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Jul 15, 2011 03:02 PM

Describe your ideal coffee house...

Yesterday's Times profiled a list of Artisan Specialty Coffee Houses. Whether your taste runs toward Intelligentsia or Starbucks, LA Mill or Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, what are the "must haves", "don't bothers" and great new ideas for beverages and food items in the ideal coffee house. If one already exists in your opinion, what is it and where?

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  1. I don't visit many coffee houses, but I've been very happy with both the hot and cold coffees I've got from Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf.

    1. The original comment has been removed
      1. Quiet. Great cappuccini. Reading matter. Wifi. Decent pastries.

        Gelato Bar on Tujunga, St City.

        'Nuff Said.

        Gelato Bar and Espresso Cafe
        4342 Tujunga Ave, Studio City, CA 91604

        2 Replies
          1. re: Maxmillion

            Ditto for the recommendation of Gelato Bar in Studio City. They make a great cup of coffee (bit of variability based on the barista on hand, but quite good on average), and is a pleasant place to stay, with no loud music.

            The gelato is likewise wonderful - and the afogato which combines them is really truly decadent, though it's advised to get a neutral-ish compatible flavor (hazelnut, chocolate, straciatella, etc.).

          2. The classic coffee-house, where you can order an espresso and hang out for an afternoon, is a sadly dying breed. A very different thing from the so-called artisan coffee bar.

            An example of the former was the late Psychobabble in Los Feliz Village; an example of the latter is Brū, the artisan coffee bar that replaced it.

            No question that Brū has better coffee, but not only did they get rid of the soda selection, the better-than-average menu and almost all the pastries, but they covered over almost all the power outlets to prevent using laptops for more than a short period. (While at the same time they kept the wifi, for no apparent reason.)

            Go ahead and dismiss the laptop screenwriters as leeches, but they're very loyal customers. Brū (owned by the same people who owned Psychobabble) designed away the ratty comfiness that distinguishes the few remaining true coffee houses like Sabor Y Cultura and Bourgeois Pig. It's as if they went out of their way to make the place antiseptic and uninviting.

            As a result of which they have three customers on a weekday evening and not that many more on weekends. That's what happens when you chase away your customer base.

            (The Psychobabble link below will go to the Brū listing.)

            Brū Coffee Bar
            1866 N Vermont Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90027

            4 Replies
            1. re: maxzook

              I take it that the atmosphere of the place is first on your list. If the conveniences (soft seating, free wi-fi, electrical outlets) were available in a more "commercial" type location (e.g. Starbucks type place) would you consider that place or is that kind of "antiseptic & uninviting" place to which you were referring? Is it possible to be commercial and not "antiseptic & uninviting"? If so, how?

              1. re: Elegantbear

                I'm not maxzook, but will still reply. Electric outlets are an absolute necessity, with Wi-fi highly desirable. That rules out, sadly, Kean Coffee, as Mr. Diedrich has told me that he wants his shops to be havens from the business world. What he doesn't realize is that folks like myself take the laptop to a coffee house not to be immersed in work, but rather to enjoy the NY Times crossword puzzle over a great drink. Laptops can be used for pleasure.

                Obviously the drinks have to be at least decent. I tend not to get coffee, as I make a fine freshly-ground cup at the office each day. But a good blended mocha on the weekend, after a tough morning with the bicycle club, is a real pleasure.

                Last requirement: at least a reasonable noise level. Otherwise excellent coffee houses that blast rock and roll at ear splitting volume are off the list. An example down where I live: Waterloo Station in Mission Viejo: fine drinks, nice atmosphere, outlets, Wi-fi, but god-awful music played at deafening levels.


                Kean Coffee
                2043 Westcliff Dr Ste 100, Newport Beach, CA 92660

                1. re: ArtShapiro

                  >>as Mr. Diedrich has told me that he wants his shops to be havens from the business world.<<

                  Couldn't agree more, and this is why I rarely sit at a typical coffee shop. Folks camp out, take the best seats and cement themselves there, take up a lot of space, run their power cords across the floor, hold meetings, etc. I'd rather drink swill at home than pay for this kind of "ambiance."

                  1. re: bulavinaka

                    ditto on everything bulavinaka said and ADD to that: there is a starbucks near me that has a homeless person who basically lives there all the time. the woman stashes her belongings behind the couch during the day.
                    on top of that, there are at least three people at the same starbucks who run their full time businesses, using cell phones and laptops, shuttling between that starbucks and the coffee bean across the street from it

                    the coffee house that i used to love is no longer.
                    it was like CHEERS only they served coffee instead of booze.
                    even though the coffee wasn't top-of-the-line, all the patrons loved it and supported it as a business. after the northridge earthquake, when there were no pastry/bread deliveries, one of the customers found a bakery that was open and brought in enough baked goods to supply the coffee house for the entire day. the good samaritan refused to accept any money for the baked goods, it was like family. during the day we all came in at different times to make sure everyone else was ok and we all bought stuff to support the business. it provided NO outlets for the laptop crowd that sits all day and maybe orders two blended drinks during the entire day.

