Food & Drink

The 20 Best Los Angeles Craft Coffee Bars

Published On 02/13/2015 Published On 02/13/2015
Dinosaur Coffee
Courtesy of Dinosaur Coffee

If coffee is black gold, then there’s been a Gold Rush in the past decade, with specialty coffee powers descending on LA from across the US. Homegrown coffee companies have also stepped up, with some growing chains sourcing coffee and others roasting their own beans in-town. In all cases, Angelenos have benefited -- and here are the 20 best of the batch.

Alfred Coffee

Alfred Coffee & Kitchen

Melrose Place

Joshua Zad was smart to open the first Alfred Coffee on Melrose Place, a short West Hollywood street that could easily double as a runway, considering all the models and celebrities that traverse the thoroughfare’s high-end clothing shops and boutiques. Better yet for business owners, they end up sharing photos through social media. Alfred’s iconic sign, “But first, coffee,” is particularly Instagrammable and reinforces Alfred’s core focus: pumping out plenty of espresso drinks and cold-brew coffees, all using Stumptown beans, and the ubiquitous Alfred cone -- a chocolate-coated cake cone that holds a double shot of espresso.

Joshua Lurie/Thrillist

Blacktop Coffee

Downtown

The cousins behind Wurstküche teamed with Tyler Wells, a co-founder of the late, great Handsome Coffee Roasters, on this sleek Arts District coffee bar. Douglas fir and marble are keys to the hip-and-clean aesthetic, and Sightglass coffee, Straus milk, and top-of-the-line equipment make sure the brews stay true. Since opening, they’ve also supplemented their offerings with creative Sugarbloom pastries and six different toasts (including, obviously, one with avocado).

Joshua Lurie/Thrillist

Civil Coffee

Highland Park

Alex Morales and brother Alan spent time at Handsome Coffee Roasters and Tiago Coffee Bar + Kitchen before branching out on their own with Civil Coffee. Their stylish café on an emerging stretch of Highland Park sports an eagle logo and contains a white-and-blue color scheme and a high ceiling. The baristas brew Coava and Heart coffee, and Roomforty, the house catering company at nearby Fig House, contributes ambitious coffee bar fare, including muesli parfait, “true” quiche with Brie and leek vinaigrette, and fish toast with cured and smoked salmon, puffed grains, herbed cream cheese, fennel vinaigrette, fried shallots, and tapioca pearls. The only thing missing is Wi-Fi, which is intentional, to accommodate families, who apparently... don’t like Wi-Fi?

Joshua Lurie/Thrillist

Coffee Commissary

Burbank (& other locations)

This growing chain, which has an imposing rooster logo on the wall and the obligatory Instagram-friendly tile, now keeps studio workers well caffeinated throughout TV, film, and radio production. They rotate West Coast roasters and serve all cups with foamy style. Bonus: the Burbank location is the only branch of Coffee Commissary that has a full kitchen, meaning you can find fried-chicken sandwiches, breakfast burritos, and impressive house-baked goods on a daily basis.

Joshua Lurie/Thrillist

Cognoscenti Coffee

Culver City

Considering owner/architect Yeekai Lim earned his bones with pop-up coffee bars around the city, it’s nice to see a fully realized take on his vision. He’s built a beautiful indoor-outdoor space amidst Culver City’s art galleries, complete with colorful chairs and a wise owl logo. Cog’s countertop coffee line-up changes depending what’s really popping that season, though Seattle’s Kuma Coffee and San Francisco’s Ritual Coffee make frequent appearances.

Copa Vida

Copa Vida

Pasadena

This multifaceted café has managed to stand out in Old Pasadena, a neighborhood that has seen a glut of coffee concepts in recent years. Superlative West Coast roasters normally find their way into Copa Vida’s grinders and brewers, including single-origin selections from industry leaders like Ritual, Verve, and 49th Parallel. They also bake in-house, yielding bread that helps to fuel sandwiches and plenty of coffee-friendly pastries.

