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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. 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.

              Art

              -----
              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.

                    2. I've been obsessed with trying to find a good one since arriving in L.A. over ten years ago, and have yet to find it, though Catalina in Redondo described above sounds pretty perfect.

                      A mix of comfy seating and more "professional" - I love a long bar that stares out the window in addition to a few tables with regular chairs and cushy couches. A ton of electrical outlets, free wifi (or with purchase is fine). Excellent coffee, excellent pastries of both the breakfast and the midday snack variety, preferably sandwiches, etc. as well, though not one of my requirements - though if there are sandwiches, things that go well with coffee or at least don't clash. It's a personal pet peeve when the only sandwiches they serve all have salsa or curry - these are not flavors that go well with a cuppa. Knowledgeable and friendly staff is a plus, one that can answer questions about the pastries without a sneer and that doesn't eyeball you when you open up the laptop. If you can throw in shelves of loaner books so that you know it's okay to linger there, even better. Best scenario would be that they serve coffee and alcohol (even just beer and wine) so that friends can meet after dinner or around happy hour and all parties can order their drink of choice.

                      I'm a freelance writer, so I park at coffee shops on an almost daily basis. It's true that the writers linger and use it as their office, but I am happy to pay for the privilege with numerous refills, buy my meals, tip well, recommend online, and return for business meetings. It's shortsighted of places that clearly chase away the lingerers. A loyal clientele will keep a business running, and a packed house brings in business - especially with coffee since so many orders are to go. Busy tables aren't going to drive away incoming business. I'm also a coffeehouse fiend even when I'm not working, so some of my criteria come from that as well - a place that shares equal possibilities of alone time to read the paper or a few chapters of a book, get together with friends, get some work done, or talk business. A rare and dying breed indeed, though I can usually find at least one good one in any town with a major liberal arts college.

                      18 Replies
                      1. re: thursday

                        I agree there's no great coffee shop in LA. That's why my deleted post listed great coffee shops in other cities.

                        This isn't to say LA doesn't have great coffee. Intelligentsia, in particular, has great coffee. But neither the Silver Lake nor the Venice location is a great coffee shop, IMO, because the food is just passable and, more importantly, neither is all that comfortable.

                        This is why I recommend switching from coffee to hookah.

                        1. re: sushigirlie

                          No one seems to want what I want here. Which is why it doesn't exist in LA. I don't really care if there are outlets, wi-fi, ratty sofas etc.

                          All I want is a combination roaster/coffee bar where I'm surrounded by barrels of freshly roasted beans The sound of steel scoops shushing the beans into pound bags. Groundwork makes an effort with their poorly stocked bin/shelf set-up but it's just not the same as being enveloped in the scent of roasted beans in burlap (the Venice location does do a better job of this than others). LA Mill and Intelligentsia both would have us trust that they are so 'high-end' that we don't actually need to see the beans. Or smell them. Nothing like paying $24/lb. for over-roasted beans.

                          1. re: mrgreenbeenz

                            Ooo, I actually agree with this. I remember when Starbucks first started growing and they still had the fresh beans in drawers. The smell of coffee when you walked in was so overpowering it made me salivate instantaneously. I love the sound of those steel scoops.

                            1. re: mrgreenbeenz

                              You might check out the Conservatory.

                              The guys at Spring for Coffee love to open up the canisters to let you see and smell the beans.

                              1. re: mrgreenbeenz

                                Yup I went by the Conservatory for coffee and tea yesterday and their was a palate outside with what looked like 100lb sacks of coffee. They usually carry about 8 varieties roasted at any one time in small batches to keep them fresh and turning over. Pretty sure you can buy some of the Sac's if you want as well. Mostly roast to Full City FWIW

                                1. re: AAQjr

                                  I love the Conservatory near Sony Pictures for Coffee
                                  They are one of the better coffee houses-big sacks o bean laying around-a few tables and a patio-kinda small-pull a great capp
                                  and I like the Venice Groundwork on Rose Ave for a quick drip-
                                  Inteligesia on Abbot Kinney is overpriced and too trendy -plus it takes too long-
                                  And is sterile -Not very inviting

                                2. re: mrgreenbeenz

                                  You can get the swishing/scoopy beany sound at Pasadena's Jameson Brown Coffee Roaster. The whole place reeks of beans. But unfortunately, it has wifi.

