In honor of the 2014 Big Western Regional Barista Championship, and in the tradition of similar guides we've published to Kansas City, Portland, Seattle, and more, we're proud to present today our micro-guide for Los Angeles visitors over Big Western weekend.
But first, let's be up front about something: Los Angeles is not easily encapsulated in guide form. There's SO much happening in LA for food, bars, shopping, and coffee. We're no experts, but fortunately we work with someone who is: Julie Wolfson, who heads up our Los Angeles desk and writes for other top publications across town. We asked Julie to give us some ideas on where to direct folks for great coffee, shopping, food, and adult beverages. Here are our sincere recommendations for your weekend in LA.
If it's been years since you visited LA, there are some must-do coffee stops that should top your list. First and foremost, Intelligentsia's Silver Lake cafe (3922 West Sunset Blvd.) is one of those cafe we talk about sometimes as being an industry bellwether. A lot of very talented coffee professionals have worked at Silver Lake at one time or another; the cafe still works and feels great, it's no museum piece, but there's a lot of history there and you should probably go take one of those photos of your shoes on the blue & white tile.
Go to Handsome Coffee Roasters in the Arts District (582 Mateo St) for this party on Thursday night, and for coffee service near the event space throughout the weekend. Go to Culver City's Cognoscenti Coffee (6114 Washington Blvd), they're a great multi-roaster and long-time part of the scene. Go to the Intelligentsia in Venice, too, another very important cafe for West Coast coffee in the 21st century.
There's a whole lot of new places to see too. Here are Julie Wolfson's suggestions for 5 coffee places that opened in 2013.
G&B (317 Broadway, Downtown) – Go here. The cafe is run by Kyle Glanville and Charles Babinski and shares space in Downtown Los Angeles' bustling Grand Central Market. It is one of the best coffee bars in the world right now for feel, experience, and what's in the cup. And coffee milkshakes that will change the way you think about life. Go here.
Menottis Coffee Stop (56 Windward Ave, Venice Beach) – They're out in Venice Beach, but you're doing it wrong if you stick to the Arts District and Downtown all weekend. You need to hop in your car – or someone's car – and bump the Power 106 on a solid cruise out to Venice. Menotti's is worth the trip, for sure. Go watch pro barista Christopher Nicely Abel Alameda do his thing.
Stumptown Coffee Roasters (806 South Santa Fe, Arts District) – Another new spot just blocks from the event space, Stumptown LA is important for a lot of reasons: the architecture & design at this spot is stunning, and we imagine there's a healthy degree of “just got to see this for myself” that will motivate a lot of out-of-towners to head to Stumptown over the competition weekend. Get a coffee and kick it on that front patio.
Brew/Well (3525 West 8th Street) – A charming little multi-roaster in Koreatown, where you should definitely be hanging out this weekend – K-Town is one of LA's coolest coffee neighborhoods, for sure. Brew/Well is comfortable, a great place to send emails from, and has a fun approach to presenting speciality coffee. The toasted lavender cappuccino made with Stereo Espresso from Portland's Heart Coffee is divine.
Go Get Em Tiger (230 North Larchmont Blvd, Larchmont Village) – Another bit of a cruise from the Arts District, but highly recommended. Also owned by Mssrs. Babinski and Glanville, this place is sort of like the inverse of G&B: a neighborhood cafe basked in sunshine, with cool white walls and tastefully minimalist seating options. The menu here is similar to what you'll find at G&B downtown, but let us recommend one particular purchase heartily: Ben Medansky Ceramics‘ special edition GGET mugs are an at-home game changer.
Julie Wolfson recommends…
Bludso's Bar-&-Que – (609 N La Brea Ave) Bludso's started out as a successful BBQ joint in Compton, and their expansion onto La Brea has been wildly praised by LA Weekly, Time Out, the LA Times, and more. Well-regarded for their craft beer and cocktail options, as well as the brisket and rib tips.
Marugame Monzo (329 E 1st St, Little Tokyo) – No joke udon noodles, made in house at Monzo, and not expensive in the least bit. You should be exploring and eating in Little Tokyo as much as possible–it's right by the Downtown Arts District–use a stop at Monzo as a great excuse to walk around the wider neighborhood.
Grand Central Market (317 Broadway, Downtown) – You'll be there anyway to see G&B, but explore the rest of the market for spots like Sticky Rice, Eggslut, and Valerie Confections, for killer Thai Street, indulgent egg creations, and delectable treats, respectively. Grand Central Market is a lot of fun.
Plan Check (1800 Sawtelle Blvd) – The burger situation at this popular restaurant/bar is super serious, and the cocktails are nothing to sneeze at either. If you're not in a burger mood, they've still got your comfort food jones covered with their Smokey Fried Chicken.
