If Seattle is the capital of café culture, then Los Angeles is the rebellious, secessionist city to the south, quickly emerging to stake its own claim in the coffee scene. LA’s reputation as the entertainment industry-driven paparazzi town is slowly moving over to give space to a newer image: a great city to find some great coffee houses. While Starbucks is still holding its own in this caffeine-fueled city, navigating the growing indie coffee scene is becoming as essential to any young Angeleno as knowing the secrets to avoiding rush-hour. Whether looking for that perfect place to read a book, catch-up with friends, or just have a delicious latte, the following are suggestions from Venice Beach to Koreatown that have one factor in common: they offer a unique coffee experience in the city of angels.
If we are going to superlatize this list, then Paper or Plastik Café gets the award for the coolest coffee joint in the city. It is so cool that the sign outside does not even bear the name of the coffee house, but rather just reads “Café.” The coffee served here hits the spot, with a respectably simple yet comprehensive menu of coffees and teas. The hungry can choose from a delicious selection of pastries and more substantial offerings such as homemade chili. But the food and drink play second fiddle to the unique architecture of the café itself. Lofted in an industrial space, Paper or Plastik is connected to the MiMoDa Dance Studio Theatre. Patrons in the lofted section can watch classes in session while sipping on a foamy latte and taking a bite into the cafe’s famous quiche.
Great for: studying, reconnecting with old friends, observing LA hipsters, watching dance classes
Address: 5772 W Pico Blvd
If you are itching for an opportunity to immerse yourself fully in one of LA’s most distinct cultural neighborhoods, look no further than visiting the Yellow House Café. A favorite in Koreatown, walking into Yellow House (which is, very literally, a yellow house) is like walking into a hidden, magical, twinkling courtyard. If you’re willing to be a little adventurous, try one of their signature drinks such as the sweet potato latte or the banana cappuccino. If that sounds like too much, the standard coffees are extremely well-brewed. One warning: cafes in Koreatown are reknownedly expensive. Expect to pay upwards of 5 bucks per drink. However, the service will always be incredible, and you’ll get to spend as long as you want people-watching in this unique quarter of Los Angeles.
Great for: hanging out with large groups of friends, lunch, practicing your Korean
Address: 234 South Oxford Ave.
Every group of cafe hunters has its resident coffee-addict of necessity. This is the deadline-challenged individual whose primary criteria for any cafe is free wifi, outlets, and absurdly late-night hours. Procrastinators rejoice, because snuggled in a cozy, 2-storied corner of Santa Monica is 212 Pier, a coffee haunt for the night owls of west Los Angeles looking for a quiet spot to tinker away on their laptops and journals. Open 24-hours, the organic and surprisingly freshly-prepared coffee and eats of 212 Pier cater to their bohemian Venice-Santa Monica crowd. For a 24-hour establishment, the cafe really holds its own in maintaing a stellar quality brew and delicious snacks. Try the chocolate macaraoons!
Great for: meeting deadlines you should’ve been prepared for, the bohemian life
Address: 212 Pier Ave
Café Bolivar (also known as Bolivar Café and Gallery)
For a more intimate and international flavor, Café Bolivar hits the perfect note. Unlike the other cafes on this list, which all have a slight air of going-to-be-seen, Café Bolivar is a great and completely unpretentious place to go for a quieter but uncompromised coffee experience. The service is remarkably kind, and Bolivar is the rare foam-designing café that comes without a side of coffee snobbishness. The menu is as diverse as it is scrumptious, with dinstinct Latin American specialty drinks. The crowning glory of Bolivar are its arepas. Like Paper or Plastik, Bolivar is following the trend of if-you-want-us-you-have-to-find-us, hiding itself in a signless, white corner building. But the journey is well worth the search, as the café doubles as an art gallery, and is a reasonable stroll away from the beach!
Great for: reading, lazy afternoons, studying
Address: 1741 Ocean Park Boulevard
Starbucks? Yes, Starbucks. But not just any Starbucks! If timed correctly, this Starbucks will double as a front row seat to the hottest movie premieres in Los Angeles. This Starbucks in Westwood Village is a particularly large branch that caters to the constant stream of UCLA students and staff. Open late into the night, the nonstop line at the bar has given this spot a certain tasty efficiency that distinguishes it from others nearby. However, one of the most notable aspects of this cafe is that it is attached to the historic Fox Theater, which is used throughout the year for all the big LA movie premieres. If you do your homework and time it right, you will have a perfect seat to view all the Hollywood action.
Great for: studying, celebrity watching
Address: 10955 Weyburn Ave
Stephanie Martinez is a recent UCLA graduate and blogger who is getting ready to head to Cameroon as a Peace Corps Health Educator this September. She enjoys exploring the LA coffee and foodie scene, and blogging about innovative ways to change the world! Be sure to check out her blog, Wandering Sneakers.