Red Rock is a cool Four-Barrel affiliated shop in downtown Mountain View. I’ve had some really great Four Barrel espresso at other shops lately, so I was really excited when I heard these guys train up in San Francisco. It’s always fun to see how shops that source high-end coffee put their own spin on the product and reproduce the techniques from the roasting company.
I really liked the way RR is designed, from its logo to the “pub” sign out in front of the store. The decor had this urban city vibe to it, like RR should be on a busy corner of the city rather than downtown Mountain view. The seating area felt like a bar in the sense of the long row of two person tables stretched lengthwise through the store. Biased opinion, but red+darker reds+black color schemes of the shop felt very fitting in a “nice bar down the street” way. The baristas stand on a slightly raised platform, making the bar area noticbly high. Kinda cool, kinda like I am lining up and asking “for more” like Oliver Twist. RR is trendy but not in an over the top or uninviting way. I think the “city” vibe was reflected in the general atmosphere of the store.
Red Rock’s customer service was really notable. They were curteous but not over the top, friendly but not too laid back, all around very positive and “cool.” It was like the baristas wanted to be your buddies as well as your server, like having a friend (I mean one of your actual friends) behind the counter. I think this is pretty difficult to pull off; many times, baristas who try to be the hip/friendly type come off as unprofessional, fake, or ingenuine. These guys tread along that line and pulled off the “I am your buddy and I’m here to help you out” service very well. Good group of baristas, guys I would want to hang out and talk coffee with on my day off.
On a side note, one of the baristas had an “extractionist” apron on. Whether or not that was his literal job at the store, I thought it was pretty clever.
The cap itself was really great. It was too hot to drink right away, but the flavor was really solid and well balanced. Maybe it is just my interpretation of Four Barrel espresso, but I really like how it’s not sweet or bitter entirely. The best way to describe it is well-rounded and “hearty.” A lot of shops use single origin beans as espresso or utilize blends that are extremely bright, fruity, bitter, or have some extreme characteristic. The Four Barrel I had was not “exotic” as far as flavor goes, but extremely well balanced and a deliberately crafted flavor for milk. Solid, RR did a great job with this. The foam was pretty good, the barista spent time on the artwork, and it was well portioned in the milk/espresso department. Though it was slightly milky in the nice 10oz flat mug, I thought my cap overall was smooth and coherent with all the elements of the drink blending together nicely.
My one tiny little remark about Red Rock is the position of the espresso machine and it’s coherence with the rest of the bar. I am passionate about the machinery I use, how it works, why it is good, why it is unique, but most importantly how it makes me feel as a barista. The entire work space is “sacred” to me in the sense that everything must flow together in harmony. Where my machine is placed is also very important. Not only is it the heart and soul of a barista’s labor, I think it embodies the image and experience of the store as well. For some, it is a center piece to showcase (this is getting a bit archaic and nerdy). There are a lot of different ways to approach this and display the machine as a thing of beauty or the workhorse on the front lines; open on top of the bar, embedded into the work station, butted up against the wall in a work space, lots of variations. At RR, their beautiful paddle grouphead Linea is placed on the backwall of bar, almost out of sight. I really love paddle machines for practical and aesthetic reasons, plus they are fun to watch. I picked up on the “lack of machine on the bar” right away since I generally like to watch the process and observe different techniques. This time, it took me a while get a good angle to watch. I don’t think they are trying to hide the machine or anything. It is probably back there for practical purposes (water lines, space, etc). Though this is just a minor aesthetic criticism, I found the position of the machine and essentially the workspace of the entire store oddly placed. You guys are great, I wanna watch!
Overall, I think Red Rock puts out a great product, offering a solid coffee experience in the South Bay. I am always looking for places to go on the Penninsula and I think RR might be the last good shop between San Jose and the City. Correct me if I am wrong (because I would love to visit!) but I have not found any good shops on that stretch of road. The service is genuine, not young guys just there to work or obnoxious (unprofessional) kids there to put on a show. Solid guys, solid product, totally recommended.
- The urban city vibe
- My well balanced cap
- The location in the South Bay
- The cool professionalism of the “buddy” baristas
Red Rock Coffee201 Castro St
Mountain View, CA 94041 (650) 967-4473