Originally published to Happening in DTLA June 2016
In recent years, L.A. has climbed up the ladder in specialty coffee, now known as one of the top 10 cities in the nation for serious coffee game. With each neighborhood’s consistent release of new shops and restaurants, it may be a little overwhelming to know where to begin your caffeine crawl in Los Angeles! If you’re wandering through DTLA, however, we’ve got you covered—here are some of the more note-worthy coffee spots worth checking out.
HISTORIC CORESpring for Coffee
548 S. Spring St. #106 / Mon-Fri 6:30 AM-8 PM, Sat. 7AM-8PM & Sun. 7:30AM-5PM
As one of the earlier specialty coffee shops to have existed in Downtown LA, Spring for Coffee has two locations, the original of which exists on Spring Street (the second location on 5th and Grand Avenue). The shop is a mere booth-sized space, almost quick to miss and nestled next to a pet store and a hookah bar with an even smaller outdoor patio. However, although the shop is small, it is mighty in trustful brewing equipment and coffee. Spring for Coffee is a multi-roaster and uses a rotating selection of well-curated roasters like Coava Coffee and Stumptown, and also offers manual brewing options like Chemex and various styles of pour overs. With coffee on the slightly cheaper end and a small deli menu, this friendly little gem serves as great pit stop more so than a place to lounge while touring the Historic Core of DTLA.
Grand Central Market – 312 S. Broadway / Sun-Wed 7AM-6PM & Thu-Sat 7AM-7PM
Headed by local coffee legends and U.S. barista champions Kyle (G)lanville and Charles (B)abinski, G&B Coffee is every barista’s trusted spot for a damn good quality cup of coffee. G&B is located inside the Grand Central Market and may honestly be a bit intimidating of an experience, since the shop now operates as a fairly lavish and sleek 360-degree bar. “Order anywhere,” a sign encourages. While you may be initially confused over whether to order coffee or a cocktail, take a quick look at their menu of innovative coffee and yeasted waffles—a sweet, beautiful carb-induced disaster. The shop serves meticulously controlled FETCO drip coffee and 49th Parallel’s Epic Espresso, with drip coffee selections changing frequently. Order a shot alone and receive a sparkling tea chaser for a different kind of ‘spro experience. Half of the menu is mixologist-fueled as well, with offerings like an “Espresso Dark and Stormy” and a “Turmeric Almond Macadamia” latte. For a true coffee nerd’s experience, G&B is a prime destination.
Verve Coffee Roasters
833 S. Spring St. / Mon-Fri 7AM-7PM & Sat-Sun 7AM-8PM
Santa Cruz-based roaster Verve is yet another specialty coffee chain quickly making its way toward corporate levels. Its DTLA location marks the first expansion efforts. The front of the shop is eye grabbing, as the patio is covered from wall to ceiling with hanging plants and succulents. The downside of this also means there are pesky houseflies constantly buzzing about the storefront entrance. Inside, however, is yet more architectural eye candy. Verve preserves the loft culture of DTLA with open ceilings and tasteful wooden benches. Although the seating is plentiful, the place is ridden with freelancers on laptops and private business meetings from left to right – perfect if you find calm in the chaos. With a quad group head Kees Van Der Westen Spirit, automatic pour overs, and FETCO brewers, the coffee and staff are on par with beverages. That quality comes at a price though – A mocha costs $5.50 and, if you’re interested, a juice flight for $17! Juice Served Here gives non-coffee drinkers a healthy alternative, but try the nitro cold brew for a wired and satisfying jolt.
LITTLE TOKYOCafé Demitasse
135 S. San Pedro St. / Mon-Fri 7AM-10PM & Sat-Sun 8AM-10PM
Demitasse is one of L.A.’s more established local roasters, in both wholesale and quickly expanding set of L.A. cafes, with Little Tokyo being its original location. From siphon coffee to Kyoto style drip, Demitasse is self-proclaimed as a “handful of coffee geeks” with a unique set of brew options to experiment with. When the baristas aren’t crafting their own coffee concoctions for menu features, they’re either crème brulee torching marshmallows for their signature Lavender Liquid Hot Chocolate or affably chatting up customers at their bar style seating (other options include couches and outdoor tables). The options for their single origin brew coffee are typically plentiful and available via Clever Drip, and the amount of sweet dessert-like drinks are equally abundant with beverages like the aforementioned hot chocolate, an “Iced Minty Cubano,” and each barista’s “Signature Drink.” While Demitasse may not achieve national recognition for its roasts, it should be recognized for its impeccable, humble customer service and its spark for coffee brewing curiosity.
