Outside the San Fernando Valley is like an oven. But step inside Claudine Artisan Kitchen and Bakeshop and you'll get a breath of fresh air, figuratively and literally. The Valley has its share of good food, but it has a ways to go in developing a quality coffee scene. The Encino neighborhood—where Claudine opened in May—has been mostly dominated by big coffee chains since the '90s. But as the suburb-esque outer reaches of Los Angeles continue to expand, specialty coffee was bound to follow. Claudine is one of the first coffee-dining hybrids to hit the Valley.
Headed by Anthony Jacquet and Lea Newton, a duo of chefs who are Valley natives, Claudine is the result of their desire to open a fast-casual restaurant where people can also get a good cup of coffee. “Lea and I wanted to bring something great to the neighborhoods we grew up in,” says Jacquet, “a casual, hospitable space that people could come to multiple times a week.” And they do come: on a visit during off-peak hours, a constant wave of people streamed in looking for a bite or a cup.
The large menu—sourced from local produce—consists of light and healthy but extremely tasty options. Lea’s Lightened Quiche is as simple as it is flavorful: there's just one egg in it, alongside basil, spinach, and cheese. The avocado toast—popular everywhere nowadays—is here topped with not only a perfectly fried egg, but also rich Serrano ham, cayenne pepper, and chimichurri.
While Jacquet is responsible for the savory side, Newton is the driving force behind the coffee and pastry program—cakes, cookies, galettes, and more. “All of Lea’s baked goods are great,” says Jacquet, perhaps a little biased. “But the coffee cake, blueberry scones, Spinky’s chocolate chip cookies, and that pot de creme [are unmissable].”
With such a formidable menu, the coffee component needed to hold its own. “Coffee is comfort, it is something a lot of people look forward to every single day,” Jacquet says. “We wanted to have a great cup no matter what. So Lea and I [went with] what we believe is one of the best roasters in Los Angeles, Verve.”
The Verve coffee is expertly pulled on a custom machine. “We use a Spanish espresso machine, Iberital,” Jacquet explains. “[It's] highly recommended for its ease of use, its ability to pull accurate shots, and its clean look. We even got ours wrapped with our logo.” Beyond what the shiny turquoise workhorse turns out, special options include the Cafe Claudine Caramel and the nitro cold brew on tap.
For the time being, Jacquet and Newton simply plan to keep experimenting with new dishes, with an eye toward seasonal specials. “Look out for pie season this summer!” says Jacquet, adding, “We are only one month into this concept, so let’s see where it takes us.”
Tatiana Ernst is a Sprudge staff writer based in Los Angeles. Read more Tatiana Ernst on Sprudge.