It took about a year and a half of construction and cutting through the red tape, but Caffé Vita finally opened last week in Silver Lake, right next to Rudy's Barbershop. Founded in Seattle in 1995, Caffé Vita is one of the most prominent independent coffee shops in the Pacific Northwest; the Silver Lake location is the cafe's first outpost in California.
Founder Mike McConnell and partner Bob Prince say that they were drawn to L.A. partly because of the neighborhood: It reminds them a bit of Capitol Hill area of Seattle where their flagship shop is located. Seattle transplants to L.A., meanwhile, are no doubt pretty happy that a part of their hometown has followed them down south.
Those who have lived in L.A. for some time may recall that Caffé Vita takes over a space once occupied by a great gift shop named Uncle Jer's. Not that you would ever know this was once a retail store full of nifty knickknacks, fun toys and wonderful greeting cards: The space has opened up and looks bigger now than it did then, with plenty of laptop-friendly tables on the main floor and in an area upstairs. A La Marzocco espresso machine greets you when you enter, Clever drippers for brewed coffee line the counter and the shop's excellent cold-brew is made using the Japanese-style slow drippers you'll see standing tall behind the bar.
As for the coffee, McConnell notes the cafe's commitment to sustainability -- he's been going to Indonesia to buy directly from coffee farmers since 1997 -- and says the focus here is largely on the espresso, which Prince describes as "rich, deep, sweet, chocolatey." Try the PacNor, their version of the cortado made with espresso, whole milk and a touch of half-and-half.
And though they just opened, McConnell and Prince already are talking about the future: They plan to bring in a roaster to start roasting beans right there in the back of the cafe.
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Caffé Vita is open Mondays through Fridays from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and on the weekends from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
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