                                  -----
                                  Jameson Brown Coffee Roasters
                                  260 N Allen Ave, Pasadena, CA

                                3. re: sushigirlie

                                  Have you tried one of the daily special paninis from the Silverlake Cheese Store right next door in SL? That plus an Intelligentsia cappccino is a gorgeous combo on a Sunday afternoon if you can find a table...order panini then go get in like for coffee.

                                  1. re: Louisiana Mouth

                                    I agree. Often when I work remotely from Intelligentsia, I go to the CheeseStore of Silverlake for lunch, and bring it back to Intelligentsia. The people at Intelligentsia seem pretty cool about that. And the paninis are excellent.

                                    More often, however, I go to Intelligentsia in the morning. The pastries they have in the morning are so-so.

                                4. re: thursday

                                  How about Priscillas in Toluca Lake? They have bins with beans and also a nice seating area. As I recall, there are several electrical outlets and free Wifi. I'm sure the bean quality is not on par with LA Mill or Intelligentsia....but otherwise most of your criteria will be met. Plenty of writers pass the day away at the coffee house and nobody seems to get irritable.

                                  1. re: thursday

                                    2 comes to mind --
                                    Coffeebar in DTLA has the long bar, and some comfy (outdoor) seating. They have beyond good coffee "program" (sadly, the Slayer is gone) but the pastries are barely passable. The parking's absolutely miserable, making this place obviously only suited for locals.

                                    My current fave, though, is clearly Chimney Coffee House. They have decent beans, though their pour-overs are rather pricey (and lukewarm). The espresso drinks are still using the lowly Jones beans (but passable, and local). That said, there is generous parking, the traffic isn't loaded with writers (uhm, it's next to LAX-C, no one wants to hang out at LAX-C save for me and ErikM), they have wifi (don't know how fast it is) and a few plugs.

                                    What really sets Chimney apart from the Tomo/Balconi/Keans/Bru/Intelligentsia is its RIDICULOUS pastry program. We're talking cheese danish that rivals anything in LA (Amandine comes to mind first) and brick toast, cream puffs, croissants, the works. I believe the pastry chef/cook is CSA trained (not that this means much, just confirming he's a cook, not an auditioning actor) and all pastries can be quickly heated in the convection/toaster oven.

                                    Both, as sushigirlie might be to glad know, are in Los Angeles proper.

                                    -----
                                    Chimney Coffee House
                                    1100 N Main St #B, Los Angeles, CA 90012

                                    1. re: TonyC

                                      I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks Jones beans are only passable.

                                      1. re: TonyC

                                        I had a yummy grilled cheese at Coffeebar, so the food's not all bad, though I have no doubt you're right about the pastries.

                                        1. re: sushigirlie

                                          I'd like to retract what I said about the yummy grilled cheese. The second one I ordered was bad--dry, burnt-tasting bread with no butter whatsoever. The pour over coffee was seriously underextracted to boot.

                                          Spring for Coffee is the place to go.

                                      2. re: thursday

                                        I hang out in Tanner's in Culver City.

                                        I like it because it's basically people from the neighborhood. The coffee is fine, the servers are really nice. For what it's worth, they have a bar that looks out a window. I doubt Tanner's is what you seek, but they do have that bar looking out.

                                        As an aside, I've been a writer since 1990. I've never successfully written anything in a coffee shop, though I've tried. It looks so cool to do that. But whenever I've tried, I don't know, the work just is never that good. I've written a couple of good first drafts in coffee shops (anyone remember Big and Tall on Beverly from about 20 years ago) ... but could never consistently work in public.

                                        1. re: thursday

                                          <<It's shortsighted of places that clearly chase away the lingerers>>

                                          tell that to me again AFTER you have signed a ten year lease with a PERSONAL GUARANTEE and paid out somewhere over $25 grand for buildout and permits.

                                          your words suggest that you have never actually been on the personal financial hook for such a business. normally the 20% of the customers that provide 80% of the revenue (the lifeblood of a coffee house) are NOT the lingerers.

