In the 18th century when coffee first became popular in Europe, the coffee house was the center of the intellectual and artistic community. The great thinkers and creative minds of the day gathered in coffee houses to exchange ideas, share their creativity and even plan political stratagem. Even in our own beginnings, the coffee house was as important as the tavern as a meeting place for Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and John Adams. Read on for some of South Bay’s coffee shops that offer so much more than a cup of joe.

Willow Glenn Coffee Roasting Co.
1383 Lincoln Ave.
San Jose, CA  95125
(408) 297-9077

As the name implies, Willow Glenn roasts its own beans. Whether you order a cup to go or plan on sitting for a spell, you will be able to choose from a wide selection of coffee creations. You can get just a cup of coffee, of course, but if your tastes are more urbane, you won’t be disappointed. Want a pastry to go with your cup? You may choose from a broad selection of vegan-friendly sweet tidbits – everything from an assortment of creative cookies and biscotti to crumb cakes, apple and berry pie, croissants, bagels, lemon bars, bear claws and scones. Check out the soup and sandwich menu as well and be sure to check the calendar of upcoming entertainment. Willow Glenn tries to support local talent by offering live entertainment that ranges from jazz and blues to rock and folk and a lot in between.

Cafe Legato
Bloom Plaza
5663 Snell Ave.
San Jose, CA 95123
(408) 227-1873

This relatively new, family-owned business takes pride in its open hospitality. Its motto is “…it’s not just coffee…it’s the experience…” and a big part of that experience is the friendly and helpful staff. Many passions came together to create Café Legato: Mr. Arana’s wife’s passion for baking, his son’s creative ideas and his daughter’s passion for classical music. Café Legato is a great way to start the day, be it with a cup of espresso and a croissant or a waffle. You can’t go wrong with choosing one of the sandwiches, wraps or perhaps a filled croissant or empanada. The menu of sweets is impressive including a variety of old fashioned cookies, including everyone’s favorite, peanut butter. Café Legato also has a good selection of puff pastries, cakes and flans. Drop by Friday evenings for live entertainment.

Orchard Valley Coffee
349 E. Campbell Ave.
Campbell, CA 95008
(408) 374-2115 

At Orchard Valley, in addition to its selection of sumptuous sippers guaranteed to satisfy your most severe caffeine needs and beyond, you may also choose from a staggering array of baked goods to accompany your cup of eye opener. Bagels are in abundance with flavors like blueberry, cinnamon raisin, garlic, poppy seed and sesame seed and this spot even has a great selection of cream cheeses to accompany your bread. Also enjoy scones, pound cake, brownies, cinnamon buns, biscotti, bear claws, turnovers, Russian tea cakes, sticky buns and more. Looking for something a bit more substantial? Check out the salad, sandwich, quiche or breakfast selections.

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Palo Alto Baking Co.
381 California Ave.
Palo Alto, CA 94306
(650) 321-3234

This is a full-service bakery offering a seductive array of sumptuous baked goods that you may enjoy on the spot with one of the specialty coffee creations or take home. Palo Alto Baking Co. also makes cakes that can fill your every cake need no matter what the occasion. Take a look at its excellent selection of breads for even more options.

Your Coffee Cups
46685 Mission Blvd.
Fremont, CA 94539
(510) 578-6999

If you want to satisfy your whimsy with pure fun and kitsch, you couldn’t do better than Your Coffee Cups. The concept of having your morning coffee served up by the 21st century version of go-go girls will get your blood circulating in the morning. This spot sticks mostly to drinks but you can find a few food selections including bagels, cookies, croissants and muffins.

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Geraldine Duncann is a freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. Her work can be found on