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
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.