The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

December 9, 2011
The Dish: Capitol Coffee in the California Capitol building

IMG_1050.jpg While there's no shortage of coffee and lunch locales around the Capitol, many state buildings are home to additional dining options. This post is part of a new weekly series of mini-reviews of some of those spots for downtown denizens looking to try something new.

The spot: Bee bloggers Torey Van Oot and Jon Ortiz joined Senate Republican leader Bob Dutton (pictured at right) at Capitol Coffee, a tiny eats-and-drinks spot tucked into a corner of the statehouse basement. The walls are festooned with photos of luminaries and lawmakers enjoying the fare, proof that owner Gary Haller's place is a good spot to catch up on Capitol gossip. Comfortable seating is just a few steps away in the large, brick-walled common eating area Capitol Coffee shares with its Capitol basement neighbor, Griselda's World Café. Bring money or plan to use the ATM outside the shop, since Capitol Coffee is a cash-only establishment. The Capitol Coffee Club card gives you a free beverage after nine drink purchases. Haller draws one completed card per month from a fish bowl behind the counter for a week's worth of free coffee.

(Bias alert: Capitol Coffee is a favorite spot of the senator's. He invited The Dish to meet him there.)

IMG_1057.jpgThe grub: Haller, pictured left, has been serving up hot dogs and the senator's favorite Polish sausages since opening in 1991. He also serves coffee (hence the name of the business), espresso, Italian sodas and smoothies that run from $1.10 to $4.75 depending on size and beverage. The shop even offers caffeine-starved customers several Starbuck's-style holiday season mochas, frappes and lattes spiced with peppermint, pumpkin and ginger. The shop also sells granola bars and microwaveable cups of noodles and oatmeal among its cheap grab-and-go options.

On our plates: Actually, the steamed Polish sausages and hot dogs were wrapped in paper. Jon and Torey shared a foot-long hot dog ($3 or $4.75 with chips and a soda) with ketchup. Our esteemed guest ordered his usual Polish sausage ($3.25 or 5 bucks for the combo) with mustard and an Italian soda ($1.60 for 16 ounces or $2 for 24 ounces). Jon had a peppermint mocha frappe ($3.75 for a small, $4.75 for a large).

The bill: Total for the hot dog, the Polish sausage, the 16 ounce soda and the frappe: $11.60. Our esteemed guest picked up his $4.85 portion of the tab.

The good: You can sum Capitol Coffee up in a word: value. We hear that the coffees are killer but without the killer prices normally endured with designer drinks. The size of the hot dog was a surprise: "A foot-long that's actually 12 inches long," Jon said, making it a good value. The senator is a big fan of the Polish sausage. Here's his video review:

The bad: The hot dog was big and tasty, but Jon would have liked it better with onions. The shop's condiment selection is limited to packaged ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise and relish. The frappe had great flavor, but it wasn't thoroughly blended. When the drink was drained, two large ice cubes were stranded in the bottom of the cup.

Grade: 3 out of 5 sporks.

Have you been to Capitol Coffee? Share your experiences in the comments field below. And check out our recent reviews of Gold Rush Grille, Side Bar Café, Cafe 744 and Dave's Deli (closing soon).

Jon Ortiz and Torey Van Oot are taking suggestions for state building restaurants to try. Send your picks to and check back every Friday for a weekly write up.

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About The State Worker

Jon Ortiz The Author

Jon Ortiz launched The State Worker blog and a companion column in 2008 to cover state government from the perspective of California government employees. Every day he filters the news through a single question: "What does this mean for state workers?" Join Ortiz for updates and debate on state pay, benefits, pensions, contracts and jobs. Contact him at (916) 321-1043 and at


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