Update: I decided to make this an ongoing series, so disregard the stuff about a three-part post.
An Exercise in Caffeine Tolerance
This week, I read about a study that showed our creative cognition is enhanced by the moderate noise level often present at cafes. Having read this, and perhaps gripped by the nauseating realization that I was averaging about one page of revisions per hour at home in my quiet room, I decided to venture into the wilds of metropolitan Los Angeles on a quest to find the best coffee shop for a local writer in desperate need of brain lubricant.
I obviously couldn’t visit every coffee shop in L.A., but I ventured to what I believe is a good cross-section pulled from Yelp lists, proximity, and, most helpfully, a survey of my Facebook friends. A big thank you to all who made suggestions. IOU one cuppa.
Because I can only handle so much caffeine in one day and because L.A. is a massive beast, my findings will be posted in three parts, somewhat by region.
My quest began at the sleepy intersection that is Orange and Melrose at 10 a.m. on a Saturday. Two-hour free parking on the residential street right beside the shop was a good sign, and the street was almost free of cars. A few metered parking spots were available as well.
As I walked up to Stir Crazy, I saw a lone man sitting at a table outside with his laptop. Second good sign.
Inside, classical music lulled out of the sound system. Was this place too good to be true? At the counter, a young woman laughed with two seated middle-aged men. She farewelled them warmly and left with her order. The men two-stepped around a laptop debate for a couple of minutes before the shop fell into a hush, pulsated by a few murmurs.
The waitress took my order and muttered, “Do you want the bottomless coffee?” I wasn’t sure I’d heard her right.
“What was that?” I asked.
“Never mind,” she said. Something self-conscious in the way she said it.
“The bottomless coffee? Yeah, sure.”
Two bucks isn’t a bad price to avoid feeling like a jerk taking up space for a couple hours on a Saturday morning.
I grabbed a seat next to a power cord–a rare vacancy in Los Angeles–and took a sip of coffee. It wasn’t strong, but that’s okay. I’m no cowboy.
Everyone came alone. Everyone brought a laptop. Except Statler and Waldorf in the back corner, observing and making commentary once in a while.
Then groups and breakfasters started trickling in and, by 10:30, the shop was full and my coffee was cold.
Viscosity: 4 out of 5
By the way–WiFi Password: Surfyourballsoff (but don’t use it because you should be writing)
I gained a companion on my quest after leaving Stir Crazy. I picked up my friend Justi and we awayed to Bricks & Scones.
Where Stir Crazy is a rustic establishment in the cozy style of a hunting cabin, Bricks & Scones is the Downton Abbey of coffee shops. Stepping inside, the first thing I noticed was the massive glittering chandelier hanging over the register.
Awed and feeling a little like Oliver Twist at Mr. Brownlow’s, I put in my order. “Please, mum, can I have a grilled cheese and tomato soup?” I said. Maybe not quite in those words, but I did order a grilled cheese and tomato soup with my second cup of coffee as the day was tit-nipply and drizzly. B&S had a bistro style menu with plenty of variety for a coffee shop, so if you happen to be writing around the noon hour as I was, you won’t starve.
They offered two indoor seating areas–a quiet zone upstairs and a sprawling, noisier sector on the lower floor–but neither had an open table. It was the lunch hour, after all, and it was immediately obvious that the place is hipster-popular. Hardened adventurers that Justi and I are, we sat outside where plenty of patio chairs and tables were available. The food was good. There must be an edict against strong coffee in certain parts of L.A.
The crowd was more social than Stir Crazy’s early morning throng. They were lunchers and group studiers.
Between the food and chilliness, I didn’t get much work done. I’d like to return for a cozy nook indoors and try it out again, even if just to chat with friends.
Viscosity: 2 out of 5
Justi and I left Bricks & Scones’ Winterfellian patio in search of warmer climes, so we headed to Silverlake for Lyric Café and Theater. Metered street parking is the name of the game here, but it wasn’t hard to find a spot after a little initial confusion.
Quietest coffee shop by far, and they had gluten-free pancakes that were, according to Justi, delicious. They also had craft beer and a wine selection. I had a glass of wine thank you very much. A nice, fresh-tasting one that made me wistful for summer.
Warmest waitress so far as well. Inside seating is limited (and definitely not appropriate for groups, which shouldn’t be a problem if you’re writing anyway), but business was slow so we were able to nab a table for two. And there is seating for larger groups outside on the patio.
Yes, quietest coffee shop by far until rehearsal began on the other side of the wall. I imagine the play is called, “Screamers.” Somehow, it didn’t bother me. I managed to get some (blog) writing done.
Viscosity: 3 out of 5