Berkeley’s Oldest Cafe Could Become Starbucks

by Steed Dropout
June 26, 2014


Preceded in death by many of its most illustrious Med Heads, Berkeley’s oldest South Side business is for sale. Its ghosts, said to be ghosting behind the Med mural, are not for sale. It’s history is in the books.

Gone with the Wind. Photo by Ted Friedman.

Cafe Mediterraneum, founded between 1956-7, and immortal for its big scene in “the Graduate,” 1967, has been listed, recently, for sale as a “Legendary Cafe Location near UC Berkeley.” That’s like selling the White House as a house.

In a joking mood before the reality of a major death in the family, Med Heads were speculating that the Med could become a Starbucks with an In-N-Out Burger.

“I don’t like Starbucks’ coffee,” Becker told me when asked about Starbucks buying his store, but anything could happen, Becker told me. it’s not just that Becker doesn’t like Starbucks or Peet’s coffees, it’s just they taste burned, Becker claims.

Becker trained at Peet’s, when he bought the building a decade ago (not-for-sale), which has housed the Med since 1956. Becker has the only say-so on who buys his business, but he admitted that Starbucks would be wise to buy the Med as the only way it could open a Starbucks on Telegraph.

Becker will leave the coffee business at the top of his game. When buying the Med business was just a gleam in his eye, 15 years ago, Becker disdained running a restaurant, but soon the restaurant was running him.

All Becker wanted was to make a point about the poor quality of coffee served in Berkeley and he has weaned some Med Heads off the burnt stuff and convinced this Med Head that there is nothing nowhere to match Becker’s Jo.


Becker has a favorite destination abroad.

The last time, he really enjoyed himself at the Med, was when he got his liquor license; or when he stayed open 24 hours to make a point; or when he bought a turn-of-the-century piano. He had found himself more and more behind the counter on long shifts, and he spent time, trying (and failing) to get control of his storefront. No one doesn’t know that cops show up at the Med several times a month; they’re not looking for food or coffee.

Becker has participated in perhaps ten altercations with hostile street-people drop-ins. He will leave with a winning fight record, sort of a king-of-the-hill Alpha male.

I haven’t asked Becker about his feelings because he doesn’t usually speak them. I know what he’s thinking, though. “I’ve tried everything here, and I can’t make a profit.” I know that Becker has what is known as a sky-head overhead (expenses). He was reduced to working for the Med, not running it.

He would make a great politician, but has told me his appearance is a problem. Sure, he looks like Eisenhower but Eisenhower did all right. Eisenhower won world war 2; Becker will not be around to win his war with un-cooperative street people who use the Med’s restroom.

What is to come of those street people who relied on the Med?

This is just the barest outline of what killed the Med. Stay tuned to your BerkeleyReporter

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