Los Angeles! Where better to see and be seen drinking delicious coffee beverages? In recent years, countless Californians have taken breaks from their juice cleanses to strut around with to-go cups from early coffee scene pioneers like Intelligentsia and LAMill. But nowadays, the playing field (be it iced or hot) is a little more crowded. Alongside West coast strongholds like Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf and Peet's, LA's current coffee selection has some of the country's best and most interesting shops.
Without further ado:
Handsome Coffee Roasters
Getting a bunch of handsome men together to open a roastery cafe in Los Angeles sounds like it would be easy, but getting the coffee and the retail concept to work as beautifully as the proprietors is no small accomplishment. Luckily this Arts District spot (now just over a year old) is both a locus of delicious coffee and community as well—look for an endless procession of fancy food trucks, a weeknight farmer's market, and faces of people who call their seat at the bar home.
Order a drink from the super-simple menu (you can choose drip coffee or espresso with various sizes of milk—basic numerical translations of otherwise blurred concepts of measurement those regular cafes use like "cappuccino") and join your compatriots in the streaming sunlight of East Los Angeles and all the handsomeness that surrounds you.
Handsome Coffee Roasters
Glanville & Babinski
A collaboration within a collaboration, the first incarnation of ex-Intelligentsia veterans Kyle Glanville and Charles Babinski's new coffee "thing" is a modest cafe (some have said it's broom closet-esque: I say it's bigger than that) within LA confectionier/lunch counter SQIRL on Virgil Avenue.
The shop's split into two sides: toasts with jam, irresistable lemon-and-such-infused-rice bowls on the left, and Glanville and Babinski's coffee labette on the right, where the at least one of the two barista-owners man the bar most days and can guide you through a rotating menu of drip coffees from roasters around the land (the likes of Ritual, Heart, etc.), or sneak around to the back of the shop and hop on the espresso machine. Extremely limited seating combined with buzz and constantly changing menus on both sides of the shop make this place crowded and exciting; the service and attention make it delicious and destination-worthy.
Glanville & Babinski (at SQIRL)
This branch of the Chicago-born, soon-to-be-tricoastal roaster was, when it opened, one of the chain's most ambitious: individual stations with personal barista service, words like "concierge" and "back bar" bandied about as if you were entering some sleek hotel. The high-concept shop's looking considerably the worse for wear nowadays—the mad-scientist/Rube Goldberg aesthetic is still there, but the wood's worn down and the walls look like a battered gymnasium—but thankfully for the west side, the coffee is still up to snuff. Grab an espresso drink (from your individual barista) or a pourover of one of Intelligentsia's LA-roasted seasonal selections, and gather with the beautiful people on the front benches for gawking at skateboarders, people on rented beach bicycles, and fancy folk of all kinds. (Note that you can do this at Intelligentsia's other two LA-area locations as well, with fewer rented beach cruiser bikes.)
Locals will tell you this is technically a cafe "pop-up" in a bakery, but at this extended stay, the idea of pop-up is becoming a bit unconvincing. Proof's diminutive coffee corner is one of the city's finest spots to stop for a cup: featuring a great selection of roasters from around the country (Heart, Four Barrel, Ritual, Handsome, Counter Culture, etc.) and a fancy La Marzocco Strada. Being served these delicious drinks alongside the brioche toasts and other delicacies of Proof bakery just goes to show you that in Atwater, even a strip mall can be made charming. Who knew?
About the author: Liz Clayton drinks, photographs and writes about coffee and tea all over the world, though she pretends to live in Brooklyn, New York. She is currently compiling photographs of the best coffee in the world to be published by Presspop this spring.