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Coffee Shop or Cool Restaurant

I'm from Portland, Oregon where the neighborhood coffee shop is a way of life. I've been living here for almost two years and I have not found a good coffee shop to hang out in, read, write, think, hide,stare and drink good coffee. My life has been greatly diminshed because I do not have this refuge.
I go to school in Westchester (near Santa Monica) at Otis, I'm getting in MFA in Creative Writing. But I live in Chatsworth. Most of my classes are in the late afternoon or at night. If I knew of a good coffee shop to park myself before classes, my second year would be so easy. Otherwise I'm on the 405 for hours.
Please, someone, improve my life, make me happy and tell me where I can go read and write. Places I hate are The Aroma Cafe in Studio City and Le Pain Quotidian in Studio City. The amibence sucks.

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  1. Hmmm...if you hate Aroma, then you will really hate Literati or Urth. Sounds like you want a really mellow place, eh? I hate to say it, but the only places I went to when I was in college (Anastasias on Wilshire and Common Grounds in Northridge) have since closed. I would suggest Sabor y Cultura, but they are nowhere near the Westside (and environment-wise, on the downhill).

    I will keep my brain on it, though. Good luck!

    1. Running Pig, thank you. And I do hatw Literati and Urth, crowded, no style and all for money money money.

      1 Reply
      1. re: JillPickle

        No, I rather like their food, esp. desserts and drinks.

        I would try the local diner. The coffee coupled with a lack of neighborhood popularity may be more conducive to studying (although I wouldn't try the Denny's next to UCLA - it was the choice of after-clubbing hours).

      2. Well, you're in luck. The best coffee shop in LA is not too far away. Try Cafe Balcony in West LA, near Santa Monica.


        Cafe balcony
        12431 Rochester Ave
        Los Angeles, CA 90025

        3 1 0 . 8 2 0 . 6 9 1 6

        H O U R S:
        Noon to Midnight

        1. Try Abbot's Habbit on Abbot KInney in Venice.

          1. I feel your pain.

            I'd prefer a decent coffee shop to "Il whatever"...but L.A. is sadly lacking in that dept - a place where you can eat and stretch out for hours at a time. (The Frontier Restaurant in Albuquerque is the ultimate version of this coffee-food-study thing, BTW.)

            Believe it or not, the Farmer's Market on 3rd & Fairfax might give you the vibe you're looking for: You can spend as much time on their patios as you want (the Gumbo Pot/Charlie's patio is my fave), and can order coffee (or beer) from a number of different places. Bob's Donuts might have the best coffee in the market...and Charlie's has one of the cheapest breakfasts in the area.

            A great place to write and people watch...

            1 Reply
            1. re: blacksab67

              I do like the vibe of Farmer's Market but I would prefer a comfy chair or couch and not so much commotion. But it's not that near my school, Otis College of Art and Design in Westchester and that's key. I have to drive the 405 between noon and three and then wait until my classes begin in the evening. So I need a place to hang out and not be assualted by bad music, celebrites, wheelers and dealers on their cell phones, sterile environment with faux bohemian touches. Abbots is in Venice is ok but the coffee is not good and the bathrooms are dangerous.

            2. There's a place in Studio City called The Coffee Fix that may be what you're looking for. It's small and unpretentious, a little funky. I've only been there once and didn't have coffee so I can't vouch for the quality of the beans. As far as Westchester goes...doesn't seem like the sort of place that would have the kind of coffee shop you're looking for, but maybe somebody here knows better.

              The Coffee Fix
              12508 Moorpark St.
              Studio City, CA 91604

              1 Reply
              1. re: webb

                If the place you are referring to is the place at Moorpark at Whitsett, I must share that I think the coffee there is horrendous.

              2. The Coffee Fix is alright but not a place I could park myself in for hours. It's low key and grungy and the people who work there are outree but it's not comfortable, coffee bad, food bad, music bad, patrons not great, chairs uncomfortable. They make a good cup of PG Tips.

                I need to find a place in Santa Monica or Venice since Westchester seems to have nothing.

                Has anyone ever been to the Stumptown ccffee shops in Portland? Especially the one downtown. They are my ideal. Or the coffee shop at Powell's bookstores.

                2 Replies
                1. re: JillPickle

                  you might try tanners which is located on culver in playa del rey, about a 5 minute drive to otis.

