Sci-Fi Meets Coffee Shop at Emeryville’s Scarlet City

Scarlet City launches a sci-fi theme and brings pinball to the Emeryville coffee shop scene.


Susanna Handow, left, and Jen St. Hilaire hang out at one of Scarlet City’s pinball machines.

Photo by Lori Eanes

Space, the final frontier.”

Capt. Jean Luc Picard’s voice from a Star Trek: The Next Generation pinball machine echoes against the stone walls of Emeryville’s new science fiction–themed Scarlet City Espresso Bar. The pinball machines—Doctor Who and Demolition Man join the Enterprise—are the most obvious nods to the sci-fi theme. A few small space ships dangle over the black and red bar, subtly shaped like the Star Trek insignia. Otherwise, it’s an understated theme. At least, for now—anonymous customers have begun to leave sci-fi toys, adding to the sparse, but growing collection around the bar.

The espresso bar’s drink menu is basic as well, though Scarlet City recently added draft beer from Oakland’s Line 51 Brewing Company. The coffee shop standards are all there, chai, tea—Earl Grey, hot—and espresso-based drinks such as macchiatos, Americanos, and lattes. The mocha has a deep, bitter chocolate taste, a note shy of decadent with its thick, dense foam.

To keep the Pinball Wizard’s energy at max, a display case entices with baked goods and small bites. Chocolate and almond croissants, apple turnovers, and meat and vegetarian quiches come from Emeryville’s Starter Bakery. The vegetable quiche has a rich, flaky crust and prioritizes filling the shell with zucchini, squash, and onions over eggs and cheese, making it a formidable snack or light breakfast—something to linger over when the quarters run out.

Co-owners Jen St. Hilaire and Susanna Handow want the café to embody a community atmosphere. There’s no wi-fi—it’s not a second workplace—and the layout encourages customers to take their time and interact. In the coming months, Scarlet City will continue hosting pinball tournaments and a rotating lineup of local artists with hopes to present author events highlighting female science fiction writers and team with Chabot Space & Science Center for its Ask a Scientist lecture series. If this is the final frontier for Emeryville coffee shops, the future is looking bright.

—Matthew Craggs

Scarlet City Espresso Bar, 3960 Adeline St., Emeryville, 510-836-3920,

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