Joshua Lurie/Thrillist

Demitasse Roastery + Kitchen

Hollywood

Hollywood’s most ambitious coffeehouse features single-origin beans roasted in-house on a Probat, pulverized in a white Nuova Simonelli grinder, and brewed on a sleek La Marzocco Mistral espresso machine. Owner Bobby Roshan even concocted signature beverages like a strawberry ginger latte and lavender hot chocolate with toasted marshmallow. The space features a brick façade, exposed wood rafters, and light wood tables. Chef Jeff Lustre is of Filipino descent, an aspect that he flexes on dishes like tocino (cured pork belly), vegetarian lumpia, and oxtail calderata with mandilli de sea pasta and Pecorino.

Courtesy of Dinosaur Coffee

Dinosaur Coffee

Silver Lake

Given the name, we were hoping for a T-Rex, and we found a miniature version on one of the gorgeous Douglas fir shelves (and a bigger beast on the bathroom wall). A longtime hospitality pro and her husband, who co-created Cards Against Humanity, serve Four Barrel coffee in a sharp space, which used to be an audio speaker repair shop.

Eightfold Coffee

Eightfold Coffee

Echo Park

Soo Kim’s coffee bar looks like it was born to appear on lifestyle blogs. Her airy space, which resides along an especially fashionable stretch of Echo Park, sports white walls (including white brick), a tile-backed marble bar, and wood-bench seating, and baristas brew Heart Coffee in vac pots, with a La Marzocco espresso machine, and as cold brew, which packs a potent punch and comes in a glass big enough to keep you conscious for at least two days straight.

Endorffeine

Chinatown

Jack Benchakul is a coffee scientist who applies exacting standards to his minimalist coffee bar in Chinatown’s Far East Plaza. If you’re looking for a jolt of endorphins and caffeine (Endorffeine!) this is the place. Sit at the nine-seat, horseshoe-shaped bar and watch the master at work behind the stainless steel Modbar. Signature drinks are super strong, with iced lattes flavored with unique combos like palm-sugar whiskey and vanilla-pandan. Benchakul also hosts biscuit and pie vendors, plus “9” -- a three-course pairing that takes place on Saturday nights and matches desserts with coffee cocktails.

Joshua Lurie/Thrillist

Espresso Cielo

Santa Monica

This corner spot, just two blocks from the beach, features Carrera marble and sky blue to spare and an antique clock that would make Flavor Flav jealous. A strong coffee program complements the refined surroundings, including 49th Parallel coffee beans roasted in Vancouver and Kyoto-style towers that slowly drip masterful cold brew.

G&B Coffee

G&B Coffee

Downtown

Even in this group, there’s something about Kyle Glanville and Charles Babinski’s open-air Grand Central Market stall that stands out. Sure, the barista champs take a meticulous approach, sparing no gram when pulling espresso shots or brewing cold brew. However, the duo also has fun. Just look at their take on the Dark & Stormy, made with house ginger beer, or a powerhouse shake made with GCM neighbor McConnell’s ice cream.

Go Get Em Tiger

Larchmont Village

This similarly precise coffee bar from Misters G and B in Larchmont Village may be even more ambitious, with pastries and food made in-house, indoor seating and a hand-painted astronaut who looks like he’s floating across the wall. If you’re willing to risk cardiac arrest, consider the Full Nelson, a flight of coffee drink named for a regular customer that includes an espresso, macchiato, cappuccino, and the phenomenal G&B shake.

Flickr/Tony

Intelligentsia

Silver Lake

The dream team that opened this Sunset Junction coffee bar in 2007 has long since disbanded, but Intelligentsia’s first LA branch remains a juggernaut. The coffee is roasted in nearby Glassell Park, the quality remains good given the high volume, and their signature Angeleno beverage is as popular as ever, featuring a quadruple shot of espresso shaken with milk, agave, and ice.