                  1. re: JillPickle

                    Now that I'm a bit more hip to your location, I recommend Tanners as well (although I think the above this has the location different or wrong - maybe there is one in PDR as well). Not real familar with their food menu but the coffee is good and the place is comfy.

                    4342 Sepulveda Blvd (at Culver)
                    Culver City, CA 90230

                  2. yes virginia,
                    there are TWO tanners!
                    (maybe even more than 2, but two that i know of)

                    200 Culver Blvd
                    Playa Del Rey, CA 90293


                    1. Thank you all for your suggestions. I'll scout out Tanner's, The Balconcey, etc. today.School starts tomorrow and if I can keep off the 405 between 2 and 7 pm, and shelter myself in a cool coffee shop (I'm also planning to go swimming somewhere out there but this is not the site for recommendations for non-crowded swimming pools), then please know you helped me survive this particuliar ring of hell.

                      1. I like Velocity Cafe on Lincoln at Pacific in Santa Monica. Great coffee, free wifi and cell phones are not allowed.

                        1. Didn't like Tanner's in Playa Del Ray. The outside seating is inches away from a traffic light. This is the norm in LA, I know, but I still don't like watching cars stop and go. The inside is cramped. But the coffee was good.
                          And maybe I would be givng it more consideration if I hadn't parked a few blocks away at the beach parking. When I got back to my car a police woman tried to impound my car for expired registration and I talked her into just giving me a ticket.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: JillPickle

                            The Tanner's on Sepulveda is very mellow.

                            I drink coffee there any day I'm at home (Saturday, Sunday, vacation day).

                            They have free wireless Internet, too.

                          2. You should give Synergy in Culver City a try. Definitely low key, the coffee is from Groundwork, and its good. There are a few couches and stuff, in fact there is a big performance space of theirs next door (connected, though) you could probably spread out in.

                            Synergy is on Overland, between Culver and Jefferson, about 2 blocks south of Braddock.

                            You may want to get that registration dealt with first, though :-). Culver City police would be likely to impound you along with the car...

                            1. it's not exactly close to where you are but Insomnia Cafe might be the kinda place you're looking for. Very homey eclectic non-matching furniture, laid back staff), far from having a polished, "coffee chain" feel, and I mean that in a good way. My friend used to work there so I'd hang out and read a book on occassion, while wrtiers were tapping away at their laptops.


                              1. Yeah, I like Insomnia and also Psychadelic Cafe in Los Feliz. And if you want something really different, try Bourgeois Pig in Hollywood.

                                Not to make you jealous, but I am in San Jose on business and just went to a terrific coffee joint called Barefoot Roasters. I actually got to watch beans being roasted. The 2 young adults working there talked to me for about 15 minutes about different roasts, using words like "earthy", "fruity", "organic taste" and "clean". Wow. highly recommended. They then invited me to their monthly tasting class. YEEHAW!

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: running pig

                                  i am jealous. barefoot does some of the greatest coffee in the u.s. we grind their costa rican and element 7.

                                2. In Marina Del Rey, there's Panini Cafe....good coffee drinks, pastries, sandwhiches....LOTs of people hang out there for hours doing work or what not...no wifi if I recall though.

                                  Its in the Villa Marina marketplace next to Vons/Aunt Kizzys/etc. About 5-10 minutes from your school if there's no construction traffic.....quiet, lots of free parking in the mini-mall parking lot....

                                  1. I think you really might like Unurban Cafe, across the street from Trader Joe's, at Pico by Centinela.

                                    There's couches and comfy chairs everywhere. The people are a little hippyish, but very, very nice as hippies usually are.

                                    And the coffee is very good.

                                    1. if you want to come south to hermosa beach for a change of scenery, try java man. in addition to coffee, they serve homemade sandwiches, desserts/pastries and breakfast foods. (from otis, it's a nice drive on vista del mar along the ocean.)


                                      1 Reply
                                      1. there is also a Tanners on Santa Monica Blvd just west of Bundy in West LA.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: compucook

                                          Thank you all for your suggestions. I'm looking for is a coffee shop near Otis where I can hang out for a long time in an atmosphere conducive to staring, daydreaming and feeling alone among people.

