A quiet morning off downtown

Philz Coffee on the Paseo de San Antonio

The holiday today gave me and my girlfriend an excuse to check out some new places downtown we haven’t had a chance to get to yet.

Philz Coffee opened up several weeks (months already?) ago in the Paseo de San Antonio, with tons of rave reviews about how great the coffee is. At 10 am the downtown area was pretty quiet, until we got to Philz, where there was a little island of life. There were three or four occupied tables out front and a few inside as well. Gary Singh from the Metro was sitting in the back doing whatever it is real journalists do with their laptops at coffee shops.

Since its not really on my way to anywhere, I haven’t had a chance to try it out yet. I like the fact that they serve every cup of coffee straight from the drip cone, so you know you’re getting the freshest possible cup. On the other hand, there’s no sugar and cream out for self-serve — you have to ask the barista to add what you want when you order. The amount of cream they added to my coffee totally killed the coffee flavor. My girlfriend had a similar experience ordering tea — she prefers her tea relatively mild, but her green tea was brewed so strong she thought they had made a mistake and given her black tea. I guess once you know exactly what you want, it would be a great system, and it keeps the shop cleaner. But for a first-timer, it was kind of a disappointment to get someone else’s idea of the right amount of cream, or the correct time to brew tea.

San Jose Ross

Ross Dress for Less on First Street

After coffee, we went over to the recently-opened Ross discount department store on First Street. I really like discount stores like Ross for basic clothing like sneakers, polo shirts, and khakis. The new Ross had a fine selection of those things, and has been kept clean and neat, unlike some of their other locations. My girlfriend’s verdict: “Best Ross store ever.”

It’s great to see new shops like these opening around downtown San Jose. I doubt if they really mean the recession is over. But they do show how slow economic times can encourage people and organizations to try something new, whether it’s a San Francisco coffee shop expanding into the South Bay, or the RDA taking a chance on a discount retailer instead of hoping vainly to get a high-end store into downtown.

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