Best Undercover Café - 2008
Psychobabble Coffee House
It happened slowly: I clipped the edge of my cup and the raspberry mocha went flying, like a liquid tongue, in the direction of a very nice man from Ealing. It missed his laptop by inches and formed a hazardous pool around the plugs and cords at our feet.
I was wired, just like the Internet café where it all went down: Psychobabble Coffee House in beautiful downtown Los Feliz, on Vermont Avenue at Franklin. A wonder it hasn't been bought out yet, this den of large unsold paintings and dumpster sofas frequented by undercover filmmakers, undercover homeless and the baristas who nurture them. You can buy a cup of anything and sit here all night, with or without Web access, watching the universe pass through.
The raspberry mocha, a froth of pink satin, is especially good if it makes it inside you. Glass jars of tea in every fruit and floral smell line the counter like Chinese herbal potions, and the Caesar salad, with its chewy peels of sun-dried tomato, begs the question, "What is this place, really?"
The man from Ealing was not angry.
"Fuck," I said. "Are you OK?"
"Yes," he said, smiling. Perhaps he was in shock.
We mopped up and traded bios. ("I detect an accent." "London ... You?" "Ealing.") Meanwhile, a revered old man — tall and stately like an Amish portrait — unfurled the cloth chessboard on which younger men from all walks of life play him nightly in games we all have witnessed.
With its dripping chandelier and its bannister-leaning second tier (from which I have gazed down at the man from Ealing), Psychobabble does not repackage Paul McCartney or look and feel like the inside of a hospital refrigerator. How long will you last, my Psychobabble? Long enough for a million more chess games with the tall and stately man, I hope.—Mel Yiasemide