                                          Most coffee shops here crank up the music and the music is usually bad (only something like Brian Eno would work ). Hippies are ok, considering I'm misanthropic in general. I only like dogs and cats and my boyfriend.

                                        2. Just a thought. Will Talking Stick on Ocena Park fit your bill? I don't go there enough to tell you about their food and coffee, but I find it quiet enough for daydreaming and staring into slow traffic in the afternoon.

                                          1. Across the street from Tanner's in PDR (which is the original BTW) in the minimall with the USPS, Mo's, and Matilla realty, is a place called "Cafe Milan". It is away from the traffic and is a real local's place with good coffee, decent food, and free wifi.

                                            The white round table in front haosts the same group every morning. They call themsleves "the losers" and are mostly retired lawyers and contractors with houses on the sand.

                                            They used to bake their own patries but the INS picked up the chef so they have been getting prebaked for awhile.

                                            Tanner's is a place to stop and get a cup while driving north on vista del mar. Cafe Milan is for hanging out.

                                            1. Thank you for the Cafe Milan suggestion. I'll go there on Tuesday.

                                              I went to the Insomiac today and except for the two ingenues rehersing a script and answering their cellphones, it was ok. Another thing that bothers me is people who twitch, jerk and bounce their legs. I'm sandwiched in in class by these kinds of people and I need to get away from them. . But today I was able to reposition myself and block it out. Sometimes I put my hands on either side of my face as blinders.

                                              The insomniac was a little precious and the cakes were generic upscale crap but so far this is the best cafe I've been to for it's atmosphere and seating and the clientele deep into their laptops. I like the depth and the high ceilings.

                                              I checked out Sabor y Cultura. The coffee was delish but the atmosphere was sterile and the seating uncomfortable. The music was awful and drove me out.

                                              I'm also open to resturants/bakeries that will let me be.

                                              1. stir crazy? it can be diffucult to read in there sometimes though because of the lighting.
                                                susina will let people be, they have yummy baked goods. but i am not sure if it has the "cool" ambiance you desire.

                                                1. Perhaps the Novel Cafe in Santa Monica? It's right off Main Street, near the Venice border.


                                                  I think it meets all your criteria. Low-key, non-corporate vibe; walls lined with used books; no blaring music; eclectic clientele. It's the place I go to read, daydream, stare off into space, and work for extended stretches. You can set up shop there as long as you please, without being pestered.

                                                  As an added bonus, you are a quick walk from the beach, and from the eateries on Main St.

                                                  The only downsides: no plush couches or chairs, and on a hot day, it can get warm in there.

                                                  It's open 7 am - 1 am on schoolnights.

                                                  You can get to/from The Novel and Otis by taking the "back way" through the Marina, bypassing the evil Lincoln Blvd.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: LicketySplit

                                                    Lickety Split: Thank you for your help. It sounds good and I'm going there right now, after I check out The Balconey. I'm a stress case so going to a cafe, then walking on the beach sounds so good. If you see me there, I'm the short-haired, short, prominent nosed woman who's reading Ulysses or detective fiction or tapping on my MAC.

                                                    I looked at a map and I'm not sure how to take this short cut. Do go up Washington, take Lincoln over to Jefferson and cut through Playa del Ray?

                                                    And to all who have responded: you've made me not hate Southern California so much because I know somewhere there's you people who are sweet.

                                                    1. re: JillPickle

                                                      You are very welcome! I have a soft spot for Portland, since that is where I had my first taste of espresso many years ago.

                                                      Forgot to mention one drawback to The Novel: the paucity of free parking, and the traffic flustercluck on warm weekend days. I live right around the corner, and let me tell you, it is a zoo out there today. Best bet for free parking is to park inland/uphill in the neighborhoods (watch for the restricted parking zones to the ocean side of 3rd Street). But give it a few weeks, and it should settle down some. I like it best in winter.

                                                      Another option in the area, with an entirely different feel, is the Rose Cafe (Rose Blvd. between Main and Hampton). They validate for one or two hours. Though I dislike the often-surly counter service there, once you get your coffee, you can sit on the outdoors patio, generally very pleasant and serene. Good shade, nice trees and foliage. The indoors area is OK, too, but I generally prefer a darker interior ambience. Note: the Rose also has a sit-down dining area; that is NOT conducive to lingering.