                                          1. re: westsidegal

                                            It's true, I've never owned a coffee business. But it's not a choice for me of "Do I buy coffee at the locally owned place I prefer and not get work done?" or "Do I buy coffee at the chain I hate and work?" It's "Where can I get a cup of coffee and get work done?" Sadly, that means I visit Panera and Starbucks multiple times a week, and hit the local spot literally only a few times a year when I'm meeting a friend. I would LOVE to kick them my $3-$15 a day instead of feeding the corporate giants, but not getting work done isn't an option...so another local place with better coffee, better food, and better atmosphere closes yet again.

                                            1. re: thursday

                                              trying to capture your $3 to $15 a day would end up costing the local place more in expense than the amount you would be spending.

                                              if a local place closes it's because they haven't figured out how to get enough customers that come in, spend their money, then leave to go to work somewhere else.
                                              and/or
                                              they haven't been able to manage their costs.
                                              for obvious reasons the little guys are at a tremendous disadvantage when it comes to negotiating rents with landlords or food costs with their suppliers . they HAVE to make every square foot of space work for them (i.e. bring in money) during the hours of operation or they will go belly up. there is very little wiggle room.

                                              a high-volume drive through is the best of all possible worlds, finanacially.

                                              even some of the chains are figuring out that making it less comfortable for the lingerers is better for their bottom line. in many of the newer locations the amount of seating they are offering is declining, the comfort of the seats is declining, the size of the tables is declining. and the noise level is increasing.

                                              that said, i've watched a guy squeezed between two strangers on a couch at the marina del rey starbucks, balance his cup of coffee, use his laptop and talk on his cellphone, all at the same time while having no table space. it was an amazing performance.

                                        2. Last week I recently discovered that churros (as well as pretzels from Coffee Tomo) make a fabulous accompaniment to coffee. Driving home from Westwood, I noticed Churros Caliente on Santa Monica Blvd in West LA (intersection of Colby on the same block as Bank of America). Those quaint whole in the wall next to a movie theater features a selection of wonderful coffee drinks (I tried the Cafe con leche and was happily buzzing 45 minutes later) in addition to a churro menu, meaning, a variety of churros!!! I allowed the owner to order for me and I got a wonderful basket of 6 long skinny churros (about the width of a slim highlighter) topped with cream cheese and guava. I am excited to try the other flavors including chocolate and nutella.

                                          -----
                                          Churros Calientes
                                          11521 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025-3007

                                          Coffee Tomo
                                          11309 Mississippi Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90025

                                          1. A picture of the churros with guava and cream cheese and cafe con leche

                                            -----
                                            Churros Calientes
                                            11521 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025-3007

                                            Coffee Tomo
                                            11309 Mississippi Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90025

                                             
                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: aweintra

                                              And the final response in this thread -- If you enjoy Churros Calientes, I'd revisit frequently and soon.

                                              There's tension between investors and management, and talks of either closure, remodeling/restructure, buy-out, etc. is circulating.

                                              -----
                                              Churros Calientes
                                              11521 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025-3007

                                              1. re: TonyC

                                                What a shame - the owner is passionate about his place, and where else can one get churros like this in the Westside?

                                            2. The place with the best coffee. I suggest going to Proof Bakery in Atwater Village to get coffee from Cognoscenti Coffee. The guy who owns it knows his coffee!

                                              1. I've been to most every coffee house in west LA and there is only one answer that meets every caliber of Ideal.

                                                Funnel Mill

                                                They have a mix of small tables, bar seating, comfortable couch/chair style seating and a tremendously soothing atmosphere. There is power and wi-fi available but few campers (the tables are not that generous), service is incomparable, the coffee is spectacular (I don't care for non-coffee drinks at all) and the noise level is almost always at a pleasant buzz. It's a fabulous first date spot or place to enjoy a book, do a crossword or just bliss out to your caffeine fix. There is only one flaw which is they are closed on Sunday, but I'm utterly willing to forgive them for that.

