CoffeeBeer >> Double Shot Buzz >> Previous Coffee Columns >> 3 Cafes in Los Angeles

Back Buzz - September 28, 1999

[pumping heart] Java City Espresso, Glendale Galleria, 130 North Brand Boulevard, Glendale, California

[pumping heart] Le Croissant, 9622 Brighton Way, Beverly Hills, California

[pumping heart] Coffee Trader, 124 Lakewood Center Mall, Lakewood, California

As you can see, a lot has changed in my life in recent months. Bored with the perfection and abundance of coffee I've found in Seattle I decided to give myself a real challenge: travel in Europe, including England, and find out where the coffee is. After all, England's a civilized country, isn't it? There's got to be decent coffee somewhere...

But first, a short review of three coffee stops in Southern California:

While I was in LA my friend Mistah Rick was in Glendale visiting his parents. One Saturday, which just happened to be Mistah Rick's birthday, the two of us stopped by Java City Espresso for breakfast. It was a cool, sunny morning and the outdoor mall was mildly populated. Since I was in Southern California -- where the term "double short" is not often understood -- I ordered a "short cappuccino with an extra shot." What I ended up with was a triple, because apparently Java City is one of those places which serve double shots as the default; but nowhere on the menu boards did it mention this fact.

But even with three shots the coffee was so smooth I could barely taste it. The Birthday Boy and I both agreed it was way too smooth and the milk foam was a bit too airy. And it was a challenge to get our drinks served in nonpaper cups. We had to mention and point to the glaringly obvious glass cups on the counter several times in order to convince the barista we did not want paper cups.

Java City's pastries, made by sister bakery chain La Petite Boulangerie, seem to be better than their coffee. My raspberry scone, which resembled a blackened piece of road kill, was much tastier than it looked and not too sweet like scones can sometimes be. In addition it featured a baked-in blonde hair, perhaps as an extra touch of breakfast protein. Mistah Rick's chocolate croissant was crispy but not quite blackened, good if a bit too chocolately.

The original Java City opened in 1985 in Sacramento. The Glendale Galleria version is located directly on Brand Boulevard close to several other Galleria eateries. In this small space you can have your coffee and scone at Java City followed by a smoothie from Jamba Juice, perhaps a California roll chaser from Zono Sushi, and then you could finish off with one of those delectable desserts featured in the window of Trilussa ("Pizza, Pasta, and Fantasia"). On this particular morning the pigeons were out in full force and the flies seemed content. I wonder what they were having for breakfast?

A few days later my friend Schwartzie and I were in Beverly Hills and desperate for a late afternoon espresso, but none of the local Italian cafes had opened yet for the evening crowd. So we had to settle for Le Croissant, a small take-out spot featuring LaVazza coffee, pastries, and ice cream. Seeing those LaVazza ceramic espresso cups, wonderfully curved in that sensual Italian way, lifted our spirits as we ordered our drinks. Imagine our horror when our macchiatos appeared in styrofoam cups -- not paper, mind you, but styrofoam! Oh, the evils of espresso abuse are alive on the streets of Los Angeles...

While we sipped our abused macchiatos Schwartzie told me about a yogurt store in Corona where she had ordered a single espresso back in the early 1990s. What she received was a large styrofoam cup two-thirds full of coffee. As she eagerly anticipated the ample dose of espresso her excitement was shattered by the barista's explanation: "Oh, it's only a single shot, but I added some hot water for you so it won't be so strong."

And the evils spread across Southern California.

On a final note The Coffee Trader in Lakewood Center isn't really worth mentioning except as a warning to susceptible coffee lovers. Desperate for my afternoon fix I stopped at this kiosk and ordered a double shot of espresso. Not only was I charged an outrageous $2.20, but this so-called "double" shot filled up an entire six-ounce cup to the brim. And naturally it was so boiling hot it scalded my mouth on the first sip. I waited a full twenty minutes for the cup of molten earth core to cool, but it never did. So I dumped it in the trash.