Joshua Lurie/Thrillist

Menotti’s Coffee Stop

Venice

A seasoned veteran named Christopher “nicely” Abel Alameda, who clocked time behind some of Seattle and LA’s best coffee bars, runs this quick-grab spot within shouting distance of Venice Beach’s drum circles. Four Barrel Coffee gets the star treatment, and their latte art is probably the city’s best -- after all, nicely is a two-time winner of the Latte Art World Championship. And -- shhhh -- Menotti’s also has a secret menu (with unique drinks like an espresso & tonic and the “Love Potion #9” with raspberry syrup and chocolate ganache) hidden behind a photo of their founder on the counter.

Paramount Coffee Project

Paramount Coffee Project

Fairfax Village

It took three Aussies (Jin Ng, Mark Dundon and Russell Beard) to reinvigorate a former Fairfax Village produce market and turn it into one of LA’s best coffee shops. They first teamed on Paramount Coffee Project at the one-time Australian headquarters for Paramount Pictures, and are now brewing some of the world’s best coffee beans. Their concrete and wood space features a multi-roaster line-up that rotates beans from American coffee powers like Heart and George Howell, plus coffee from roasters back home. The food program is more ambitious than most coffee bars, with dishes like cashew nut yogurt and scram (scrambled eggs) with mezcal-cured salmon.

Cacá Santoro

Rubies + Diamonds

Hollywood

LAMILL co-founder Jean Shim went solo in 2015, debuting her fashionable coffee bar in Hollywood’s Columbia Square complex, in a space that features blue-grey and red walls lined with art and two elaborate chandeliers, including one crystal and another that resembles spaghetti. They promote BKON vacuum processed RAIN technology for coffee and tea, and they have many nitro drinks, which you can order up as a cascading nitro flight with cold brew coffee and three teas: matcha, ginger ale green, and turmeric.

TAZA. A Social Coffeehouse.

TAZA. A social coffee house.

Arcadia

A Disney veteran brought imaginative coffee service to the SGV. They’ve got the requisite reclaimed wood and a mural that riffs on American Gothic, complete with peacocks, which wander the nearby botanic garden. The menu is fluid but consistently good, whether it’s the coffee line-up or pastries, which could include killer kimchi SPAM croissants.

Joshua Lurie/Thrillist

Verve Coffee Roasters

Mid-City (& other locations)

This Santa Cruz import made a great first impression, with their first LA shop brightening an emerging part of Downtown, and others popping up around the city. Their beans roast up north, for now, but they already fuel a space-age espresso machine, nitro cold brew and drip. Their Mid-City outpost on Thirst St is the most ambitious to date, with a round copper and marble bar, exposed wood rafters, and a Farmlevel Bar in back, made to feature rare coffees that showcase “Ethics & Excellence.”

Woodcat Coffee Bar

Echo Park

Janine Awan and husband Saadat got the Echo Park coffee scene rolling with their rustic café just north of the lake. Reclaimed wood, box seating and red walls give life to this neighborhood favorite. It also helps that they brew expertly roasted beans from San Francisco’s Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters on their sleek Faema espresso machine, which sports a racing stripe. Clearly, this bar was built for speed, but the crowd is always chill.

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Joshua Lurie is the LA-based founder of Food GPS, a company that showcases the best tasting food and drink through online coverage and by producing unique culinary events. Follow him at @foodgps on Instagram and Twitter.

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1. Alfred Coffee & Kitchen 8509 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90069 (West Hollywood)

You know that saying, "but first, coffee"? It came from Alfred Coffee + Kitchen, and if it didn't, the Melrose coffee shop took it, trademarked it, and put it on a sign. The trendy local chain attracts a creative crowd, and you'll likely see someone working on a screenplay or practicing lines over a cup of coffee and a bagel sandwich at Alfred. The shop uses Stumptown beans and the Alfred cone, a chocolate-coated cake cone that holds a double shot of espresso, is almost as ubiquitous in LA as that damn saying.

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2. Blacktop Coffee 826 E 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90013 (Downtown)

The cousins behind Wurstküche (prost, bro!) teamed with a co-founder of the late, great Handsome Coffee Roasters to turn out this sleek Arts District coffee bar, lined with Douglas fir and marble and serving up high-end outta-San Francisco Sightglass Coffee and Strauss milk, all made with top-of-the-line equipment to make sure the brews stay true.