                                                Coffee Tomo comes in a close second to Funnel Mill. They have broad, big tables, with comfortable seats (but wooden, not all day seats. It's not loud, but the space feels smaller than Funnel Mill. There are always a few campers, as the tables allow a lot of sprawl. They have wi-fi and power available. The coffee is tremendous, but the house made pretzels are equally excellent (and unique) and having in house snack food that good is an Enormous plus. I spent a few nights in the past couple weeks reading there. Friendly staff, but it'd be nice if you didn't have to get up to go retrieve your drink and food, sometimes it's quite difficult to extricate yourself from the small tables by the windows. I love the vibe you get from those big wood tables. Their biggest downside is the restroom, which I didn't notice but my girlfriend was not a fan

                                                Cafe Balconi is also quite good, they have absolutely impeccable service, and staying here all day long is incredibly easy, in fact, I've done it a few times and just ran a tab and paid when I left after I'd been there hours (which covered a shift change). Their service pre coffee is very elite. after grinding, they give you the coffee to approve the aroma, then brew it for you. My first cup there was one of those eye-opening, oh my god top three cups of coffee all time moments. My second cup was also excellent, but not as stunning. Their pastry is quite good. The seating is a rather sad affair as it is such a small space. One bar overlooks the sink where equipment is rinsed, the one small round table has very uncomfortable seats, and the other table seems to sit too low to be good for a computer. I haven't tried to bring out my computer here, but I can't imagine anywhere that would have space to even open a laptop, much less plug it in somewhere. I doubt they have wifi. Ironically, they use an ipad for their register and you receive your receipt via text message. This place is very quiet, very peaceful, if the seating were more comfortable I'd spend most of my weekends there reading a book.

                                                So these three places represent the best cup of coffee you can get on the westside and also the best overall experience.

                                                Lesser coffee houses follow:

                                                Conservatory - the only place I buy coffee beans it is always busy, closes early, is closed Sunday, is usually loud, crowded and almost boistrous. The seating is rather uncomfortable and it's not really a place to linger. They have regulars though, and there are usually a couple campers. They do one of the best pour-overs, but you wouldn't even know they offer it. Their dispenser coffee is the best you can expect from a dispenser, really a cut above the rest. I'm not one for coffee drinks but their double-shot mocha, served for 'here' in a proper ceramic mug with whipped cream and chocolate syrup is the best mocha I've ever had. A true guilty pleasure.

                                                Intelligentisia - basically the weakest pour over cup I've ever gotten from a coffee house, and I've had it a few times. The only thing that made them special was the Clover, that built an unearned reputation and largely they overcharge and underserve. Also, all their seating is designed to be maximally uncomfortable so they have high turnover and few lingerers. No power, there was wifi last time I took a computer. Never take a first date here, it is loud, awkward, there's a huge line, no available seating and when you eventually get seating it's horrendously uncomfortable.

                                                Urth Caffe - no wifi, no power, more of a restaurant than a coffee house. Still they provide good service, good coffee and it makes for a nice date spot.

                                                Espresso Cielo - a place to order and leave, very good coffee, but never struck me as a place to sit down.

                                                The Novel Cafe - Kitschy, and 60s-dozy but not overly uncomfortable, slow service on the food, they may even forget your order. really sketchy/skanky bathrooms. Coffee unremarkable and worse than starbucks.

                                                Groundworks - the coffee is absolutely awful, you come in and press it out of the dispenser yourself, most of the time it tastes as though its two hours old (at 9am) there is no seating whatsoever and it's just generally a rather unfriendly place.

                                                Joni's Coffee Roaster - more of a restaurant than a coffee place, they seemed confused when I was looking more for coffee or coffee beans than to sit down and order. They only had one roast, one blend of beans you could buy and those were over roasted and rather disappointing. They serve a quite decent cup there though and the food is pretty good.

                                                Cow's End - The dive bar of coffee houses. Old natty couches, sprawling huge space and a quirky venice vibe to the menu. The most laid back place on the list

                                                Starbucks on Maxella/Lincoln - I hate to say it, but it's got to be mentioned. They brew clover, which puts their coffee at better quality than some of the dispenser coffee places on this list. they have big tables. they have bar seating, they have power outlets and wifi and they have incredible comfortable leather chairs as well. Be sure to ask for a ceramic cup when you order clover, which makes the experience that much less of a 'starbucks' experience which means it is that much more of a pleasurable way to enjoy a cup of coffee, a book, the internet or the paper. :)

                                                -----
                                                Urth Caffe
                                                267 S Beverly Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90212

                                                Joni's Coffee Roaster Cafe
                                                552 Washington Blvd, Marina Del Rey, CA

