As of 10 a.m. today, Old Town shoppers, itinerant off-duty baristas, embedded Pasadena food writers and refugees from the Rose Bowl now have a place to order an excellent macchiato, on Colorado Boulevard. Intelligentsia Coffee, Doug Zell's Chicago-based micro-empire, opened its third Los Angeles location today in Pasadena.
It's a beautiful space: painted a dark cornflower blue, bare lights strung from the rafters, the walls of the former Wok 'n' Roll excavated to show off exposed brick, coffee beans in bags colored a Soviet-era red stacked on the shelves, and high tables in the front waiting for the requisite clutter of porcelain and MacBooks. Walk toward the back, past the Synesso machines heating neatly overturned cups and the obligingly tatttooed baristas pulling shots, and you'll find a long bar made of Douglas fir reclaimed from the 1886 building, and, farther back, additional seating in the form of church pews from Cairo, Illinois.
The baristas have been trained by Michael Phillips, Intelligentsia's director of education and the 2010 World Barista Champion. The pastries are from Bottega Louis and Cake Monkey. But as soon as Intelligentsia gets its liquor license, hopefully in a few weeks, it will be adding small plates, a dinner menu and charcuterie from caterer Matthew Poley (Heirloom-LA); a wine list from Matthew Kaner (Bar Covell); and beer, both in bottles and on tap. This is the first Intelligentsia coffeehouse — there are three locations in Chicago and, now, three in Los Angeles — that will go beyond coffee, tea and pastries, and the downstairs has been converted into a small kitchen. There is also space for a second coffee bar downstairs, should the upstairs becomes too crowded.
“Pasadena needs not just a communal morning hub; it needs an evening hub as well,” said Kyle Glanville, Intelligentsia's director of Innovation and Espresso R&D, this morning. “The architecture kicks ass, the people kick ass,” Glanville said of Pasadena, which hardly has a reputation as a culinary Mecca, despite the seemingly constant presence of uniformed students from the Le Cordon Bleu school. “The Cheesecake Factory has a line around the block,” said Glanville, admittedly mystified. “We're not creating this 2,000-square-foot space just to do business between 8 and 10 a.m.”
Intelligentsia Pasadena: 55 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena; (626) 578-1270. The coffeeshop is open from 6 a.m. – 10 p.m., Mondays – Fridays; 7 a.m. – 10 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays; as soon as it gets its liquor license, hours will extend to midnight every day.