“I’ll have The Thing,” I tell the barista. The Thing isn’t my way of saying “the usual,” nor is it a secret drink – it is one of Wooden Cafe’s claims to fame. The Thing is perhaps one of the tastiest, smoothest lattes I’ve had in a while, with a hint of cinnamon and a wood-y flavoring that brings out an autumnal feel. Not overly sweet, nor overpowering, The Thing is just the thing to pick you up during a long study session. The Thing speaks well of Wooden Cafe’s coffee prowess, making this wood, coffee and B-movie horror-themed cafe stand out among the coffee shops in cafe-saturated Cole Valley, aptly dubbed the “Brunch District.”
The trapezoidal layout of the shop hearkens back to its days as the abandoned Doug’s Suds laundromat. With a counter facing the window in the front and plenty of seating, the polished wood gleams as the sun hits the black and purple tiled floor. In the back by the bathroom door, a TV plays eerie static above shelves holding VHS tape cases featuring coffee-themed old-school horror puns (think titles like “Dripper Killer” and “Hell of a Morning”). To top it all off, Wooden is home to an African Grey parrot, whose cage sits at the corner by the coffee bar. A majestic creature for the most part, but when it screeches, it can be rather difficult to enjoy a quiet, relaxing morning. Fortunately, the bird isn’t there all the time, but that is definitely something to keep in mind.
In terms of the actual study environment, Wooden doesn’t normally get very busy, making it rather easy to grab a seat and get working. If you need an outlet, aim to get a seat at the table in the back. With the exception of a bad case of agitated parrot, the cafe is an ideal, quiet place to get work done. Cafe goers are typically not very loud every time I have visited, and there is plenty of space to spread your stuff out over the tables.
The drinks are not overly sweet and go down smooth. Besides The Thing, the matcha latte is strong, and I appreciate that the matcha flavor has not been watered down. The dirty chai is also pretty solid, rich and earthy with that hint of spice. Every drink features foamy milk latte art, done with much love and care.
You won’t have to knock on wood here – if you want quality coffee or tea and a quality study environment, Wooden is your best bet in Cole Valley.
5 out of 5 coffee cups — This place is so solid for its coffee. Order The Thing.
3 out of 5 Instagrams — Besides the wooden counters and the shelves in the back? Not really much of a special spot for photos.
4 out of 5 chairs — It could be better, but seeing that this cafe never gets super busy, seating is good for a place of this size.
Ideal Time: I went from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on a Wednesday. No noisy pet parrot, and outlets totally available.
Featured Photo: A Barista brews up some delicious coffee beverages at The Wooden Cafe. Caitlin Mayo/FOGHORN