                                                Funnel Mill
                                                930 Broadway, Santa Monica, CA

                                                Tomo
                                                18707 Devonshire St, Northridge, CA 91324

                                                Espresso Cielo
                                                3310 Main St, Santa Monica, CA 90405

                                                Coffee Tomo
                                                11309 Mississippi Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90025

                                                9 Replies
                                                1. re: jadekarrde

                                                  My opinion regarding Funnel Mill is that everything about it is great except the coffee. I think the coffee is hopelessly stale, and in fact has no flavor except for staleness. It has none of the nuanced fruitiness of Intelligentsia's coffees, which are invariably roasted within about a week of use. And while it's hard to assess the quality of Funnel Mill's beans given that I've never tasted them fresh, I have no doubt that they could never make coffee as expressive as that at Intelligentsia. The effort that Intelligentsia puts into sourcing great beans from around the world is enormous.

                                                  -----
                                                  Funnel Mill
                                                  930 Broadway, Santa Monica, CA

                                                  1. re: sushigirlie

                                                    Uncharacteristically, I have to agree with sushigirlie on this one. In spite of the seemingly meticulous siphon preparation, the coffee disappoints. It never attains the complexity of coffee from Intelligentsia, and, worse, seems to end up with some off-notes. I don't know whether it's due to poor roasting technique, stale beans, or something else. It's too bad, since Funnel Mill seems to want to do things right.

                                                    1. re: Peripatetic

                                                      I suspect our food tastes are pretty similar.

                                                    2. re: sushigirlie

                                                      I'd have to disagree completely with you. I've never had a cup of coffee from Funnel Mill that I would rate as stale, though I've definitely had pour beans and stale experience every time I've been to Intelligentsia since they took out the Clovers. Funnel Mill always seems to have fresh roasts and cares about each individual cup, the cups I've had there bettered the one really spectacular cup I had at Intelligentsia. I've never been terribly impressed by the bean quality at Intelligentsia, they introduced me to what coffee could be but those three top coffee houses I've listed have shown me the heights coffee can really ascend to, heights Intelligentsia never really achieved, imo.

                                                      However, you could be completely right and I simply didn't notice; it is important to add that Funnel Mill has two powerful non coffee factors working in its favor, the warm lighting and friendly, spotless appointment of the restaurant makes me very inclined to overrate it relative to what it might achieve in an unappointed, neutrally toned/lit room (ie objective). And it's equally important to note that Intelligentsia likewise has two powerful noncoffee factors working against it, the brash lighting and antagonistic seating with postmodern metal decor and the name itself suggest I am inclined to underrate it relative to what it might achieve in the abovementioned neutral environment.

                                                      Yet despite the negative factors working to bias me against Intelligentsia, it was my favorite coffee for several months after it opened, and it did open my eyes to the possibility of coffee, so I would like to think that I was not too unconsciously biased against it. However, it's entirely possible that I simply succumbed to selection and confirmation bias when they took out the clover and used that change as an excuse to allow a bias to fester.

                                                      Likewise the lengthy interval (around a year and a half) between Intelligentsia becoming average and my discovery of Funnel MIll (et al) may well have led to an overreaction in favor of the new discoveries.

                                                      On the other hand, since I tend to be hyperaware of my own biases and preferences and my own tendencies towards confirmation and selection bias, I'm rather confident in standing by my assessment that Funnel Mill is far superior to Intelligentsia in taste, bean selection, freshness of the roast, atmosphere of the facility and overall service. Funnel Mill isn't the best in every category, Cafe Balconi has better service and a more selectively curated bean selection, Coffee Tomo roasts their own and has superior food options, but Funnel Mill is the best all around ideal coffee house experience.

                                                      -----
                                                      Funnel Mill
                                                      930 Broadway, Santa Monica, CA

                                                      Coffee Tomo
                                                      11309 Mississippi Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90025

                                                      1. re: jadekarrde

                                                        Well, to each his or her own. I'm happy that Funnel Mill has its supporters; it deserves them.

                                                        -----
                                                        Funnel Mill
                                                        930 Broadway, Santa Monica, CA

                                                    3. re: jadekarrde

                                                      1000 words and nothing on Espresso Profeta? They pull one of the best shots on the Westside.

