california coffee bar owners

Sometimes a fresh cup of coffee can change your day around. In my case, it’s a delicious macchiato giving me new perspective on this cold morning in the newly-opened California Coffee Bar. It’s my first time at the independent café in Brighton Heights on the North Side. The space is roomy and bright with a warm and cozy vibe that makes it easy to leave winter outsidewhere it just seems to keep lingering.

The new coffee bar, which gets its name from its spot on California Avenue, is co-owned by Susie Lobdell and Sarah Mendak. In addition to roasted coffees and espresso drinks, the café serves custom teas, cold press juices, smoothies, oatmeal, yogurt, pastries and other light eats. 

“Today is our official grand opening day,” says Sarah Mendak, co-owner, with a happy smile. “We’ve been quietly open for a few days getting everything ready and now it’s finally here and it feels good.”

There’s a large coffee bar in the center with plenty of bar seats and tables. A roomy lounge near the back overlooks the main room and features a fireplace, and even more comfortable seating areasplenty of space for reading, working on a laptop or just hanging out.

The juice bar offers raw fresh juice blends and shots. The juice shot called “The Spice of Life,” made with cayenne, turmeric, lemon and ginger, is served up with a slice of fresh apple on top. It gave me a jolt almost as strong as my coffee and I’m pretty sure it made my cold go away.

Lobdell convinces me to try their nitro coffee which she says is delicious (it is). It doesn’t take much to convince me since I like anything that comes out of a tap and looks like Guinness. Also on tap at the coffee bar: nitro iced tea and root beer.

Food options include fresh soups, salads and sandwiches all sourced from local ingredients.

The owners hope to create a welcoming and inclusive space with a focus on the environment and sustainability. They also hope to engage the community by featuring local artists and hosting readings and music performances.

California Coffee Bar is located at 3619 California Avenue in Brighton Heights. Hours are Monday – Friday 5:30 a.m. – 6 p.m., Saturday 7 a.m. – 3 p.m. and Sunday 8 a.m. – 3 p.m.  For more information, check out their website here.

Tom O'Connor

Tom O'Connor is a photographer and writer currently based in Pittsburgh.