If the Something Curated guide to London’s best coffee is about excitement moreso than bestness, then this Los Angeles edit is even more personal – I’m not afraid to admit that these are, simply, some favourites amassed over repeated visits to a city that one day in the future I hope to call home.
It strays away from some important groups in the history of Los Angeles coffee, either partially or entirely. G&B features for its seminal bar design and hearkening back to the best of local legends, the Go Get Em Tiger group, whose expansion has dulled some of the fun – so they’re out. Not because they aren’t serving good coffee, but because there’s so much more to see – and taste. All these places also share a commitment to fun, experimental, often dessert-like, and beautifully prepared drinks and menu specials, a hallmark of Los Angeles specialty coffee that London could do with learning from.
Steps from the ocean, this Venice essential draws a crowd right from opening at 7 a.m., as it’s always done since opening in 2013. It’s best to go at this time (if you can) to soak in the gentle, chatty rush, and linger over a specials menu whose best introduction is the Bees Knees, a lavender-infused honey latte with a floral waft. There’s a second location in Culver City (and a third, but, in Tokyo) but this is the original and the best, with the rumble of the Pacific just outside.
56 Windward Avenue, Venice, CA 90291
When it opened, also in 2013, Kyle Glanville and Charles Babinski’s coffee bar turned the heads of everyday drinkers and coffee design nerds alike. It was a coffee bar that was actually, well, a bar, with customers bellying up like they might do for a cocktail and baristas coping with volume by pre-grinding espresso up to 30 minutes before. (This, like most initially shocking rejections of coffee credos, proved to be minimally disruptive and maximally helpful with just an iota of testing.) Over ten years later, Babinski has moved on and G&B’s parent, Go Get Em Tiger, has expanded far and wide, but this place still feels different even on repeated visits.
Grand Central Market, 317 S Broadway C19, Los Angeles, CA 90013
Document Coffee Bar
Modern cafes often get compared to galleries because they have clean lines, light wood, or nice lighting, but Document, in Koreatown, is a bona fide art space, with frequently changing illustrations lining the wall opposite its bar, which runs nearly the whole length of the café. This is one of Los Angeles’s most dedicated multi-roaster cafés, with a pour-over menu that often includes six or seven noted roasters from the U.S.A, and fun signature drinks like an Oaxacan hot chocolate and the “Mad Spice” latte, laden with nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, ginger, and clove.
3850 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90010
Brightly coloured, on the cool side of zany, and majoring in signature drinks named after owner Tohm Ifergan’s favourite film directors, Dayglow’s fluorescent approach to coffee bar design and execution remains standout, even though it’s now an established name in L.A. and further afield. Expect roasters from all over the world alongside the brand’s own, slickly packaged beans, and the outgoing signature series devoted to Baz Luhrmann, including an Elvis with a peanut butter and banana cream top. They don’t do this by halves – a previous tribute to Paul Thomas Anderson included a drink as black and thick as oil, inspired by There Will Be Blood.
3206 W Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90026
Christopher Abel Alameda, better known as Nicely, is a true legend of Los Angeles coffee and hospitality, and Hooked is his current project. Inside natural wine shop Dudley Market, he seeks to recreate the fabled “aha” moment that draws people to treat coffee as an ingredient, something that can taste not just, of, well, coffee. That might start with a cappuccino adorned with his unmistakable pattern, or a clever riff on a café staple, like a mocha tuned up with the flavour of mole.
9 Dudley Avenue, Venice, CA 90291
Now with a fruity sibling in Loquat, this Highland Park coffee shop opened by AJ Kim and Scott Sohn in 2018 echoes the wide-ranging multi-roaster model of many of its peers, but does so with a conscientious emphasis on South Korean coffee and tea culture. It’s particularly strong on the latter, with a current drink special based on mugwort and a pu-er shaken with green plum, while on the coffee side, it has built out a roasting program to match those it’s showcasing from the worldover.
4936 York Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90042
Endorffeine is a capital E experience: your coffee will be made by one person, and one person only. That person is Jack Benchakul, who commands his custom-built bar like a conductor (with some assistance from cousin Ttaya on front-of-house.) There are very few coffee experiences like this in the world, whether it becomes a regular haunt or is just a one-off, so no more spoilers: just go, and enjoy the ride.
727 N Broadway #127, Los Angeles, CA 90012
Opened by Jacob Park and Joonmo Kim in Los Feliz in 2017, the original Maru — there are now two more, in the Arts District and Beverly Hills — is a study in serenity. Having originally opened as a multi-roaster, Maru followed the rite of passage for many small cafés seeking to expand and started roasting its own coffee a few years ago, but has navigated that change with the grace and clarity of the drip and pour-overs now brewed from them.
1936 Hillhurst Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90027
We finish with one of the old guard of modern coffee in Los Angeles, at its original location in Culver City. Despite having expanded to three locations since 2009, Cognoscenti has achieved a rare feat in maintaining a sense of proximity and connectedness — its website suggests that “you’re not seeing double when you see your barista in the roastery, or at another one of our shops,” and personal experience confirms that this is the case. Still, the Washington Boulevard location is the one, for a different kind of belonging: the sense that this is a small part of the blossoming that enabled so many cafés in this guide to choose their own path. Get a pour-over, and soak it in.
6114 Washington Blvd. Culver City, CA 90232