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Now Open: Beachwood Cafe, Formerly the Village Coffee Shop

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Tue, Mar 6, 2012 at 7:00 AM
click to enlarge J. RITZ
  • J. Ritz

Of all restaurant genres worth revisiting, the coffee shop ranks high. And it's one that Los Angeles, for better or for worse, particularly excels at updating. The Beachwood Café, formerly known as the Village Coffee Shop when it shuttered last year, has joined the ranks of the nouveau diner. This latest incarnation is currently in its soft-opening phase in its longtime location, nestled in the compact commercial strip by the 1923 Beachwood Gates. (Go ahead, make Hollywood facelift jokes.) The restaurant has even got a new name, except that it has conveniently been part of the neighborhood lingua franca for years already.

click to enlarge J. RITZ
  • J. Ritz

As we previously reported, new owner Patti Peck (formerly of Millie's and Edendale) brought architect Barbara Bestor on board to breathe fresh life into the charming but long-in-the-tooth casual spot that was better known for its rustic wood furniture, beloved neighborhood characters and floral wallpaper than its design and food finesse.

But Bestor's stamp on the space isn't about wholesale slate-wiping. "The vision was to keep it the same as it was but modernize it," Peck explains. "We wanted to keep the same cozy family feel," where folks can sit and read the paper while lingering over a cup of coffee and chat with their neighbors. Which, based on recent observation, seems to be organically happening. After all, customers do form attachments to businesses that have been under the same ownership for 37 years, so visual details such as the exposed knotty pine structural elements and plenty of notched and scallop-edged wood remains, along with the long counter and a few choice vintage tables.

click to enlarge J. RITZ
  • J. Ritz

We expect the former lack of fuss and newfangledness to be missed by many -- and yet the refreshing bright dining room, thanks to white walls and warm buttery yellow accents and those big picture windows, is irresistibly cheerful. Marble tabletops and counter, sparse molded plywood chairs, and bold yellow and blue triangular patterned floor tiles reflect the shifted sensibility. R.I.P., faux wood laminate surfaces, dark carpets and ye olde timey retro lantern lights.

Whimsical wallpaper that enlivens the back wall is the work of local artist and graphic design luminary Geoff McFetridge, and food-oriented arts and crafts maven Clare Crespo will be making her mark with an installation inside the café, too. The sum result, which happened in a startlingly quick seven-week turnaround, is a bit as if your grandma just moved to L.A. from Oklahoma and assembled a cadre of Hollywood/Silver Lake area design superstars to update an early-1970s country Americana kitchen and dining room.

Peck says as many condiments and menu components as possible will be produced from scratch by chef Minh Phan of Echo Park Artisanal, who's running the show in the kitchen. So look for housemade pickles, hot sauce, jams and, eventually, ice cream. Longtime canyon dwellers and other regulars who liked their bacon and eggs just fine the way they were for the past four decades or so might not be terribly psyched about the farm-to-table ethic behind Phan's menu, which means eggs from Gama Farms and hormone- and antibiotic-free ground beef from Creekstone Farms for burgers, plus menu items such as kale salad and brown rice and tofu-loaded vegan options.

click to enlarge J. RITZ
  • J. Ritz

Coffee -- both brewed Viennese roast and espresso -- is from City Bean, and other specialty hot beverages are from the Art of Tea, which will hopefully be showcased even further when afternoon tea service begins. Other in-the-works plans Peck is ironing out during this soft opening phase include curbside service and accounts for locals. Peck also will add more baked goods, sandwiches and prepared grab-and-go foods at the front counter area near the entrance as the Beachwood Café finds its groove. The menu at the moment is limited, and Peck says the kitchen is "rolling out specials" that gradually will be added to the food roster as it becomes finalized.

The addition of a beer and wine license is one of the biggest changes to hit the Beachwood Café, which in the coming months will introduce that most elusive of restaurant experiences in them thar quiet Hollywood Hills -- dinner. In the meantime, the Beachwood Café is open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. (although coffee seekers can get that taken care of as early as 7 a.m.), with the goal of expanding hours until 10 p.m.


Follow the author on Twitter at @TasterTotsLA.

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