It’s a tad depressing counting the number of Starbucks shops you see during a drive across town — any town. If we’re not careful, even huge and diverse cities like LA will look a lot like the cookie cutter suburbs that line the interstates. Only Bed, Bath, & Beyonds, Taco Bells, and (you guessed it) Starbucks drive-thru locations as far as the eye can see.
It does no good to complain ad nauseam about the topic; rather, consumers need to put their money in the hands of the few remaining independent business owners that are still managing to turn a profit and keep their doors open. Though LA has it’s fair share of chain restaurants and department stores, with just a smidgen of effort it’s easy to turn your back on those and go to an indie establishment instead. Case in point: there are some great indie coffee shops in Mid-City, and four Starbucks shops. Next time you need some caffeine or just a nice atmosphere to work in, pass up the green, double-tailed mermaid and try one of these fantastic spaces.
Graffiti Coffee Bar opened last April on La Brea Boulevard; the modern, white-walled space might not please everyone’s aesthetic palate, but I felt like I was in an awesome Manhattan art gallery that allows drinks, snacks, and laptops to cross it’s threshold. I can’t wait until winter, when the LA temps just might be cool enough to warrant grabbing a seat by the fireplace. Heights fiends can opt to sit in the lofted level overlooking the counter. The shop is currently serving baked goods from Bouchon, and the coffee I had was solid. So much more of an experience than going to a Starbucks.
Paper or Plastik Cafe just hit it’s second anniversary, and there’s a lot about this place worthy of celebration. The industrial-styled interior, the mixed metal and wood tables, naked brick wall, and silver pipes with head-sized light bulbs jutting out askew create the perfect vibe for the fervently-working type; the majority of customers sit with laptops open and keys clicking, sipping from perfectly white mugs when it’s time for a mental break. The bare walls, exposed beams, and high ceiling create a buzz of bouncing echoes that one can’t help but love. There’s lofted seating at this shop as well, and even cooler: a modern dance studio in the back. Known as MiMoDa, the studio is home to Jazzo and ballet classes; when in session they send light waves of pulsating jazz or modern tunes wafting into the lounge. Swing by at around 5 or 6 pm on a Wednesday and you’ll be privy to a great sight: gaggles of tutu-clad pre-schoolers streaming out through the coffee shop, drawing the eyes of every customer in the room. Once they filter out, the typing war begins again.
Oh, Bricks & Scones, the second home I always wanted. This converted, two-story house on a quieter block of Larchmont Boulevard is easily missed, and though parking can be gross the scones alone are worth circling three (or ten) times for. The shop is family-run and the pastries are made on site every single day. When it’s a nice day the patio in front is perfectly shaded by palm fronds, and when you’d rather get away from the sun you have two choices: the peaceful lower level with community, two-person, or four-person tables, or the deathly quiet second level (no joke, eople up there look more serious than university students during finals week).
Conservatory for Coffee, Tea, and Cocoa is right next to the Sony lot in Culver City and has a steady stream of entertainment customers coming in and out all day long. They serve good coffee, lots of tea options, a mean assortment of cookies and pastries, and all in a super relaxed atmosphere (they even have piles of coffee bean bags taking up 30% of their indoor seating space). There is a Starbucks about 4 blocks west of this shop. Don’t. Go. There.