The soft opening hours for the new Philz Coffee in Sacramento were supposed to be 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Thursday. But coffee fans already were inside and ordering their free coffees by 10:45, as a line of hopefuls waited outside the coffee shop in the new Ice Blocks development at 1725 R St.
Philz is about “building community,” Philz CEO Jacob Jaber – son of Philz founder Phil Jaber – said Thursday inside the new location. Jaber got a jump on the community-building process in Sacramento by opening the doors early to the airy new Philz space, which is decorated with white subway-style tile and with exposed brick that pays homage to the R Street Corridor’s history as a warehouse district.
Philz began in 2003 in San Francisco’s Mission District and now counts more than three-dozen outlets in California and Washington, D.C., with another planned for Davis later this year.
The chain’s fans swear by its specialty pour-over coffee, each cup of which involves a barista combining beans and water to order and adding milk or sugar to the customer’s liking.
The coffee, pastries and samples of Philz’ avocado toast were free on Thursday. When the Sacramento Philz officially opens for business at 6 a.m. Friday, prices will run $3.50 for a small and $4.50 for a large cup. Though some people balk at Philz’s prices, Jaber said that in terms of the craft and labor involved, his chain’s coffee is more akin to other coffee houses’ $4 or $5 espresso-based drinks than to their cheaper drip coffees.
“You can’t compare Philz to a traditional drip coffee that comes out of a thermos or an urn,” Jaber said. At Philz “it’s all literally handmade by the barista, and we use a lot of beans per cup – we are not cheap with the beans.”
We tried a hot cup of Jacob’s Wonderbar, a dark roast to which Jaber added light cream and sugar. The taste was bold and not at all bitter, and I could taste what Jaber described as the beans’ “chocolatey undertones.”
It was a fine cup of coffee, but not nearly as memorable as Philz’ signature drink, the iced Mint Mojito. This refreshing drink is made with muddled mint leaves, cream, sugar and the chain’s low-acidity “Ecstatic” coffee blend, and you can taste all those components at once – though the mint definitely exerts itself, it does not obscure the coffee taste. The frothy cream brings everything together texturally.
The Mint Mojito costs a bit more than the standard cups of coffee – $4.50 for a small cup or $5.50 for a large.
Along R Street between 16th and 18th streets, a village of offices, shops and apartments called Ice Blocks is rising fast on the site of the former Crystal Ice plant, which burned to the ground in November 2015.