Liz Swain 4:24 p.m., May 24
Point Loma's coffee roaster
Red's has great decor, under-performing espresso machines.
Based on looks alone, I liked Red’s Espresso Eatery (1017 Rosecrans Street) immediately. The place had an unexpected amount of character. The outside was unassuming, a “we’re open” sign the only indicator that anything’s going on inside. The narrow halls and cozy nooks of the interior gave it a sleepy, broken-in feel that made me want to settle in and linger over some work or a good book. I had been under the impression that it was just a coffee shop, but dinner menus rested on the counter and snug, little wine bar lurked at the back of the dining room. It turns out the kitchen has a full menu of Cajun-style dishes (shrimp étouffé and the like), which I’ve already made a point to go back and inspect at a later date.
I had been excited to drink the coffee there, since I’d heard it was roasted in house. I tried an Americano and, I have to say, it wasn’t very good. I suspect that the underdeveloped flavor came more from poor preparation than from inferior coffee. There were some promising, delicious hints hiding in the background, but the barista hadn’t managed to bring them out, which was a shame. I don’t like it when the details don’t add up. Everything about Red’s seemed really good, but the cup of coffee just didn’t meet expectations. I really feel like a place that pre-draws little hearts on all their to go cups should do better!
When I had first come in, I noticed that the staff was borderline frantic despite the quietude of the restaurant. As the girls working the espresso bar didn’t give the impression of wild incompetence, I suspect they were in the process of recovering from a hectic brunch service. I rarely feel like I didn’t get an accurate picture of a place and I don’t just extend the benefit of the doubt to restaurants, but I have a feeling I went to Red’s at entirely the wrong time. My instincts are usually pretty good on stuff like this. After all, I’ve been there. I’ve worked enough busy restaurant shifts to know that every place has bad days. At Red’s, I saw some extremely frustrated employees just trying to keep smiling. That counts for something. I’ll be back at Red’s for one more round (and maybe some jambalaya) before I’ve made up my mind.