond latte. She enjoyed her drink as well, but I think birthday cake latte wins. We did not share any coffee with her baby. We did however drink our coffee and eat our toast at the San Francisco Zoo. That’s right: the zoo!
Home Cafe has an intimate venue, Instagram worthy coffee, delicious coffee, insane toast options, and a great location–just four miles from the zoo.
So, with all of that in mind, the next time you’re in San Francisco: get some coffee, and toast, at Home Cafe–and if there’s nowhere to sit, or if you want to drink and eat with a pretty neat view, head over to the zoo! And when you’re done at the zoo, go back to Home Cafe–let me know about the rest of the toast!