Since leaving my job at The Firm, I have discovered two things: 1) freedom; and 2) my apartment is a poor substitute for an office. While I hammer out my future self, psyche and all, I have forced myself to find workspaces in various coffee shops throughout the city. Because I have had more than one conversation that centers around a list of all the coffee shops I frequent, followed by a rant that goes something like (Huffing, puffing) Given the size of this city, there really ought to be more good, solid coffee shops, I thought I would assemble a post-it version of all of my second home offices. This directory is sans rant – that’s another subject for another post for another caffeine-infused day.
It depends on the day, the workload, and how much the laptop battery is charged up, but generally, my ideal coffeeshop-turned-workspace has 1) tables that can accommodate, at minimum, a laptop, a legal pad, and a pen; 2) good food; 3) great coffee; 4) a bathroom; 5) owners who won’t hassle me for table squatting, so long as I buy coffee and food; and 6) a location that is not downtown proper (the parking is impossible during the weekdays). The list, in order of preference, after the jump.
1. Amandine. If I could write a love letter to any bakery, it would be to Amandine. And it would have a lot of latte-stained-napkin art in the shapes of X’s and O’s, like that brief time in college when I ardently believed that writing love letters on napkins was proletarian and therefore cool. Amandine is a French-inspired coffee shop, as interpreted by Japanese owners. Unlike American bakeries, the pastries are not coyingly sweet (the almond and chocolate croissants alone almost justify a trek out to the Westside). On top of that, the coffee is delicious; they have tasty and extremely reasonably priced sandwiches; and they have free wi-fi. They also have brand spanking new picnic benches in the patio that are super clean, super big, and perfect for the dog to nap under while her owner earns their keep. Amandine does close early (7pm) and is closed on Mondays, but I love it all the same.
2. Espresso Profeta. The bean counter that is my French press has been busy over the last few years. I’ve gone through dozens of different roasters: Trader Joe blends, Monkey & Sons from Surfas, Intelligentsia’s famed Black Cat, etc. In the end, I just sigh and do what I always do: order direct from a Northern Italian-inspired Seattle coffee roaster/coffeehouse called Espresso Vivace. Espresso Vivace baristas are rigorously trained in the Northern Italian method of extracting just the right amount of flavor from the coffee; their espresso pulls are an exact science that results in a richly sweet caffeine fix. Until Vivace starts colonizing Southern California, then, Plan B+ is Espresso Profeta in Westwood. The owner of Profeta was one of the first baristas at Vivace (read: he’s as authentic as the Seattle rain) and managed the more sterile Caffe Luxxe in Santa Monica prior to setting up shop in a country-style brick building that once housed an antique store. Awesomely, he cribbed Vivace’s Caffe Nico, a strictly one-shot breve that dances with steamed milk, cinnamon, orange syrup, and orange zest in a tiny espresso cup. I know, this sounds like the equivalent of a girly drink, but this butch makes it a point to order one when in Seattle, and would kill to have one every morning here. Espresso Profeta also offers some limited pastries and sandwiches, but really, you’re just here for the espresso. And the free wireless. And the lovely patio. It’s a total bummer that, like Amandine, Espresso Profeta closes shop early: 6pm – just when the going is getting good.
3. Susina Bakery. Speaking of Seattle, aesthetically pleasing, welcoming coffeeshops are a dime a dozen in the Emerald City, but not so much here. Do people not sit down to have a cup of coffee with friends anymore, or is there no room for that in the I’ll-take-my-coffee-and-relationships-to-go culture that is Los Angeles? Susina is our diamond in the cement rough. The coffee here is solid, and most of the pastries taste as good as they look in the case (take a slice of their fairly renown Berry Blossom Cake if you’re feeling particularly celebratory). The choice seat is a private-ish booth near the back window that recalls Fred 62’s curtained booth (no coincidence: Susina’s owner used to be the manager at Fred 62). Best part: they’re open until 11pm every day. Worst part: inexplicably, no wireless. Tossup: out of all the coffee shops on this list, Susina by far has the most celebrity patrons, likely due to its location on Beverly and La Brea. As is always the case when the stars crash down to earth, it is both exciting and uncomfortable at once.
4. Cafe Tropical. Out in Silver Lake, near Los Globals, is a cafe called Cafe Tropical. It’s a little dirty, the service isn’t always the best, but the tables are huge, the wireless is free, the noise can be virtually nil (especially after the hipsters leave for Spaceland), and that cafe con leche is s-t-r-o-n-g. They also have decent, if heavy, Cubanos. The guava cheesecake is easily the best thing here, followed closely by the fact that they’re open until 10pm every day. Note that the bathroom actually is not inside the cafe proper, which sucks for those of us who like to keep our friends close, but our laptops closer.
5. Intelligentsia. This one’s a bit down on my list, because as much as I do enjoy their coffee, there are more cons than pros: 1) the coffee is expensive (you’re looking at around $4 for a freshly made French pressed cup of joe); 2) both locations usually have incredibly long lines, which is a testament to their each-coffee-is-fresh-never-frozen mentality. Problem is, I don’t always have the time or patience to wait Kogi-times for a cup of coffee; 3) their seats and tables are not terribly comfy or spacious; and 4) sometimes I would like to stab the coffee snobs who come here to snob. You’ll find me here when I need to rotate the artwork on my office walls.
6. Casa De Luna. Major caveat: I actually have not tried Casa De Luna just yet, but included it here for those out in the South Bay. Someone I know in Long Beach recommended this spot to me, and swears by its Mocha Azteca. Case De Luna is open until 12:30am, so regardless of my non-visit, this one wins for being open the latest. Keep in mind, though, that they are closed on Sundays, which is both surprising and a tragedy. Isn’t Monday supposed to be the slow day?
So, what else should have on my radar? I’m in Santa Monica, so bonus points if your suggestion is near my ‘hood. And, if you really find a gem, your next cup of joe is on me.