Korean Bakery Opens in Berkeley

After I wrote my recent post about Korean innovation, I noticed an example in downtown Berkeley. A few months ago, the Korean bakery Paris Baguette opened a branch in a good location (next to a BART station) that has seen two businesses — two different cafe chains — fail in the last 5 or 6 years. It seemed to be doing well. There were more customers than I’d ever seen with the previous business (Tully’s Coffee). Paris Baguette has about 20 American branches.

Jane Jacobs once called Berkeley a “pretentious suburb” but it is where Peet’s — the original of Starbucks — began and where Chez Panisse is. It had a farmer’s market and an emphasis on organic food long before the rest of America. (A new survey suggests the health benefit of organic food is small or zero.) If you could call a location an “early adopter” Berkeley would qualify, but that would be understating it. Via the Free Speech Movement and the whole notion of student protest, little Berkeley shaped an entire decade (the Sixties). But it seems to have been a long time, like half a century, since anything important started here. The Bay Area, however, remains enormously innovative (Google, Twitter, Intel, and so on).

 

13 Responses to “Korean Bakery Opens in Berkeley”

  1. Cathy Says:

    Not surprised Tully’s coffee failed, that is awful tasting coffee! I’m sure there are other better places to get a good cup of coffee in Berkeley. Also, it is possible that the Korean bakery will have decent coffee.

    I find it strange that it is a French bakery. I have been seeing a few articles recently where the French connection is made to cuisine in Vietnam, especially Hanoi which makes sense since it was a colony of France. Let us know what you think of the place, it sounds intriguing!

  2. dearieme Says:

    I remember strolling about the Berkeley campus in the summer of ’66. It smelt funny.

  3. George Says:

    It’s funny you list twitter and google as paradigm examples of innovation – they’re my go-to examples of what I consider the utterly trivial nature of what people call “innovation” these days.

    Korean bakeries aren’t nearly as good as Vietnamese sandwich shops (Banh Mi). I’m sure you know about them , everyone does – some are lame, but the good ones are awesome! What I like about the Korean (and other Asian) coffee shops is that they somehow provide a really tranquil and soothing atmosphere. I’m not even sure what it is, but they’ve figured that out. Maybe it’s the clientele – Starbucks in America are filled with yuppie strivers focusing away with incredible intensity on their computer screens – grim faces, serious looks, they just ooze tension, effort, and striving. No one smiles. No one looks up. The original European idea of the coffee house as a relaxed social space where you go to share an idle hour (or three) chatting with friends, or read some light book, has been perverted in typical American fashion into workaholic spaces where grim people gather to energize themselves with shots of strong coffee while they conquer the world. It’s quite hideous. The lack of relaxation and ease is palpable. Asia, I believe, has managed to preserve the European concept of the coffee shop much better.

  4. Andrew Says:

    I can’t believe I bothered to read all of George’s comment. :-/

  5. Sam Says:

    What I like about the Korean (and other Asian) coffee shops is that they somehow provide a really tranquil and soothing atmosphere.

    I’ve noticed this as well. I think part of it is the interior decor. The Korean shops tend to be warmly and brightly lit inside. Starbucks tends to be dark with moody lighting inside. Also the focus in Korean shops seems to be on the snacks, deserts, cakes, etc. rather than on coffee. With Starbucks and other American coffee shops, the focus is mostly on coffee. People going to eat pastries and snacks will be in a lighter mood than people going for coffee.

  6. kxmoore Says:

    If you have ever had a baguette in Paris or for that matter one from a real French bakery anywhere in the world “Paris Baguette” will disappoint.

  7. Seth Roberts Says:

    What’s interesting about Paris Baguette is the innovation. Not the quality of the baguettes. The innovation is not disappointing.

  8. dearieme Says:

    “yuppie strivers focusing away with incredible intensity on their computer screens – grim faces, serious looks, they just ooze tension, effort, and striving. No one smiles. No one looks up.”

    And yet much of what they do is doubtless worthless piffle. It’s a funny old world.

  9. George Says:

    Oh, it’s undoubtedly worth piffle dearieme. The things they waste their youth on and take so seriously are indescribably trivial. But in a world that glorifies “work”, to be busy is to be cool. Every civilization before us glorified the life of leisure and idleness and contemplation. Perhaps you worked so you could achieve leisure, but work itself wasn’t cool. I pity these kids.

  10. Andrew Says:

    Yawn. Congrats on knowing exactly what your millions of imagined whippersnappers are up to.

    Could you sneer a bit more efficiently, please?

  11. kxmoore Says:

    “What’s interesting about Paris Baguette is the innovation”

    I didn’t see innovation at Paris Baguette. Just a bad imitation of a French cafe. But then again, McDonald’s is a bad imitation of a burger joint.

  12. Sam Says:

    I didn’t see innovation at Paris Baguette. Just a bad imitation of a French cafe. But then again, McDonald’s is a bad imitation of a burger joint.

    I suppose the innovation would be the different tastes and the different items they have. If the tastes don’t appeal to you, then I suppose it would just seem like a bad imitation rather than innovation.

    Personally, I like both real baguettes and Western baked goods, as well as the kinds at Paris Baguette and other Korean bakeries. The latter tastes different and good to me.

    One thing I like in particular is how the deserts are much less sweet and less richer than French deserts. Though the ordinary breads tend to be sweeter than ordinary French breads.

    Incidentally, McDonald’s is much closer to a traditional burger joint than the newer burger joints popping up these days. McDonald’s started as an old school burger joint, and its burgers are still closer to the traditional burgers than the newer, monstrous gourmet burgers that are popping up these days.

  13. Seth Roberts Says:

    “Just a bad imitation of a French cafe.”

    You underestimate what was necessary to win the Cafe Wars in Seoul.