                                                      I'll have to check out The Balcony now!

                                                  2. I am at The Balconey right now and I love this place, from
                                                    -- the Indian Malabar coffee (the beans are exposed to a high humidity to replicate monsoon weather and give them a unique "blueberry" taste",
                                                    --to the aesthically pleasing siphon/suction method of brewing (smooth but didn't get rid of the acidity
                                                    --to the dishelved Japanese guy who refused to laugh at my jokes
                                                    --to the clean bathroom where there's no cans of Lysol or other chemicals
                                                    --to the superb, electic music (eastern european accordian)
                                                    --to the fact that no one is in here but me and two other anti-social people

                                                    I'm in heaven. Thank you Critter.

                                                    1. You're welcome, JillPickle.

                                                      It truly is a unique place!

                                                      Because there is an actual counter where you can sit and drink your coffee, the physical layout creates a very social environment. I've gotten to know many people by going there.

                                                      1. Does The Balcony have funny hours? I only ask b/c I have gone twice and they were closed (I think early on a weekend...hmm...maybe it was a holiday or something).

                                                        THANKS- when I come back to L.A. I want to check it out!

                                                        1. You probably went before noon. Call them and make sure of this:

                                                          Cafe balcony
                                                          12431 Rochester Ave
                                                          Los Angeles, CA 90025

                                                          3 1 0 . 8 2 0 . 6 9 1 6

                                                          H O U R S:
                                                          Noon to Midnight

                                                          My experience wasn't perfect. For two hours some guy at the bar was filling up the small space with his voice, letting his companion and everyone else know about how chummy he is with Larry David, anaylsing Larry David's humor and reminiscing about every episode of "Curb Your Enthusiasm". It's amazing how people in this town are so self-absorbed they don't realize what they are doing to their surroundings. I was so happy about the coffee and finding a semi-weird place in LA that I was able to block him out.

                                                          1. HAHAHA- I guess you can look at it this way..had you gone to Starbucks instead, you could not have heard this self-absorbed man, because the sound of frapuccinos being blended would hve drowned him out the entire time. I can't even hear myself think in there.

                                                            1. I had to tell the nice manager at Tanner's in Playa del Ray that I'm never coming back again. Yesterday I was surrounded by cellphones. Cool coffee shops in Oregon do not allow people to behave like this. The manager said he understood and he even had a sign that says "no cell phone conversations while placing your order out of respect to the baristas".

                                                              The coffee shop across the street in the strip mall was also unbearable. Cars driving right up to the outdoor tables, sweat-lodge type atmosphere inside, iced coffee watery and undrinable and it took the barista about twelve minutes to make. Weird: all you do is pour coffee over ice and voila.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: JillPickle

                                                                You have enough information for a coffee blog.

                                                                I, myself, have only been to the Tanner's on Sepulveda and like it fine. I'm pretty sure it's the only Tanner's actually still owned by Tanner (not sure, but I'm pretty sure). I like it fine, coffee is good enough, it's pretty quiet except during the morning breakfast crunch (which goes sort of late on Saturday) and there is free wifi.

                                                                I've worked there lots of times and haven't noticed a cell phone problem. But I could write sitting at a desk on the shoulder of the freeway, so I may not be the best judge.

                                                                For what it's worth, I used to live right around the corner from the 18th Street Cafe on Broadway in Santa Monica. It's Broadway and 18th (no duh, PaulF). I can't tell from the thread if you've been there.

                                                                It's pretty Bohemian, sort of Santa Monica-granolaish. It's funky, it's large and that matters because people spread out and there is a patio.

                                                                They used to say Bob Dylan was an owner, but the employees there won't admit it. I haven't been there in a couple of years due to distance, but it was pretty cool a couple of years ago.

                                                                Maybe it will fill your bill.

                                                              2. Thanks, I'll try both next week.

                                                                1. I've been to most of the places discussed above, and I agree with many of the reviews ... Here's my two cents: The Venice Grind (on Venice just east of Centinela)is very comfortable - has good coffee, nice people, and nice indoor and outdoor areas, and it is semi-on-the-way to Otis ... My other suggestion, although it is a chain, is one of my favorite locations; the Peet's just north of Ocean Park on Main Street in Santa Monica is part of a Frank Gehry designed complex that is a great place to hang out ... check them out!