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Aug 16, 2006 11:09 PM

Literati Cafe - PK's Review

Literati Cafe
12081 Wilshire Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA
8.13.06 - Monday, 10:30 AM

Literati Cafe has been raking in the accolades. This charming little cafe on a popular stretch of Wilshire is known for organic, fresh goodies and a no-fuss, simple food philosophy. I finally had the chance to swing in for breakfast; my very first visit. It's problematic when the masses have cheered you to pieces, however - expectations can be lofty and unreachable. Such was this trial run.

Suffice to say I was disappointed with my meal; not because it was at all poorly executed, but because those expectations left me wanting more pizzazz. Still, I take responsibility for this one. I think we ordered incorrectly, the whole trio of us.

The story goes like this -
Justy, an angel from way, way back, comes to town from Seattle once a month to visit his charming ten-year old son, Zach. The two of them were headed to Six Flags, and as Zach lives nearby, I chose Literati as the spot for a first-time meeting. We loved the interior - very cozy, neighborhood-centric, and inviting. It's counter service here, which doesn't bother me in the least - only I suffer from a "must order now" stress, and always cave to the first thing that looks remotely interesting in such circumstances. It's a neurotic thing with me. I saw pancakes and eggs and said - YES! That'll do! When I'm table-side and making friends with a menu, I'll study the delicacies and choose not just what sounds good to me, but what the kitchen seems to excel at, or be known for. That way it's a fair assessment.
This time, I failed. I can admit that.

Here's what we had:


Fantastic, full-bodied organic soy latte. Urth, eat your heart out - something about the java here just made me feel awake and soothed, all at once. And they do milk decorations - I'm such a sucker for details.


Buttermilk Pancakes and Scrambled Eggs
* I know, I know - how can I judge a kitchen's talents with such mundane items? I will say the eggs were well-cooked and fluffy, and the pancakes had a serious buttermilk kick; yet, the latter were very, very average. Perhaps I've been spoiled by <a href=";&g... Griddle Cafe</a>, but these just left me feeling ho-hum. The syrup was also a disappointment - tasted just like a sugary table-type, instead of something more hearty and authentic.

French Toast
* Huge, thick slices of bread dipped in a cinnamon-spiced batter, dusted with powdered sugar and served with maple syrup.
This was much better than the pancakes, but overcooked - the outer edges were crusty, and the taste of the griddle was more prominent than the spices. Still, these sure beat the standard white bread dipped in egg routine.

Belgian Waffle
* Could we have ordered more carbs? I should have had a pastry on the side. The waffle measured up to the pancakes - good, not great, without any special elements and the same runny syrup.


* We shared a side of overly-cooked bacon.

The damage for three breakfasts, one soda, one latte, and a side of bacon was about $33, not including tip.

My question to you all - how should I order next time? Is Literati best experienced in the evening hours? I need some guidance, lest I cave to the pressure and play it safe again.

RESTAURANT REPORT CARD - Literati Cafe, Visit 1

Ambiance - B-
Service - N/A (it's counter service, so I hesitate to grade them
)Food (Taste) - C
Food (Presentation) - D
Wine/Drinks - N/A (just had coffee, and although it was fab, that's not enough to grade)
Value - B-
Vibe/Energy/Scene - B
Overall Experience - C

Final word - Disappointing at best, but I take partial credit for being a silly ordering fool. I'll try, try again.

For pictures of the items, visit:

Thanks for your time, everybody -

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  1. Maybe you are confusing Literati II with Literati Cafe, which are run by two separate kitchens. I believe the accolades were for Literati II, whose executive chef is Chris Kidder, former chef de cuisine of Campanile.

    My personal favorites at Literati II, during lunch is the crab sandwich, and during dinner is the pork chop.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ninja

      Totally agree. I don't remember many posts on the faster food Literati Cafe operation, regardless of impressions, unless buried in the context of a post on a different subject.

    2. Yes PK. The accolades have been for Literati ll. Let me go on record as stating Literati ll is one of our favorite westside spots. The food is delicous and consistently good at a reasonable cost. Great buzz in the room too.

      1. I recognize the tables in the pictures as from the original Literati coffeehouse. The coffeehouse has truly mediocre food. (It's hard to screw up a quesadilla, yet it is amazing how bad theirs is.) The restaurant is just west of where you ate, in what was a Koo Koo Roo outpost until a couple of years ago.

        BTW, thanks for posting the full review here -- I think keeping reviews here (rather than teasers) will help Chowhound survive.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Alimentary My Dear Watson

          HAH! Mystery solved - you guys are all spot-on correct. I got completely confused. I knew this was user error - thank you so much for the clarification!

        2. Good and accurate review of Literati Cafe. Some of us are interested in both restaurants.

          The cafe is so-so, but I find myself in there once in awhile. Spinach salad with grilled turkey and the soups seem to be the most fetching items to me.

          Let us know what you think of Literati II. Had lunch there about 5 months ago, was not terribly impressed, but plan on trying it again for dinner soon. I can vouch for the carrot cake for dessert :)

          Bon app.

          1. I've been visiting Literatti since it opened. There's nothting that's a standout, but I do like the ambiance and the selection. For lunch I like their balsamic vinaigrett dressing on the side salad that comes with my sandwich. Soups are often good. Nothing too special here, but I like it.
            Literatti 2? I don't get it. Been twice, great drinks, uneven service, difficult to hear and ridiculous upcharges for changes on your order. Not my favorite. Food? Okay to good.