            2. I rather like Catalina Coffee Company in Redondo Beach. Its many ratty couches, giant chessboard, shelves of books, fireplace, and old, nonmatching lamps really remind me of the comfy, settled-in cafes I loved as a college student in Berkeley. Their espresso-based drinks are above average, and they serve everything in giant white mugs that they bring to whatever corner you hunker down into. Ironically, the South Bay is otherwise your utterly classic, annoying, cookie-cutter suburb when it comes to businesses, restaurants, and cafes.

              13 Replies
              1. re: buttermarblepopcorn

                Is there anyting redeemable about the "Peet's" type of coffee house? What percentage is atmosphere and what percentage is the coffee/food etc?

                1. re: Elegantbear

                  I wouldn't necessarily lump Peet's into this category. Maybe you meant "Starbucks/Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf" type? I only say this because Peet's offers all their hot drinks (and possibly cold ones, too) in mugs upon request if you're drinking it in-store. That itself distinguishes them from the other suburban chains, not to mention their espresso drinks simply taste better.

                  1. re: buttermarblepopcorn

                    And they have very good looseleaf tea, available in teapots upon request. But atmosphere has never been their strong suit.

                    1. re: buttermarblepopcorn

                      I only referred to Peets as a commercial type coffee house, but one with a heritage. CB&T is definitely more commercial than Peets.

                      1. re: buttermarblepopcorn

                        I seldom drink coffee, and my one visit to Peet's was my last. Their plain green tea was awful.

                        1. re: buttermarblepopcorn

                          I don't like Starbucks--their coffee is too bitter, but they also offer their hot drinks in mugs upon request if you're drinking in the store.

                        2. re: Elegantbear

                          what's 'redeemable' about peets, imho, is that their plain, brewed coffee is good at most of their locations.
                          at my local peets there is no need to order an "americano" or any other more costly version of coffee in order to get something drinkable.

                          1. re: westsidegal

                            My experience with Peet's in general is that their products seem to be focused more on quality than the other chains - drip, espresso and tea. The baristas seem to be more barista-like as well. Peet's seems to draw a different crowd too. They do have the folks who will bring their laptops, but the numbers are far fewer and they don't seem to be in campout mode. If I'm looking for a cuppa and know there's a Peet's around, I will bypass the 10 surrounding Starbucks, not even glance at the two CB&TL and fight traffic in order to hit up Peet's any day of the week.

                            1. re: bulavinaka

                              This is true. Peet's has a quality product. Not everyone likes the deep roasty flavors of their coffee, but it's not simply burnt like Starbucks is.

                              I spent dozens, maybe hundreds, of hours camped out at Peet's during law school.

                              1. re: sushigirlie

                                Pretty much by definition, the coffee chains offer coffee for the "common" man or woman - they hit the bulk of the consumer market. Peet's is on the outer fringe of this market, kinda pouring a gray line between something that might suggest coffee and coffee that is.

                                1. re: bulavinaka

                                  it's "coffee-enough" for me.
                                  when i made the trip to try intelligensia in venice, despite the tremendous amount of labor and capital that went into the cup of coffee that was served to me, it was bitter--the kind of bitter that you can create in your own kitchen by using water that is too hot.
                                  the marina del rey peets, on the other hand, has NEVER served me a bitter cup of regular coffee.
                                  if what they serve is "coffee for the common man," then count me as one of the common men.

                                  1. re: westsidegal

                                    Having looked under your written skirt, I don't think the man-part(s) apply to you - in a good way... :)

                                    That Peet's is my regular go-to in that general area. Always clean, never too crowded, coffee's always ON, and the staff is always pleasant. I'm typically not a special request person (you know, "I wanna half-caff soy this-or-that), but most of the baristas there seem to like soy lattes. I will often order that when there since they do them well. I don't feel as guilty sidling up to a soy drink at 4 or 5PM as I would a cow milk drink I guess... My one gripe is they can run out of stuff in their pastry case. My fault though - dropping by in the later afternoon - not very business-wise for a place to carry so many yummies that they will be overage by the end of the day - again, my fault.

                                    1. re: bulavinaka

                                      agree with you on all counts about the marina del rey peets.
                                      the worst part is that if you hit them after their pastry supply is depleted, there are basically no other decent options in the area.

                                      that is what happened to me the last time i was studying for my license and when i returned to my study group bearing panera pastries, instead of the peets pastries: nobody in the group liked any of the panera pastries well enough to take more than a couple of bites. i brought at least 5 different types of panera pastries, not one piece was completely consumed.