Highlight Coffee is a new shop brightening the heart of Glendale, northeast of Los Angeles proper. If you've been to Glendale, you may be familiar with the malls and shopping that many Angelenos venture there for. Surprisingly, though, despite its many stores and dining options, Glendale's coffee scene has lagged behind.
The spot was opened by Demitasse alum Frank Kim, who'd been in the coffee business for three years before deciding to launch Highlight. “Glendale really was almost perfect, as there seems to be a huge amount of newer, younger professional residents moving in,” he says. “Also, it literally borders so many parts of LA.” Highlight sits on the ground floor of a historic, former hotel dating to 1925; now it’s an apartment building that sits on the corner of bustling East Broadway and Glendale Avenue, a few minutes' walk from the popular Americana outdoor shopping center (as well as Glendale's police house, a post office, and a mix of corporate and independent businesses). Aware of the area’s growing popularity, Kim says he sought to retain some of the small town charm of the building, calling it a “diamond in the rough.”
Sitting on an angled corner makes Highlight an even more interesting—and challenging—space. Most of the design was done by Kim himself, with the help of architect Alan Lu. “The design was mostly dictated by the shape of the space, which is a hexagonal corner unit,” says Kim. “It’s tiny—a touch over 680 square feet. I really had to squeeze everything into every inch of the space.” Kim describes the design as “classic modern,” with solid colors and neutral, light-toned wood furniture to complement both the interior and the 1920s aspects of the building itself. Large windows add a sense of depth and openness, as well as allowing curious passersby to peer in to see the action.
Despite the tight fit, Highlight's coffee bar is well-equipped. For espresso, it has a two-group La Marzocco Linea PB teamed with a Nuova Simonelli Mythos One Clima-Pro and Mahlkönig PEAK grinders. The rest of the setup includes a Mahlkönig Kenia/Guatemala brew grinder and a Curtis Gemini G4 batch brewer and hot water tower. Options for manual brews include Kalita Wave and Hario Syphon. The multi-roaster supply currently consists of Demitasse, Turning Point Coffee from San Francisco, and Sweet Bloom Coffee from Colorado; tea is sourced from San Diego's Mad Monk Tea. Pastries come from Downtown's Bread Lounge, with additional sweets like cookies and pies made by a small cottage baker, Emily Broadbent of Sweet & Divine by Emmaline.
Since Kim is just getting used to running his own shop, it’s all about taking things slow and doing them right. Being a new spot in an area not used to specialty coffee “keeps me on my toes to keep my standards as high as possible,” he says. He hopes to start a lunch program offering grilled cheese and soup, and develop more coffee specials like the house-made butterscotch latte that’s available now. Small-batch ice cream is also a possibility, which would allow the addition of affogato to the menu. But one of the more exciting ways Highlight is setting itself up to succeed is simply by staying open till 9 p.m., in an area where most other businesses close earlier. Glendale is not only finally getting good coffee, but also a place to meet up and hang out.