At first inspection, the recently opened Float in Pasadena might appear to be a simple, cozy, new-wave coffee shop — one that serves locally roasted Handsome Coffee and tea from LAMill. In this part of Pasadena, wedged into an alley of the South Lake Avenue shopping district that looks like it could have been pulled from the pages of a Dickens novel, that alone would be more than welcome (what with the scores of Caltech students just a few blocks away pulling finals week all-nighters).

But owner and Pasadena native Iris Lee wanted Float to feature more than just coffee, and sought to stock her store with some favorite items in Los Angeles. That means daily bagels from Westlake's Brooklyn Bagel Bakery, ice cream from Fosselman's in Alhambra and several shelves of Lee's favorite picks from Highland Park craft soda emporium Galco's.

More substantial is the selection of made-to-order sandwiches, designed by Beer Belly chef Wes Lieberher, which pay homage to some of the city's classic hoagies. The “Goodfella,” a stack of salami, capicolla, soppressata, provolone, and crunchy pancetta chips recalls Bay Cities; a hot pastrami with rosemary slaw might remind you of your favorite Jewish deli. Lee tells us that she soon hopes to source all her bread from Atwater's Village Bakery, increasing the locavore factor even further.

The shop's appeal to nearby residents is surely more evolutionary than revolutionary. Having all of your favorite foodstuffs available in a convenient location is certainly appealing, especially in a charming space that encourages lingering over a second latté. Around the time school gets out, you might even see a few schoolchildren wander in and order an ice cream float, served in a wide-mouthed Mason jar and topped with a candy-striped, biodegradable straw.

You can build your own float from several combinations, but Lee recommends the combination of Fosselman's peppermint with Hank's Root Beer. The kids grab their icy floats and slurp happily. Outside on the patio, a Caltech student sips an affogato and types away at his thesis. Part old-school soda fountain, part deli and part au courant coffee shop, Float aims to offer locals a little bit of everything.

Float in Pasadena; Credit: G. Snyder

Float in Pasadena; Credit: G. Snyder

Float: 380 S. Lake Ave., #160, Pasadena, (626) 844-3488,;

Mon.-Fri., 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Sat., 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Sun., 10 a.m.- 5 p.m.

LA Weekly