Cafecito Orgánico isn't the kind of business to grow with a wow-look-how-big-we're-getting type of plan. Instead its latest expansion feels, well, organic. It's been about eight months since Mitch Hale and Angel Orozco's mobile farmers' market coffee stand and roaster set up its first brick-and-mortar location on Hoover and Bellevue, and its new location on Heliotrope Avenue in what used to be the City College Café feels like the just the right spot for Cafecito's second shop.
A few cosmetic changes -- paint job, Café o Muerte mural, new lights -- helped ease the transition into the room that already feels comfortably worn-in. And this tenant helps Helioptrope remain a hub of quasi-desert island grooviness in East Hollywood. The street near LACC has maintained this status since around the late 1980s, back when Toribio Prado and Mario Tamayo were making Caribbean flavors all the rage in L.A. with Café Mambo and Cha Cha Cha down the street on Virgil, and Y-Que peddled its motley assortment of goods before moving to Los Feliz.
Now the strip has evolved into the "Bicycle District," which is also known for being the original home of soon-to-expand Scoops, as well as Pure Luck vegan restaurant. And yet Cafecito's and Scoops' building still evokes Los Angeles small-scale commercial development in the 1920s, with the pink-tinged and glazed white brick exterior, and ornamental urns mounted along the roof that lend a modest decorative flourish. (Location scouts for the HBO series Hung have decided the street also passes for a Detroit suburb, apparently.)
"This was one of the original areas I wanted to come to when the Bicycle Kitchen came here" in 2005, Orozco says. This is also a way of coming full circle (so to speak) for both businesses, which started around the same time, both based at the EcoVillage community. Hale adds, "there's an active night life here, and it's sorely lacking a high-end coffee need."
With more square footage than the Hoover location, Cafecito Orgánico offers its customers extra reasons to stop by. Yes, there are the first-rate espresso drinks made with their Clandestino blend, and pour-over single-original seasonal coffees that are fairly harvested and ethical in just about every way, of course. But because weekend stints in the courtyard on Hoover with Deborah Stern's (AKA La Guera Tamalera) tamales have worked out so well, Hale and Orozco decided to add a similar food component on a daily basis on Heliotrope.
Meg Taylor of Large Marge Sustainables catering company provides baked goods and a prepared foods menu. "I always wanted to do café food," she says, "just simple and delicious." Items include wheatberry pudding with caramel apple; house ricotta egg bread with fresh fruit, fig jam and pistachios; baked Edendale farm egg in cast iron skilled over kale and potatoes; a pulled bison sandwich with chipotle mayo; grilled cheese with slow-roasted tomato and avocado; lentil and arugula salad; a hearty lightly fried beet, garbanzo, walnut and chevre salad; spicy black beans and quinoa; and a couple of daily soup options. The space doesn't have a kitchen, so this set-up is yet another guest vendor/pop-up situation of sorts. Weekend brunch is in the works, too. Vegan croissants, blueberry muffins, and cinnamon rolls come from Bakery Oaxaca on Olympic in Koreatown.
With outdoor seating, tables for four, and a counter with a few stools up on the mezzanine, LACC students can comfortably do homework or socialize. Thanks to CicLAvia this past Sunday, the new Cafecito Orgánico was put through its paces, since Heloptrope was a designated starting (or end, depending on where you were coming from) point for the public recreational event.
Cafecito Orgánico on Heliotrope opens most morning at 6:30 a.m. and will keep its doors open into the evening hours, except for on Sunday and Monday nights when it closes at 6 p.m. For now, at least; business hours will be finally determined in the coming weeks.
Cafecito Orgánico: 710 N. Heliotrope Avenue, East Hollywood.
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