Although I work mostly from home, a large residential construction project next door this summer has pile-driven me out of the house. Therefore, I’ve been searching for the perfect West Side coffee shop in which to work. While this subject has been picked before, and others have their own considerations, I have a challenging qualification to add to the basic requirements of tasty coffee and free WiFi: the place has to be kind of quiet.
Before you ask, I’ll answer: (1) Yes, I’ve tried local libraries. Have you been to one lately? Loud talking and even cell phone chatting is now standard practice. (2) Yes, I own noise-cancelling headphones, and use them frequently. (3) Yes, I realize that coffee houses have a long history as places of lively conversation. (4) A real office or shared workspace? Yes, I’ve thought about it. But how’s their coffee?
Here’s what I’ve tried so far:
Peet’s: Albeit a sizable chain, with its numerous West Side locations and good dependable coffee (note: I usually drink decaf, which is arguably more difficult to make tasty), it’s a go-to place for me at least to pick up a coffee on the run. Officially, Peet’s limits its free WiFi to an hour, but I have never had a problem — either the service continues for as long as I like, or, if it does shut off, they happily extend it for me upon request. However, they play their music (often oldies) loud , and, perhaps due to the acoustics, the staff’s cheerily overcaffeinated conversations can be heard loudly and clearly.
Intelligentsia: I share the blogging.la love for Intelligentsia. They have hooked us up with a mini party at their Venice location, and they recently provided gallons of free coffee for our most recent, hugely successful Donut Summit. Intelligentsia’s coffee is certainly in the top 3 of those that I have tasted in the Los Angeles area. Unfortunately, the Venice Intelligentsia is super crowded, and its industrial concrete interior, while great looking and appropriate, is really noisy.
Balconi: This is also in my top 3 for taste, and, as I found out on a scouting mission with blogging.la cohort Travis after her preview here, their new location at Olympic and Sawtelle is nice and quiet. However, Balconi has gone to the other extreme, withholding WiFi in order not to turn the place into a work space. Perhaps you could work there if you have your own hotspot and are immune to the disapproving looks which could result.
Venice Grind: This place is on a lot of West Siders’ list of favorites. It has tasty coffee, and a helpful (if quirky) staff. And it has a surprisingly quaint outdoor seating area in the back, where I had a great first date that turned into an intense relationship. But the Grind blasts Motown/oldies/classic rock music. Again, what’s with the oldies? Given the somewhat hip and younger crowd, the music does not come off as hip or ironic, but rather, corporate. And speaking of corporate, the Grind has Shepard Fairey prints on the walls, which only serve to remind me how corporate some people have become since 2008’s days of “Hope”.
The Coffee Bean & Starbucks: They’re loud, gaudily corporate, and serve horrendous tasting coffee IMO, for different reasons. Compared to these places, Peet’s is downright homey. So, no.
The Rumor Mill: This was one of the first places to limit their free WiFi. As I recall, it was either limited to an hour, or was shut off during lunch time, or both. That was at least 2 years ago. I have not been back since. Some businesses just have different views about customer service than I do.
Cafe Luxxe (Santa Monica): Their pressed coffee is brilliant, and rounds out my top 3 coffees in the L.A. area. However, I don’t think they have WiFi, and, in any case, the intimate quarters are more conducive to good conversations than the focused kind of work (including editing) that I’m doing on the laptop.
Geo’s Organic Coffee: I just discovered this place, in its unobtrusive location on Inglewood and Culver. It may have the best Yelp rating of any coffee shop I’ve mentioned here, and deservedly so. The place is small, has a Mom-and-Pop feel, the coffee is delicious, the guy behind the counter is laid-back and good at what he does, even the rest room is very clean, and parking is plentiful along Culver Blvd. (there’s also a parking lot out front, but it requires backing out into Inglewood Blvd. traffic). I really want to keep coming back, but the music thing may stop me. At least it’s not oldies music.
Tanner’s: I tried this place once. It was very crowded, very noisy, and the iced decaf coffee was, for me, undrinkable. Other than that, I’m crazy about it.
The good news is that, if noise is not an issue for you while you’re working, the West Side presents lots of great coffee shops to suit your tastes. As for me, did I ever find the perfect, quiet West Side coffee shop to work in? Actually, I did. But I’m not going to tell you where it is, because words might get out.