Is there good espresso in Southern California? Can one order a double short drink and actually get a double short drink? And are there only a tiny fraction of places who don't believe in heating their espresso to 5000 degrees K? SoCal, please listen to me! You're full of coffee and espresso lovers who deserve a decent shot. Pay attention and learn!

Speaking of criminal prices for espresso and evil in the city, following is an e-mail exchange with my Bay Area friend from a year ago:

Although my property-owning neighbors at the local Action Committee meeting voted for things like jaywalking and recycling bin scavengers as the most serious crime problems, I'm going to be spending a lot of time looking over my shoulder, wheeling about, and perhaps patting a gun-like bulge in my pocket for the next few weeks. A photocopied announcement that I found in my mailbox informs me that my upstairs neighbor was robbed at gunpoint on the corner of Walker and Vermont, just a few blocks away, at 6:20 yesterday evening. That's a mere hour after dark and a busy time on a street busy with vehicular and pedestrian traffic. How can that be possible?

What a drag. I guess I'll have to give up on those late-night walks along the lake.

Ah, yes, crime in the city. It's a sad fact of modern life. Well, just try not to dwell too much on it. As long as you're sensible and cautious you shouldn't get robbed; just don't dawdle when you take your nightly strolls. If you keep up an assured pace of, say, 25 or 30 mph, you won't look like a victim waiting to be struck. And if you're on your bike, I'd say keep it in high gear all the way. (How fast can you go on those things? 60 mph?). And make sure you always leave your money at home, as well as your credit cards and keys and anything of any value. To be on the safe side, perhaps you should leave your clothes and shoes at home, too.

Just to be safe, you should buy a gun and keep it on you at all times. Actually, while you're at it you might want to invest in a couple of semiautomatics to keep around the house -- you know, in case anybody comes calling late at night. And perhaps some sort of boobytrap on your front and back doors wouldn't be a bad idea. Can you get the city to install some tire-piercing spikes in the street around your building? If they're no help, perhaps a constant oil slick would do the job, keeping strangers and other cars away from your home.

And don't forget to buy some decent deadbolt locks for your doors; 7 or 8 per door should be enough, along with several chains.. And have your landlord install security bars on all the windows -- although I suppose that would make you feel like you're in prison, wouldn't it? Then why not just cement in all the windows? You could install some full-spectrum fluorescent lighting in your apartment, and hang some nice landscapes on the walls, and you wouldn't need any windows, thus avoiding another security risk.

As far as getting to and from your car safely, perhaps you should stock your yard with crocodiles and cobras. I read they've been using these with success in border areas of Iraq to scare off invading enemy foot soldiers. So it should work in a place like Oakland, shouldn't it? Maybe a couple grizzly bears thrown in...

And once you get all this in place, can you start telecommuting? You could venture out maybe once every six months or so to stock up on supplies, and then you can just hole up in your apartment the rest of the time.

Wait a minute -- why don't you hire your own army of security guards and personal bodyguards and train them with your company's software?

I'm wearing my yellow-haired punk skullcap, studded fingerless gloves and studded leather bracelets, and I feel fine.

Oh yeah, and any time you do have to venture outside for anything, don't forget to wear your yellow-haired punk skullcap, studded fingerless gloves, and studded leather bracelets.

I've wondered about that -- if somebody took the risk of robbing you at gunpoint, but you didn't have your wallet, might they be prompted to shoot you for not rewarding their risk? Even if you did carry your wallet but only had $20 in it, would that be enough? The police say "do everything you can to cooperate -- it's not worth risking your life." So should you offer to take the robber to your ATM and do a maximum withdrawal for them? Perhaps even pull out a pink slip or the deed to your house and sign it over to them?

Walking naked would probably be the safest thing -- a clear sign to would-be thieves that you have nothing of value. (Well, a few things of value would be exposed, but they're not worth trying to steal, unless the thief is a sadist or fetishist or something.)

Yes, I do work for a security company -- why can't they protect me?