starbucks reserve bar redwood city 6145

Melia Robinson/Business Insider

On a recent coffee run in the Bay Area, I learned not all Starbucks stores are created equal.

Most stores make you want to duck in and duck out, with their fluorescent lighting, lack of comfort seating, and swarms of cranky, under-caffeinated customers. A Reserve bar is different.

Last year, the big-box coffee chain announced an expansion of its premium brand, Reserve, with 1,000 new coffee bar locations across the US in 2017. The bars turn the ritual of grabbing a cup of coffee into an experience. Baristas prepare small-batch coffee using a variety of uncommon methods, like siphon brewing. They also sell coffee flights and cold-brew floats.

I visited a Starbucks Reserve bar in Redwood City, California, an outpost of Silicon Valley. Here’s what it was like — and what it cost me.

This could be a Starbucks store anywhere in America.

This could be a Starbucks store anywhere in America.

Luis Galdamez/Reuters

And this is a Starbucks Reserve bar — one of 1,000 expected to open by the end of the year.

And this is a Starbucks Reserve bar — one of 1,000 expected to open by the end of the year.

Melia Robinson/Business Insider

Source: Fortune

Starbucks has been pouring money into the expansion as it bucks competition from upscale coffee brands like Blue Bottle and Intelligentsia. It wants to show it’s no one-trick pony.

Starbucks has been pouring money into the expansion as it bucks competition from upscale coffee brands like Blue Bottle and Intelligentsia. It wants to show it's no one-trick pony.

Melia Robinson/Business Insider

When you first walk in, a few things stand out. The place is huge, with customers gathered around long communal tables and a low, wood-clad bar where you can watch baristas work.

When you first walk in, a few things stand out. The place is huge, with customers gathered around long communal tables and a low, wood-clad bar where you can watch baristas work.

Melia Robinson/Business Insider

Dim lighting casts a yellowish, moody hue over the store.

Dim lighting casts a yellowish, moody hue over the store.

Melia Robinson/Business Insider

Even the coffee cups show a Gothic side of Starbucks we’ve never seen.

Even the coffee cups show a Gothic side of Starbucks we've never seen.

Melia Robinson/Business Insider

I opted for a seat at the counter so I could get a better look at the brewing methods.

I opted for a seat at the counter so I could get a better look at the brewing methods.

Melia Robinson/Business Insider

The stool was ergonomically designed for the comfort of my behind. I could sit awhile.

The stool was ergonomically designed for the comfort of my behind. I could sit awhile.

Melia Robinson/Business Insider

I snatched up a menu. It didn’t list the typical fare like Frappuccinos, smoothies, and other sugary concoctions masquerading as coffee. Instead, it included short descriptions of the premium, small-batch coffees available and the different brewing methods you could try.

I snatched up a menu. It didn't list the typical fare like Frappuccinos, smoothies, and other sugary concoctions masquerading as coffee....