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Cruise to Kreuzberg 

A new downtown café brings a touch of Berlin to SLO

click to enlarge BOOK LOVERS AND BARISTAS :  The friendly faces at the newly opened Kreuzberg are committed to serving coffee in a space piled high with literature. - PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • BOOK LOVERS AND BARISTAS : The friendly faces at the newly opened Kreuzberg are committed to serving coffee in a space piled high with literature.

Kreuzberg Berlin, since the wall came down in ’89, has become a cultural center. Teeming with young people and immigrants wooed by cheap rent, it’s home to Germany’s counterculture. Known for voting for the Green Party, punk rock, rap, and breakdancing, its Club SO36 was frequented by David Bowie and Iggy Pop back in the day.

“It’s a super hip, cool, fun area,” said James Whitaker, owner of the new Monterey Street café that draws on the district as inspiration for the space.

Whitaker and his business partner Chris Tarcon want to bring not just the name (pronounced “croits-behrg,” with the “r” rolling off the back of your throat), but also the Berlin vibe to SLO.

The walls are lined with books, books, books organized by subject. In the classics section are multiple copies of The Great Gatsby and a beautiful deep blue hard cover of Emerson’s Essays and Lectures, still wrapped in plastic.

Whitaker and Tarcon acquired this impressive volume of texts at flea markets, garage sales, and private bookstores.

“It gives the place a tremendous ambiance, a creative weight,” said Whitaker, who described himself as a book-loving nerd.

Customers can buy the books for between $3 and $8, or trade them for an already-read book. In fact, no worries if you forget your wallet; you can even trade your book for a cup-a-joe.

Whitaker wants to fill all the shelves from top to bottom with books, which shouldn’t be hard if enough people forget their wallets.

The menu is projected on the wall, with food named after revered authors: the Hemingway yogurt bowl, a grilled chicken Steinbeck sandwich, and the Kafka—a blended grilled cheese. At Kreuzberg, you can sound intellectual ordering a turkey sandwich (even if you don’t know who Dostoevsky is or how to correctly pronounce his name).

A Kreuzberg employee assured me that they’ll be getting higher quality coffee soon. And within the next few months, they’re hoping to acquire a beer and wine license.

“That’s another thing I wanted to bring back from Europe. At cafes there, everything you want is in one place,” Whitaker said. “During a typical day in Berlin, I would get coffee around 11 a.m., after a couple hours I’d order food. Then at 5 in the afternoon, I would close my laptop and mellow out with a beer. Some coffee shops become full, raging bars at night, serving booze.”

You’ll be able to listen to music while you sip your drink. On a not-too-distant past weekend, yoga instructor Rocky Heron strummed the guitar. Before that, a SLO group, Tin Cans on a String, played.

A grand piano and guitar sit invitingly in the middle of the room for anyone who wants to dabble. A couple of massive, colorful paintings by inventive local artist Jeff Claassen, resting atop the bookshelves, give the café an artistic, inspired feel. Plus, being surrounded by books is somehow cozier than bare walls.

Whitaker plans to hold foreign film nights. Movies projected in place of the menu will allow you to curl up on one of the many leather couches and watch. For example, As It is in Heaven, a Swedish great and winner of best foreign film in 2004, will play soon.

Mitchell Roberts, a Banana Republic employee, sipping on his morning tea, paused to observe, “This place is reminiscent of a 19th century parlor.”

It certainly is, but the beanbags in the window seat and the red illumination on the window boxes contributes a modern feel.

Kreuzberg is located at 870 Monterey St. Visit it at


Fast facts

The Prado Day Center currently needs the following: gloves, socks, new underwear, umbrellas and ponchos, cereal, milk, coffee, coffee creamer, sliced bread, fruit juice, salad dressing, backpacks, shampoo, conditioner, towels, XXXL men’s and women’s jackets, gift cards for shoes, gift cards for clothing, gift cards for groceries, and gift cards for fast food. The Prado Day Center is located at 43 Prado Road in San Luis Obispo. …

Employees of South County Sanitation, San Luis Obispo Garbage, and Cold Canyon Landfill invite the public to help them put together more than 100 bicycles for the Toys for Tots program. The build takes place at 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 1 at the Madonna construction yard, 284 S. Higuera St., in San Luis Obispo.


Intern Alycia Kiley compiled this week’s Strokes and Plugs. Contact her via Executive Editor Ryan Miller at

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