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3. Civil Coffee 5629 N Figueroa St, Los Angeles, CA 90042

Brothers Alex and Alan Morales spent time at Handsome Coffee Roasters and Tiago Coffee Bar + Kitchen before they opened their own coffee shop in Highland Park. The result is Civil Coffee a pretty beautiful coffee bar that embodies European charm with high ceilings, tiled floors, and blue wainscot walls. The baristas brew Coava and Heart coffee, and there's a full menu of cafe food (brie quiche, cured and smoked salmon toast, muesli parfait) from pop-up caterers Roomforty.

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4. Coffee Commissary 3121 W Olive Ave, Burbank, CA 91505

The Burbank outpost of LA mini-chain Coffee Commissary is outfitted with a full kitchen, meaning that besides coffee any way you want it, the menu includes breakfast and lunch dishes like breakfast burritos, fried chicken sandwiches, and kale salad. The cafe features a rotating selection of West Coast roasters, so you'll find anything from Coava to Madcap Coffee on offer.

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5. Cognoscenti Coffee 6114 W Washington Blvd, Culver City, CA 90232

Before opening his first solo spot, Cognoscenti Coffee's owner earned his bones with pop-up coffee bars around the city. The barista-in-charge is also an architect, and he built a beautiful indoor-outdoor space complete with colorful chairs and a wise owl logo. Cog’s countertop coffee line-up changes depending on the season, though Seattle’s Kuma and San Franciso’s Ritual make frequent appearances.

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6. Copa Vida 70 S Raymond Ave, Pasadena, CA 91105 (Pasadena)

Pasadena has seen its fair share of coffee shops over the years, but Copa Vida in Old Pasadena stands out for its multi-faceted approach to cafe culture. The shop puts an emphasis on West Coast roasters, so single-origin coffee from industry leaders like Ritual, Verve, and 49th Parallel are usually on tap, and there's an extensive selection of steeped-leaf tea. Copa Vida bakes pastries in-house, and it has a full breakfast and lunch menu featuring breakfast burritos, three-cheese sandwiches, and eggs-any-way.

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7. Demitasse Roastery and Kitchen 1542 N Cahuenga Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028

Demitasse stands out in the Los Angeles coffee scene for its single-origin coffee beans that are roasted in-house, then ground and brewed on sleek machinery (Nuova Simonelli grinder, La Marzocco Mistral espresso machine). The minimalist space features exposed wood rafters, light wood tables, and spacious patio seating. Aside from traditional brews, there are speciality drinks like strawberry ginger lattes and lavender hot chocolate.

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8. Dinosaur Coffee 4334 W. Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90029 (Silverlake)

Launched by the co-creator of Cards Against Humanity and his wife, Dinosaur serves Four Barrel Coffee and Song Tea to the good people of Silver Lake. The super modern space, which used to be an audio speaker repair shop, features a large white-top bar in the center and light wooden details all around. There's seating at the bar and at the few tables up front.

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9. Eightfold Coffee 1294 W Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90026

This simple Echo Park coffee shop attracts a regular cast of hipsters with its wall of zines, books, and magazines supplied by LA-based art publisher & Pens Press. Of course, Eightfold's array of coffee sourced from Heart Roasters is also notable, as is its extensive loose-leaf tea collection.

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10. Endorffeine 727 N Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90012

Helmed by a bonafide coffee scientist, Endorffeine is a third-wave coffee bar in Chinatown equipped with a stainless steel Modbar. Expect outrageously strong espresso and pour-over coffee, plus speciality drinks like iced lattes with palm-sugar whiskey and vanilla pandan.

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11. Espresso Cielo 3101 Main Street, Santa Monica, CA 90405 (Santa Monica)

On the border of Santa Monica and Venice, Espresso Cielo serves European-style coffee drinks plus third-wave creations, like a Blue Bottle-inspired Gibaltrar (a double shot of espresso with lightly-steamed milk). The shop partnered with nearby Hotcakes Bakes to serve a rotating food menu of quiche, macarons, and other pastries.