More recs from Julie near the event venue:
Arts District spots like Pizzanista (2019 E 7th St) and Daily Dose (1820 Industrial St #104) are popular. While in Little Tokyo, make sure you hit Cafe Dulce (134 Japanese Village Plaza Mall) for sandwiches, donuts (like their famous green tea and red bean), and good coffee, plus Shin-Sen-Gumi (132 South Central Ave) for ramen. LA's food offerings are crazy diverse, so use this trip as a chance to try something new. Check out Mo Chica (514 W 7th) for Peruvian food (and especially their $15 lunch special), and also Wood Spoon (107 W 9th st) for Brazilian in the Fashion District.
The Varnish/Coles (118 E 6th St) – It's hard to be cool for years, but The Varnish has accomplished this as the fancy-pants back room cocktail bar hidden inside Cole's. Cole's, it should be said, is very cool in its own right, home to one of LA's most revered French Dip sandwiches (the French Dip being this city's patron sandwich). The late-night scene at Cole's is loud and fun, the dining room is old and full of history, and their front bar is actually quite well stocked and makes a great alternative if Varnish is packed/closed for a private party. Go here.
Honeycut (in the alley behind 819 S. Flower Street, Downtown) – Another well-regarded cocktail bar in Downtown, from the same folks who brought you Varnish (and Death & Co in NYC, among many other places). Open from 8pm-2am, Honeycut is down in the basement of a discotheque, which is exactly as much fun as it sounds. the LA Times and everyone else have raved about it.
The Prince (3198 W 7th St, Hollywood) – A quintessential LA cocktail experience. Once an old Hollywood high society haunt, The Prince has changed with its surrounding neighborhood, and now serves awesome Korean food with bartender/models doing the LAX-ICN flight every weekend. But the space itself is unchanged, a blood-red bastion of Art Deco elegance, all-Naugahyde-everything, like stepping into a movie set from the LA of long ago. They've filmed scenes from countless films and TV shows here; it's a favorite on AMC's Mad Men.
The Frolic Room (6245 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood) – A tremendous shitty bar on Sunset Boulevard, featured in “LA Confidential” and a confirmed Bukowski hang-out. Get a beer and a shot and soak up that history. Highly, highly recommended if you want to time warp to an otherworldly Lynchian dimension (if that's the case, order three rounds.)
Villains Tavern (1356 Palmetto St, Arts District) – If you're at the event, you'll be close to this big and sprawling indoor/outdoor boot scootin'/rootin' tootin' live music venue. Acceptable drink selections, bottled beer, and plenty of space to stretch out.
Wurstkuche (800 E 3rd St, Arts District) – This late night spot is very close to the competition space and is a lively, raucous, delicious, and meaty spot. Chances are you'll see and be seen here, probably while downing some crocodile sausage dunked in their obscenely scrumptious dijon mustard dippin' sauce. Get the fries. Wash it down with beer. Repeat.
Poketo (820 E 3rd, Arts District) It's hard to say what's more minimalist and lust-worthy, the Charcoal Selvedge Chambray Tie or the Color Pop Mini Notebook, but one thing is for sure: Poketo's refined accessories collection is worth checking out.
Hammer and Spear (255 S Santa Fe Ave, Ste 101, Arts District) – This rugged, industrial boutique has everything you could possibly want. For a quick gift you'll find beautiful cards and prints by local artists (check out the photography from Anon-Y-Mous) and apothecary items. You'll also probably find the sofa you didn't even realize you've been searching for your entire life.
The Last Bookstore (453 S Spring St, Downtown) – The Last Bookstore is a peaceful escape from the razzle dazzle, glitz and glamour of Downtown Los Angeles. Find a respite between competition routines, or a quiet place to go and digest your G&B Coffee Milkshake. We'll be there to pick up the latest issue of hello mr. magazine and flip through a dusty old copy of Another Country by James Baldwin.
The Individual Medley (3176 Glendale Blvd, Atwater Village) – If you stop by Cognoscenti Coffee and Proof Bakery, you'll find The Individual Medley on the same block. Apartment Therapy recently wrote them up and Los Angeles Magazine just called it their favorite boutique in the city – for good reason. This is a destination for custom crafted hair powder, Metal Spun necklaces, and clothing that doubles as beautiful objects you drape on your chaise lounge at home. If you come at the right time, you might be able to join in on one of their macrame workshops.
Go shopping on Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice Beach, up and down the La Brea Shopping District near Hollywood where you'll find the denim-obsessed at Self Edge and you'll find a million things you never thought you needed at A+R. In Silver Lake, over by the first Los Angeles Intelligentsia Coffee Bar, there’s an amazing barware shop called Bar Keeper for your at-home bar cart and a cute shop called ReForm School that specializes in unique handmade gifts.
What else is happening in Los Angeles? Koreatown is what's happening. In K-Town, the gorgeous and ultra-modern Line Hotel literally just opened and it's currently all the rage. If you didn't book your room there we suggest popping your head in for a drink at their Pot Lobby Bar. It’s wacky. The whole front desk is wallpapered with t-shirts, so seriously, it’s crazy…
Need more guidance? Check out Julie Wolfson's recent feature on the Arts District and Downtown for Cool Hunting!