It's been, as it has been for the last few years now, a great year for coffee in L.A. Every few months, really, it seemed someone new was pulling the shots: some with four walls, some without; some roasting their own beans, others not; some with wood and industrial accents as their dominant aesthetic, perhaps too few others not. And while most of the new shops are truly homegrown operations, you might remember that this was also the year that Portland's Stumptown Coffee Roasters opened here, the first of several major specialty coffee roasters (including Blue Bottle Coffee and Verve Coffee Roasters) that will open in L.A. next year.
Before looking that far forward, though, we'd like to look back at 10 of the best of the new shops -- 10 great, comfortable, truly neighborhood spots where you can reliably get a great cup of coffee. Ten more places to get caffeinated, in other words. Again: It's been a pretty great year for coffee in L.A.
Atwater Crossing is a multiuse "arts + innovation" complex located on the edge of Atwater Village, a few blocks back from busy Glendale Boulevard; it's somewhat industrial in aesthetic yet so fully embedded in its surrounding neighborhood that, unless you were specifically looking for it, you might miss it entirely. In which case you may want to double back, because that's where you'll find True & Brave Coffee Roasters, a local roaster serving its very good coffee from behind a bar that also, if you were so inclined, has a few craft brews on tap. Most of the seating here is outdoors: at the bar, or at one of the tables on the patio. It is, in other words, perfect when it's 80 degrees in December. To eat, True & Brave is part of a kitchen operation that also fires up some fine Texas BBQ. Also good on an 80-degree wintery day in L.A. 3245 Casitas Ave., Atwater Village; (323) 522-3488.
De Cafe Baristas opened in the Atlantic Times Square outdoor mall in Monterey Park earlier this year, a very welcome relief for anyone looking for a fine cup of coffee in an area with milk teas and bobas on almost every corner. Seattle's Herkimer Coffee and San Francisco's Four Barrel Coffee Roasters often are the beans of choice here, with drinks made by friendly and earnest baristas. The big wooden tables lend themselves to laptops and textbooks, but when you do get hungry -- because you can't not get hungry in this part of town -- you'll be in luck: 101 Noodle Express, Tasty Garden and Curry House are just a walk way. 500 N. Atlantic Blvd., Monterey Park; (626) 872-6302
8. House Roots Coffee
A handful of talented baristas in the San Fernando Valley got together to pop up in a Valencia business park, and while they're currently open just three days a week (Fridays from 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., Saturdays 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and for a brief moment on Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m.), it's well worth fixing your schedule around theirs. This is a small space, but as Cognoscenti Coffee proved, you really don't need much real estate to serve great coffee. In House Roots' case, you'll see a short counter with a small La Marzocco machine for espresso, a few coffee grinders, pour-over cones and bags of Heart Coffee Roasters. The vast majority of seating is at this counter, making the cozy space that more intimate. 28452 Constellation Road, Valencia.
Near the Grove -- but, importantly, not in the Grove -- is Andante Coffee Roasters, a spare cafe with little more than a drip bar, an espresso machine, a big communal table and a few stools here and there for seating. The folks here roast their own beans off-site, with the roast skewing toward the lighter side of the spectrum; of note are the pour-overs, which are consistently excellent. 7623 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; (323) 525-0355.
Portland's famed Stumptown Coffee Roasters finally arrived in Los Angeles this year, and if you're a fan of Stumptown's coffee -- especially its Hair Bender espresso -- you likely already probably figured out that this is the best place in town to get it. Just a stone's throw from Bestia and Bread Lounge in the Arts District, Stumptown's 7,000-square-foot warehouse space houses a cafe, a Probat roaster as big as a beast in full view of the cafe, a training facility and wholesale operations. If you've visited the other Stumptown shops in Portland and New York City, you'll recognize a few things: The handwriting on the wall, for one, the abundance of pale wood for another. The pastries, including a kimchi and spam croissant, come courtesy local baker Sugarbloom Bakery. 806 S. Sante Fe Ave., downtown; (213) 337-0936.
