The “Most Depressing Starbucks in America” Isn’t All That Depressing | Squid Ink | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly
Loading...
Coffee

The “Most Depressing Starbucks in America” Isn’t All That Depressing

Comments (10)

By

Mon, Aug 18, 2014 at 8:20 AM
click to enlarge The most depressing Starbucks exterior in America? - ANDY HERMANN
  • Andy Hermann
  • The most depressing Starbucks exterior in America?
OK, so the consensus on the new Highland Park Starbucks is pretty clear: It’s one fugly Starbucks. But is it really the “most depressing Starbucks in America”?

That phrase, which originated with a single tweet by journalist Todd Johnson, has exploded across local and national media over the past week, making the humble concrete hut at 6240 York Blvd. the coffee giant’s biggest PR disaster since they got caught using bugs as food coloring.

KTLA and ABC7 both ran with the “most depressing Starbucks in America” catchphrase, as did Curbed, LAist (which Photoshopped a Sad Keanu into the location’s spartan seating area — well played, LAist!), Grub Street, Business Insider, and Bustle, which upped the ante and declared it to be the most depressing Starbucks in THE WORLD.

But it’s still a Starbucks, so how bad can it be, really? As a proud Highland Park resident, I decided to investigate for myself.

From the outside, the Highland Park Starbucks (officially, the neighborhood’s first — although another ‘Bucks has stood for years at the other end of York Blvd., in what is technically Eagle Rock) does look pretty unimpressive. Its exterior is beige concrete, with a brown shingled roof and narrow windows. There are only four parking spaces — including one handicapped spot that is, inexplicably, the furthest from the walk-up window — so the emphasis is clearly on the drive-thru lane, which takes a long meander through the back of the parking lot to accommodate lots of traffic.

The front of the building is dominated by a semi-enclosed patio area, with oddly mismatched, white-paned windows facing the street. From the outside, the windows are a nice touch, but once inside the patio, they make the space feel dark and a bit claustrophobic, especially since all the other surfaces, including the one, narrow seating area, offer up more concrete.

click to enlarge The most depressing Starbucks walk-up window in America? - ANDY HERMANN
  • Andy Hermann
  • The most depressing Starbucks walk-up window in America?
Contrary to the angry Yelp reviews, the walk-up window does have a display menu of sandwiches, drinks and pastries, which I guess was added sometime in the last week. You place and pick up your order at the same window, which must be awkward when there’s a line. But when I went, at 12:30 p.m. on a Saturday, there were only a handful of other walk-up customers, so I got my grande Mocha Frappuccino with a minimum of fuss.

There’s an additional outdoor patio with more seating, overlooking the parking lot for the senior citizen center next door. The round tables and benches in this area are that khaki-colored plastic that’s made to look like concrete — the outdoor fast-food seating inverse of those Jeff Koons balloon animal sculptures.

click to enlarge OK, this part was actually pretty depressing - ANDY HERMANN
  • Andy Hermann
  • OK, this part was actually pretty depressing
So overall, yes, the feeling at this Starbucks is pretty grim and uninviting. But is it the “prison-like” (as several Yelpers called it) chamber of depression everyone’s making it out to be? Not really. It’s just a drive-thru Starbucks with a walk-up window and some outdoor seating tacked on as afterthought — an exceptionally ugly, poorly executed drive-thru Starbucks, sure, but not inconsistent with similar drive-thru locations they’ve opened in Tarzana, Riverside and dozens of other locations across the country, all with no great community outcry.

So why all the outrage over this particular Starbucks? Could it be that, after years of everyone (including me) telling them that they live in L.A.’s coolest neighborhood, Highland Parkers have developed a bit of a superiority complex? That they now, even when it comes to fast-food chains (and let’s face it, folks, Starbucks is a fast-food chain — especially since they’ve declared that over half their new stores will feature drive-thru windows), have unreasonably high expectations for how cool or stylish any new business in their community must be?

click to enlarge My totally non-depressing Frappuccino - ANDY HERMANN
  • Andy Hermann
  • My totally non-depressing Frappuccino
Don't get me wrong: I appreciate that I live in a neighborhood bursting with civic pride. But treating this Starbucks like some kind of corporate diss of Highland Park ("They would never dare open a building like this in South Pasadena," one angry resident told KTLA) is reading way too much into it. They just repurposed an already-ugly building and failed to de-uglify it.

Besides, HLP, if you really want to order your latte with a side of civic pride, there are plenty of non-depressing, locally owned businesses at which to do so: Café de Leche, the Highland Café, Antigua BreadAmara Kitchen, to name a few.

Or, if you're like me and occasionally have an uncontrollable desire for a Mocha Frappuccino, there's always that Starbucks at the other end of York. They even have a drive-thru.


Want more Squid Ink? Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook. And follow the author on Twitter, too.

Related Content

Now Trending

  • Pastry Chef Melts Chocolate on His Day Off

    Alex de Leon first arrived from Tijuana at age 14. A decade later, at the ridiculously young age of 24, he runs the pastry program for a trio of stylish and very successful eastside spots — L&E Oyster Bar, Bar Covell, and the newly-opened El Condor. We met in the...
    2
  • Behind the Scenes at Szechuan Impression

    Szechuan Impression opened its doors two months ago in Alhambra, one of the latest in a wave of Sichuan restaurants that have graced Los Angeles in the past year. Behind the latest hot eatery are owners Kelly Xiao and Lynn Liu. “Lynn is really good at cooking. I’m really good...
  • 6 Great L.A. Restaurants for Pasta

    According to the National Pasta Association, October is National Pasta Month. And while most of us don’t really need a reason to consume mass quantities of carbs, in spite the world conspiring against us with a variety of scare tactics, why not take the opportunity to celebrate and savor some...