                                                      -----
                                                      Espresso Profeta
                                                      1129 Glendon Ave, Los Angeles, CA

                                                      1. re: jadekarrde

                                                        You hit the nail on the head re: Intelligentsia Venice. They pull a great shot of espresso, but, well ... let's just say there has to be a happy medium somewhere between a comfy place that compels people to commandeer a 4-spot table for 6 hours with only a laptop for company (I'm looking at you, Catalina and Jones), and an uncomfy place which compels people to get the hell out as fast as possible.

                                                        The moment I first walked in the place I just knew it must have been somebody's Painfully Postmodern senior architecture project circa 1994, probably with a written statement that included the words "reification", "limning", "gendered space", "recontextualizing", and "subverting primacy of..."

                                                        1. re: Bradbury

                                                          I go to the Silver Lake location five times as often, even though I live in Santa Monica, because the Venice location is such a disaster. It could be fixed. The coffee preparation area in the center takes up about twice as much space as necessary. I wish they'd get rid of the back half and put in a long two-sided communal table. I also wish they'd expand the width of the upstairs bar--it's too narrow for most uses.

                                                          They could also shorten the display case showing off so-so pastries and add a third coffee prep station.

                                                        2. re: jadekarrde

                                                          Seems like "on a Date" is a priority to You? Ok Sure

                                                        3. "Three doors down from my luxury mountain-top, pied-à-terre in Gstaad with the 2011 Bugatti Tuatara resting in its controlled atmosphere garage; that little cafe where Richard Capizzi (Per Se and Bouchon Bakery, New York) makes the pastries that accompany my complimentary daily mug of Kopi Luwak while the resurrected Django Reinhardt, Charlie Parker and Chet Baker accompany Piaf in a half-hour set that celebrates my delight with the sun's rise. "

                                                          Hey, YOU asked.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: Steve2 in LA

                                                            i would like to join Steve2 in his place, AND when doing it i would like to be tall, thin, blonde, young, pretty, beautifully dressed, and able to be graceful while wearing spike heeled shoes.

                                                            the coffee should be served in bone china mugs, please. . . .

                                                          2. For me it would be a sit down place that also has pastries--with wait staff. Something similar to coffee houses in some parts of S. America or like the "condittorei" of German-speaking countries. The coffee should also be served in a china/porcelain cup/mug or glass--not in a plastic cup.

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: Wawsanham

                                                              Are these chains or mom-and-pop affairs? Would the pastry chef be resident? I vaguely remember these in Europe, but that was many years ago and I don't remember enough detail to guess what the business plans were like.

                                                              1. re: LADave

                                                                They might be chains--but probably not with more than 10 outlets, more probably neighborhood type or "mom and pop" cafes. From my experience, there isn't necessarily a pastry chef on the premises--they might get that delivered from a bakery. These places can be quite small and simple. On my most recent trips to Germany, these places are disappearing from the urban landscape--being replaced by Starbucks type places. In South America they are mostly still strong, though.

                                                            2. I would like a quiet and comfy place-with a fire place in the corner-shabby chic-
                                                              with wifi-books and odds and ends-

                                                              Old wood chairs and desks-a few couches and lamp lighing
                                                              Like visiting someones cozy home-

                                                              Great coffee and french pastry-great teas-at reasonable prices
                                                              maybe have a few specialty cheeses and salami's
                                                              and some yummy brown bread and jam-
                                                              A place to sit quietly in thought and sip a great cup a joe-inside or outside in the sun

                                                              Nothing loud or busy-
                                                              Solitude in a big city-

                                                              AND A Back Patio-with plants and an fountain-little hidden places to sit and read-
                                                              there is nothing in LA with a fantastic patio-Is there?

                                                              Dog Friendly
                                                              A NO Cell Phone talking policy-
                                                              One area for computer plug -ins and talking maybe 10 spots max
                                                              One area for smokers-Nothing like a smoke and strong cup-

                                                              I Don't have an ideal one here in LA but please start one-

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: kandykane

                                                                for about $40,000-$60.000 and a PERSONAL GUARANTEE on a ten year lease, YOU can start one yourself. . . . . .
                                                                just getting the place built out and permits issued is a special kind of hell. . . .