At the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Normandie, in the vibrant Koreatown neighborhood of Los Angeles, the newly opened Line Hotel is quickly becoming a neighborhood hub. The hotel’s gorgeously serene rooms, with concrete walls and stunning views of the city, certainly help, but the big buzz here is the hotel’s slate of eclectic food and beverage options by one of LA’s most well-known citizens: Chef Roy Choi. Sprudge LA desk Julie Wolfson swang by The Line to check out caFe, Choi’s new coffee shop that you can read about below, and interviewed Choi about his influences and goals for the shop, which you can read here.
Chef Choi is known for making street food fun and delicious with his Kogi Trucks, a Korean taco fusion concept that has spawned a thousand imitators in food truck scenes around the world. Choi’s brick & mortar restaurants are a story all their own, taking the city by storm at A-Frame, Chego, and Sunny Spot. Choi’s restaurants and unique personality have been featured extensively across a wide swath of media, from NPR interviews to Anthony Bourdain episodes to full-length feature films (he is at least partially the inspiration for Jon Favreau’s new film, Chef ). And now, at the The Line Hotel, all food and beverage options are Chef Choi’s domain. Lunch and dinner happens at POT, a Korean hot pot restaurant that draws inspiration from his family heritage. Housed in a greenhouse on the second floor pool deck, Commissary will open this summer. And CaFe in the lobby serves up coffee, pastries, French bread pizza slices, and birthday cake near the entrance to the hotel.
CaFe is meant to be a resource for both the hotel guests and the neighborhood. A wood picket fence lines Wilshire Boulevard with brightly colored signage and furniture inviting the community to enter. Once inside, guests are greeted by red beans buns, mochi treats, cookies, and almond puffs. Somewhat improbably, the cafe serves congee, listed with ‘delicious toppings’ including bonito powder, garlic soy sauce, white sesame, ginger scallions, and egg. The aforementioned birthday cake slices come complete with gifts and prizes, like little plastic Hello Kitty rings and army figures.
Coffee at CaFe is roasted in Southern California by LAMILL, and includes hot, cold brew and espresso drink options, as well as fun and accessible drinks like café con leches, horchata lattes, and habanero mochas. Several teas and tea lattes, as well as hot chocolate and fresh juices, help to round out the menu. Chef Choi can often be found sipping coffee at Go Get Em Tiger and other LA area coffee bars, and his menu for the Line Hotel feels like its own interpretation of the Los Angeles coffee scene, picking up influences from the Korean and Latin communities that comprise this neighborhood.
Perhaps best of all, CaFé has two distinct identities throughout the day, something many cafes aspire to but few can pull off. It’s a serene place to work in the morning (with free wifi and tons of light), but it’s also as an evening destination, serving coffee to hotel guests and well-heeled visitors as well as light snacks, pastries, and beer and wine. At night CaFe even feels more crowded, especially on the weekends as the hotel fills up with folks having drinks in the lobby, waiting for tables at POT, and generally seeing and being seen at one of LA’s coolest new hotels. That daytime / nighttime dichotomy is characteristic of several cafes in Koreatown and the coffee culture in general in this part of the city; it’s part of what makes it special and distinct. Roy Choi’s new cafe feels right at home.
What’s the best way to find out what Chef Choi thinks about coffee and his new café? Well, you meet up with him for coffee. Read much more about Roy Choi’s obsession with red bean buns, the chef’s favorite bakeries in the Southlands, and his personal list of top coffee in Julie Wolfson’s interview with legendary chef Roy Choi here.