(March 22, 2010)
This is California trendy casual culture:
My mom and I had to drive past Intelligentsia twice before realizing where it was: if you’re not looking for it, you won’t see it. And actually, it was a friend of my mom’s who passed the word on to me…
My first glance into the Intelligentsia Coffee rabbit-hole was all I needed to feel like I had been let in on a little societal secret. Beyond this deep and radically different exterior seating area is where the actual shop is. Sheltered from the outside street, this cool and shaded little area almost sets you up for what you know is going to end up being a unique experience. It felt like a ceremony almost. Though surely I ruined the whole ritualistic-ness with my taking pictures all over the place and exclaiming to my Mom, “OHmygod this is SO cool!”
Then, of course, you get a glimpse of the ingenious interior design. While no longer completely uncommon, the combination of light wood and metal accent facilitates the modern, zen and minimalist atmosphere. A high, industrial ceiling looms above you, and it’s easy for the eye to get lost in the mass of machinery and bits and baubles. Everything important is in the middle. There’s a little display of catered niche baked goods (pictured: uber-crusty banana wheat germ muffin) that welcomes you right at the front, next to a hanging wooden board that says, “PLEASE WAIT HERE: Your friendly barista will be with you in just a moment.” And your own barista is what you get: one person who greets you, walks you to wherever they are stationed, and works with your choices through the entire experience. I told our guy that we were new/confused, and he knowingly advised us today’s Papua New Guinea: Agoga, which is sufficiently sweet without milk or sugar, and costs about $4 a cup. (And, of course, at that moment I totally thought fondly of my darling Edie because of how she spent her summer in PNG!)
There’s not much seating, and what seating there is doesn’t seem to be designed for the long-term sipper. There’s a raised seating bar in the back, perfect for people-watching, but it’s not overwhelmingly comfortable, either. However, I was glad we had arrived earlier once the lines started up around 9:30 and didn’t let up. I can’t decide whether the lack of seating is a response to how people didn’t stick around for long, or whether the people didn’t stick around because there wasn’t much seating. Either way, I saw who the general customer demographic is, and wasn’t too surprised. The people who appear to frequent Intelligentsia, as you might guess, are the young and pretty professionals of LA: girls in strappy sandals, flowy blouses and tights with guys wearing impressively well-kept goatees. It was endlessly entertaining to watch them. They were so trendy – even in their jogging suits!
We’re going back, because Intelligentsia is so my brother’s style. Perhaps more his than mine, honestly, but hopefully you can tell by now that I appreciate signature cultures – and Intelligentsia certainly pulls it off.
Oh, and by the way – you’re in luck if you’re from Chicago. Looks like they bring the intelligent coffee experience to several locations there, as well. 😉
Mon – Wed 6 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Thu – Fri 6 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Sat 7 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Sun 7 a.m. – 8 p.m.