Stumptown Coffee Roasters
806 S. Santa Fe Ave. / Sun-Sat 7AM-7PM
As a fairly established wholesale supplier in L.A., Stumptown didn’t extend its café build outs here until 2013, landing in the less crowded yet equally popular Santa Fe part of the Arts District. A standalone beauty, Stumptown’s spacious interior retains essences of its Portland home culture with more notes of oak wood, milk chocolate brown, and black. Its impressive roasting facility and training lab are on display just behind the bar area. As a roaster, Stumptown also offers a wide variety of milk drinks, manual brew options like Chemex and French press, and seasonal rotating roasts. Despite the spacious interior, most of it serves as standing room with shelf-like seating lining the window fronts and minimal bar seating in the hallway. There are few tables outside the café. As Stumptown’s only L.A. café, however, the welcoming staff, wide menu variety, and Friday public tastings make this a spot worth checking out.
Blue Bottle Coffee
582 Mateo St / Sun-Sat 7AM-6PM
Another chain the L.A. coffee game, Blue Bottle kicked off its L.A. expansion efforts in 2014 when the location merged and replaced what was formerly known as Handsome Coffee. As one of the biggest specialty chains in the nation, Blue Bottle may be considered as the Apple of coffee, with top notch equipment similar to Verve’s and an on-site roasting facility. The company’s retail beans are always roasted within two days of its shelf date and you can tell as soon as you enter – the shop smells of freshly roasted coffee immediately upon opening the door. Brewed coffee is available via pour over exclusively and crowd favorites include the chicory-flavored New Orleans Iced Coffee. Aside from this drink option the menu is simple – your standard latte, cappuccino, and brewed coffees are ready and available. With a decent amount of seating and weekend food truck visits, its OG L.A. location is regularly crawling with customers. Street parking is limited too so plan ahead.
826 E. 3rd St / Sun-Sat 7AM-6PM
Formerly part of Handsome Coffee and also owner of Highland Park’s more recent Civil Coffee, Tyler Wells opened Blacktop Coffee first in summer 2014. The small bustling café rests in the heart of the Arts District and features San Francisco’s trusted Sightglass Coffee. Everything about the location is an aesthetically-driven masterpiece, from its ivy-covered storefront to a mahogany, glass, and marble bar area to hand crafted ceramic cups. Despite the seemingly pretentious menu of “black,” “white,” and “chocolate” for coffee options, the staff is happy to explain and incredibly friendly otherwise. The brunch menu is yet another artisanal food experience, with decadent stacked toast items of avocado, poached eggs, and smoked salmon. All may be slightly challenging to consume though—seating is limited to more aesthetically pleasing yet rather inconvenient log stumps scattered outside the store. Bring plastic too – Blacktop is credit card only and doesn’t look like it’s going to change anytime soon.
1375 E. 6th St #6 / Coffee Sun-Sat 7AM-5PM & Retail 10AM-6PM
The Wheelhouse sits quietly next to L.A. Gun Club and L.A. Boulders as another recreational niche in the plaza. Wheelhouse picked up on the growing connection and mutual love between coffee and bikes and serves as a coffee stop, repair hub, and retail space with upscale boutique helmets, saddles, and vintage bicycles, the latter of which decorates the main wall tastefully. Olympia Coffee Roasters is served in more trendy yet heat-conducting ceramic cups similar to those used at Blacktop. Their menu is equally confusing yet at the same time more carefully spelled out, and on a playful airport-themed board too – rather than ordering macchiatos, cappuccinos, and lattes, you can order espresso + milk “mini,” “small,” “medium,” and so forth, as these amounts are what those drinks literally translate too. (A milk + medium would give you a cappuccino, as the drink is espresso + a medium amount of milk.) Does that clear any confusion or require further inquiry? Regardless of whether you’re a cyclist or not, Wheelhouse is a great space to lounge thanks to its open seating, solid coffee, and fairly consistent silence.