If you’re looking for a caffeine connection and a little relief from the daily grind, you’ll find just the spot hidden in plain sight on El Camino Real just north of Traffic Way.
Diane Helbert opened Bru Coffeehouse two years ago with the goal of “bringing a world-class coffee experience to this area — from the atmosphere to the whole coffee experience.”
With its high ceilings, natural materials and understated color palette, the interior of Bru is indeed a classic coffeehouse. Place your order at the barista counter, then settle into a comfy spot in one of Bru’s two rooms. Grab a stool by the window, sink into one of the leather couches, or pop your laptop open at one of the tables. You’ll find plenty of plugs along the wall for all your electronics, and there’s free Wi-Fi.
In developing the coffeehouse, Helbert knew from the start that she wanted to serve Stumptown Coffee. This brand of bean enjoys almost cultlike status in java nation, primarily because of its pioneering efforts in “direct trade” sourcing right from the coffee growers. By establishing such relationships, the Portland-based company can keep a close eye on quality, from freshness to bean size.
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Bru is the only coffeehouse between San Francisco and Los Angeles to serve Stumptown, a distinction granted only after Helbert spent a weekend in Portland, almost akin to an audition for the company. Once Stumptown gave the go-ahead, however, they have provided full educational support for the baristas regarding various countries of origin, roasting levels and so on, all knowledge that the Bru crew will happily share with customers.
“We want to educate people without being intimidating, whether someone is new to coffee or is more involved with it,” said Helbert. Just as with wine, she explained, the coffee’s flavor profiles will express the terroir of where it was grown, as will factors such as different drying processes.
Not long after opening, Bru also began serving another brew: draft craft beers. That came about “because customers began asking for it on the nights we have live acoustic music,” Helbert said. Recently, the taps featured local favorites Firestone and Tap It, plus Stella Artois and Ninkasi, and bottled beer and local wines are available as well.
Customer demand also perked up Bru’s food menu, and the coffeehouse now serves breakfast and lunch daily. Due to the diminutive kitchen area, “it’s a streamlined menu,” said Helbert, but the staff still finds a way to make from-scratch soups, salad dressings and whatever pastry items Bru doesn’t get from nearby Hush Harbor Bakery.
For breakfast, you can enjoy yogurt with housemade granola or tuck into a hearty plate of eggs, potatoes and bacon or sausage. There are also meat or veggie breakfast “Bru-ritos,” as well as the popular meat or veggie egg-filled breakfast tacos with housemade salsa. On Sundays, Bru serves the breakfast menu all day plus a special dish such as fresh peach pancakes or bananas Foster waffles.
Currently, choices for lunch are soup-of-the-month, house salad or a turkey bacon sandwich with housemade chipotle mayo.
“We’re trying to use seasonal, organic and GMO-free ingredients wherever we can,” Helbert said. “We also try to go to the farmers’ market, and try to support our local community. We really want to foster that community connection. I want Bru to be that place where people want to go, where they feel they can relax, hang out and be comfortable.”