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12. G&B Coffee at Grand Central C-19, 317 S Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90013

Inside DTLA's Grand Central Market, G&B's coffee bar stall is helmed by baristas who take a calculated but fun approach to espresso. Aside from supplying your regular caffeine fixes, G&B whips up speciality drinks like house-made chai and an eponymous shake made with vanilla ice cream, two shots of espresso, and whole milk. There's also a small but mighty selection of yeast waffles topped with maple syrup, ricotta, or house-made jam.

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13. Go Get Em Tiger 230 N Larchmont Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90004

The pastries? Great. Indoor seating? Also great. Hand-painted astronaut who looks like he’s floating across the wall? Yup, great. The greatest great though? The Full Nelson, a flight of coffee drinks named after one of the shop's regulars that includes an espresso, macchiato, cappuccino, and that phenomenal G&B shake.

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14. Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea 3922 W Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90029 (Silverlake)

The dream team that opened this Sunset Junction coffee bar in 2007 has long since disbanded, but Intelligentsia’s first LA branch remains a juggernaut. The coffee is roasted in nearby Glassell Park, and the quality remains strong given the high volume. The signature Angeleno beverage? A popular-as-ever quadruple shot of espresso shaken with milk, agave, and ice.

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15. Menotti’s Coffee Stop 56 Windward Ave, Venice, CA 90291 (Venice)

Christopher "Nicely" Abel Alameda, a seasoned barista who's clocked time behind some of Seattle and LA’s best coffee bars, runs this quick-grab cafe that's within shouting distance of Venice Beach’s drum circles. Nicely is a two-time winner of the Latte Art World Championship, so you better believe his Four Barrel Coffee drinks are topped with intricate foam designs.

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16. Paramount Coffee Project 456 N Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036

Sydney-based Paramount Coffee Project brings a bright, communal gathering space for coffee aficionados to North Fairfax. Paramount brews beans from roasters all over the world and hosts coffee classes and educational demos to boot. Its food offerings are remarkably sophisticated for a coffee shop with dishes like chicken chilaquiles, apple pie French toast, and eggs Benedict, plus pastries from Brentwood's Farmshop.

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17. Rubies+Diamonds 6115 W Sunset Blvd, , 90028

It's no coincidence that the name of this regal coffee bar abbreviates to R&D. Located in Hollywood's Columbia Square complex, Rubies + Diamonds focuses on new, experimental ways of preparing coffee and tea, like brewing with a Bkon vacuum machine that extracts more flavor from raw ingredients. The detailed menu lays everything out for you and includes a caffeine grade for each drink so you know just how much of a jolt to expect.

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18. TAZA. A social coffee house. 11 W Huntington Dr, Arcadia, CA 91007 (Arcadia)

Deep in the San Gabriel Valley, Taza is outfitted with all the things that make a coffee shop cooler than cool: skateboards hanging from the wall, reclaimed wood, and a mural (this one in particular is a riff on "American Gothic.") The coffee is consistently good, and though the menu changes often, you can always expect a lineup of classic lattes, sweet and savory pastries (kimchi Spam croissant, say what?), and donuts.

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19. Verve Coffee 8051 W 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90048

Santa Cruz import Verve Coffee has a few locations around Los Angeles, but the Third St outpost is taking the Northern California-bred cafe culture to the next level with its so-called "Farmlevel Bar." Separate from the register, the bar is part information desk, part to-go counter where you can ask one of the insanely knowledgeable baristas about the roasting process or buy a bag of coffee by the ounce. Verve's coffee is pretty out of this world, especially the made-to-order rare brews.

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20. Woodcat Coffee Bar 1532 W Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90026

This quiet and chill coffee shop in the heart of Echo Park gets its name from the song "Woodcat" by the British band Tunng -- and the Scottish word for hare, which explains the shop's rabbit-eared logo. Woodcat partners with Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters, Sugarbloom Bakery, and Sugarbird Sweets & Teas to deliver expertly roasted coffee and daily-made pastries.

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