Brew/Well is a terrific coffee shop in the heart of Koreatown, located right next to Assi Supermarket in case you would like to get your coffee fix and a jar of gochujang in one convenient trip. The shop's space is bright and comfortable, with big chairs and tables well suited for meeting or working. Brew/Well rotates its coffee selection -- Handsome Coffee Roasters and Heart Coffee Roasters were both recently in the hopper -- and you'll find your usual menu of pour-overs, Gibraltars, cappuccinos and so on, all prepared by a team of solid baristas. Beyond that, the shop isn't afraid to take those drinks and add all sorts of fun flavors: The "Creative Menu" includes an espresso topped with "honeyed foam" and a latte sweetened with honey and cinnamon. Quenelle supplies the pastries. 3525 W. Eighth St., #101, Koreatown; (213) 384-0884.
4. Copa Vida
Copa Vida is a big, beautiful coffee shop just off of the main drag that is Colorado Boulevard in Old Pasadena, big enough, really, to practically be two shops in one. The main area of the cafe is painted white, with huge windows that let in swaths of sunlight; follow the counter around the corner to the next room and the space becomes a little darker, a little more rustic, a little more intimate. The main counter in this room is a slow bar where a special menu of coffee drinks is available on select nights. It's an ambitious space, and the quality of the coffee matches the ambition. Copa Vida also makes great pots of tea via its Alpha Dominche machine, that steampunkish contraption on the main counter. 70 S. Raymond Ave., Pasadena; (626) 213-3952.
Great coffee and the beach pretty much sums up Menotti's Coffee Stop, a lovely stop right off the Venice boardwalk. You'll find a simple, no-frills menu here, with coffee from Four Barrel; try a cortado, made with a bit of sweetener. True to its name, this is a "coffee stop" -- other than two standing counters running along the wall that gives you just enough room and incentive to linger over your drink, there's not much seating. Which makes sense, because the best seats in the house are just outside, on the sand, in front of the ocean, away from the crowd. 56 Windward Ave., Venice; (310) 584-8631.
From the Cormac McCarthy school of punctuation comes Go Get Em Tiger, a beautiful coffee bar on Larchmont helmed by Kyle Glanville and Charles Babinski. What you'll find here and at G&B Coffee, the pair's other outpost located in Grand Central Market, are subtle, creative breaks from the standard coffee-shop model that no doubt will be emulated by others in the near future: A dominant long, standing counter. Baristas you flag down as you would a bartender. Espressos served with a sparkling tea rather than sparkling water. Beans from your specialty coffee standard Heart Coffee Roasters, but also George Howell Coffee. There are a lot of fun things happening within L.A.'s coffee world right now, but the most fun of all? Definitely watching Glanville and Babinski reconceive the idea of the coffee shop. 230 N. Larchmont Blvd., L.A.; (323) 380-5359.
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1. G&B Coffee
G&B Coffee is what greets you if you enter Grand Central Market from the Hill Street side, a lovely coffee stand that Kyle Glanville and Charles Babinski opened soon after their brief pop-up at Sqirl. After opening G&B Coffee, they opened Go Get Em Tiger, and G&B Coffee is terrific for all the same reasons that Go Get Em Tiger is terrific -- there's that long, standing counter; the consistently excellent tea and coffee, including a fantastic espresso milkshake -- but there's something about this specific stand that's so completely unlike Go Get Em Tiger that it deserves a spot on its own. Without the four walls, in the open air of Grand Central Market, the energy here seems to be more kinetic, more vibrant. This likely has a lot to do with the fact that you can grab a cup of coffee here, then a pupusa from Sarita's and finish with mango sticky rice from Sticky Rice, all within the span of the same bustling lunch hour. Standing here, it feels comfortable and familiar. It feels like Los Angeles. 324 S. Hill St., #C19, downtown; (213) 624-2378.
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