Pangaea CafePosted on February 4, 2011 – 2:18 AM | by OldManFoster
It’s lunchtime at Pangaea Two Brews; the sun slanting through the large windows warms the quietly buzzing, multi-racial crowd. The owner, Rob Archie, gave the cafe this rather odd name – the designation for the supercontinent that existed before the shifting of tectonic plates gave us the current seven continents – because it’s situated at the intersection of the disparate worlds of Oak Park and Curtis Park (it even has two zipcodes); the “two brews” he’s referring to are coffee and beer.
Archie, clad in a grey hoodie, 6’4” with a shaved head, neat mustache and goatee, and liquid brown eyes, points out that both are “social beverages.” His observation is being borne out at the bar right now, as a clearly well-caffeinated scruffy young man is talking a mile a minute to a mellow, bearded boomer grabbing an afternoon brew. They’ve obviously just met, here at the half-U-shaped bar, but as another customer points out, if you sit there alone “you will end up talking to someone”.
That was Archie’s goal in opening Pangaea, modeled after the cafes he hung out in while playing as a shooting guard in B league basketball in Europe. He lived in Rome for a year, and says that “just like with most people – it changes your perspective.” He returned home to the area with the goal to create one of those “places where a community just comes. Not to just drink but to kind of do that amongst people and get a pulse of what’s going on – and you do that with good beverages and bites to eat.”
Archie grew up in rural Woodland, the son of the owner of a trucking company, and worked in the fields during the summers, grading “everything from peaches to pears to wheat and barley.” After junior college in Santa Rosa and graduation from San Diego State, he took that life-changing sojourn to Europe, but ended up getting injured and failing to reach his goal of playing in the A league.
After letting go of his basketball ambitions, he returned to the area with the vague notion of opening a café, but first gave back to the community through his work with foster kids at Stanford Home, and later by opening his own non-profit in the building that currently houses Pangaea (which his father owns), with the goal to give “support services to kids getting into college.”
Throughout those years, the idea of the café remained in the background. Eventually Archie decided to just “dive in,” opening Pangaea in July 2008. Rob cops to the fact that they started out “very generic,” to which I agree. I weighed in with a lukewarm review in the December ’08 issue of Midtown, writing, “Pangaea Café is trying very, very hard to please and it succeeds on some counts.”
While he enjoyed running a café, Rob struggled to search for his niche, and his answer came through his growing interest in Belgian beers. At first he shied away from emphasizing his beer selection, thinking “I don’t really know what kind of market it is. And it’s a café, not a bar and on and on…” He worked them in gradually, and his visit to Belgium last spring really kicked his program into high gear. One of his traveling companions was Gary Sleppy, owner of the The Shack and fellow beer enthusiast (I profiled him in MidMo in July 2006). While there, they “nerded out” on the Belgian way of serving each beer in proper glassware and reveled in the atmosphere in cafes where “the talk most of the time is about the beer.”
Rob’s passion is paying off, as the growing beer scene in Sacramento slowly starts to come around to his point of view. When asked what he says to a customer who just wants a Coors Light he excitedly related his strategy:
“There’s the adamant Coors Light drinker and there’s the default Coors Light drinker. We love the default Coors Light drinker because…with our staff I try to encourage them to inspire people to at least know what we have and make a decision. There are very few people who come in and say ‘I want a pint of this, oh you don’t have a pint of that – I’m good’ – very very few. [I]f they want something like a lager like that we say, ‘we have a Reissdorf kolsch that’s great’ and then that’s a segue into ‘oh wow so it has to be brewed in Cologne [Germany] and there’s a story behind it.’ They find that very intriguing and its starts to align and then they want to try this beer.
“The key to that more than talk is that you can actually say, ‘just here taste it and tell me what you think,’ without shoving it down their throat and without their having to invest eight, nine, ten dollars into a glass. It’s like: sample, do you like it, good? It’s a chance for them to take ownership rather than us telling them what they like. That’s where the fun has been, introducing people to these beers.”
Archie himself has recently become fascinated by some of the most primitive, ancient beers Belgium has to offer: gueuze and lambic – ales fermented with wild yeast whose production dates back to the 1500s. These sour, sometimes still (not bubbly), beers are not for everyone, but Rob has been featuring a few of them regularly and has delighted in turning even some beginning beer aficionados onto these obscure, cult brews.
He’s also upped his coffee game; in November he began serving coffee roasted by Temple, and his small staff was trained to prepare and serve it by Temple baristas. Thus, he has fulfilled the promise of Pangaea Two Brew’s name, by offering-dare I say it?-world class coffee and beer.
Pangaea Two Brews Cafe, 2743 Franklin Boulevard, (916) 454-4942