Here’s the second in a series of posts looking back at LA’s growing coffee culture (see Part 1 here). Below you’ll witness the proliferation of both multi-roaster shops, like Cognoscenti Coffee and Commissary Coffee), as well as home-grown roastery-cafes like Portola and Cafecito Organico.
Proof Bakery / Cognoscenti Coffee, Atwater Village
A perfect match between sweet & savory treats and well-prepared coffees roasted around the US. Cognoscenti is a former pop-up with a counter inside Proof Bakery. This shop is in the Atwater Village neighborhood, just across the street from Tacos Villa Corona (an Anthony Bourdain recommendation – not bad, the burritos decent and reasonably priced, but not the best in the city). If not in the mood for Mexican, Proof has tantalizing options to cover you for breakfast, lunch, and dessert – with a coffee break or two in between. A pleasant surprise – they also use those beautiful vintage US Navy Homer Laughlin coffee mugs I posted about a while back!
Portola Coffee, Costa Mesa
I visited Portola on a whim a scant three or four months after they opened, finding them off the beaten path in Costa Mesa, Orange County, inside a shopping center that was still under construction. I was impressed by the massive investment – the roaster, the fully stocked bar packed to the gills with different brewing gear (from several Bunn Trifectas to a hand-made Slayer espresso machine), and the earnest staff. Since then I’ve watched from afar – and tasted a few bags worth of coffee – that have shown this team takes the craft seriously with great ambition. Definitely one of my top shops to visit next time I am in Los Angeles!
Gelato Bar, Studio City
2nd place USBC winner Nick Krankl consulted on Gelato Bar’s coffee program and training, meaning that there was a pretty good chance of having a good coffee here. Back then they were serving coffee roasted by Ecco Caffe, but have since switched to the equally great 49th Parallel. I haven’t kept up with things since then, but it may be worth visiting – let me know what you think in the comments.
Coffee Commissary, West Hollywood
This shop has expanded to several quirky locations around LA, but when I visited they were centered here in West Hollywood next door to the always-fun-to-visit Lindy & Grundy Meats (the type of place that offers “classes for meat enthusiasts”). Coffee Commissary serves multiple roasters, including Coava, Sightglass, Victrola, and Temple.
Check out that beautiful natural scenery.
Spring for Coffee, Downtown LA
A hole in the wall that opened in Downtown LA in 2009, this is another multi-roaster shop that I admire for sheer tenacity – the downtown scene has rapidly grown with strong coffee shops, but this place has real no-nonsense coffee-purist charm – which is probably part of why it has outlasted some of its competition.
I was excited to try this cafe & roaster that grew, as so many do, from a cart at a farmers market. I can’t judge based on my one and only visit, but the shot was way too intense for my tastes – high dosage, somewhat roasty bittersweetness. I’d still stop by again just for the benefit of the doubt, though – I know there are many fans and you can’t expect perfection 100% of the time :)
Located in Westwood next to UCLA, I wish this cafe had been there when I was still a clueless undergrad drinking caramel macchiatos. I only visited once on a recent trip, but it seems like a welcome addition to the neighborhood with much-needed ambition to produce quality coffee drinks.
That’s it for Part II – if you missed it, check out my first post in this series looking back at LA coffee! Stay tuned for a final post, before I head back to LA later this summer with fresh updates!