The Starbucks Experiment – A Los Angeles Work in Progress

“Yes, it’s a tall mountain…but can you climb it, and if you do what will it all mean?” A man outside of Starbucks

What if one person attempted to visit every Starbucks in Los Angeles, and not just once but many times over many years in hopes of not only reviewing said establishments but also in hopes of learning something more, something deeper about coffee and people and public gathering spots that double as Wifi charging stopovers and even full offices while sipping copious amounts of java?

And perhaps along the way he’d learn not just something about green aprons and overpriced snack boxes but, more importantly, about the panoply and citizenry that makes up this amazing city and why at one time or another, and usually again and again, the latter all make their way through the doors of Starbucks,  

Just maybe.

Or, perhaps this multi-year experiment to visit every Starbucks many times over is a Sysiphisian endeavor that can never truly be achieved if for no other reason that the chain opens more and more and more and more outlets quicker than a man could possibly ever travel across the Southland, thereby always staying one step ahead of the task at hand. Let’s find out together.

Starbucks

If you’re like thousands upon thousands of other caffeine-crazed Angelenos you don’t fully understand why you and plenty of others like you continue to pay for mass produced, somewhat pricy java, but you do, we do, happily….every day… adding to the eponymous chain’s profit margin.

Addiction, of course, is the primary culprit

Coffee commands the brain to seek out ever more of it – just like cocaine but without the nasty cartels – and it’s an acceptable form of addiction.  Drug and drink addicts enter 12-step as their first step, problem gamblers are sent straight  to rehab, smokers are summarily ostracized at least ten-feet outside of buildings, sex addicts, well, they get a lot of action then burn out or join the adult film world,  but coffee addicts are celebrated in the 21st century.

But why do all of this in a chain store when you could serve your addiction at home in the privacy of your kitchen and spend a lot less dough getting your fix?

Because, I’ll argue, you’re not really there for the coffee, or the tea or even the snake oil brain water  – you’re there for the experience.  The experience of “anything can happen” and when it does you’ll be fully jacked for the ride.  

Naturally, Starbucks welcomes us all in droves. How else could so many of these stores prosper? America, and increasingly the globe, is in love with Starbucks, and so is your needy brain. So give in to it and have that refill for only an extra .50 cents. And by the way that coffee they’re pouring is pretty tasty, even if some judgmental hipsters like to mock the brand, only to furtively sneak out themselves and grab the occasional corporate cup.

Like politics, everyone has an opinion on what makes for a great cup of joe. In the wide breadth of coffee culture there are, amongst others, the blue-collar guys who brag that, “I get my coffee for a buck at 7-11,” through to the aforementioned hipsters who scoff at the mere mention of Starbucks and that only partake in their frothy concoction at trendy one offs like “Café Indifference” or “Red Eye,” or, even better, they prepare their own in a hidden loft downtown on one of those high-end European coffee makers that cost more than a pre-1980 Ford. Most, partakers of the bean, however, are somewhere in the middle – they’ll sometimes grab that 7-11 cup, or a scalding hot McDonald’s brew, or a diner-poured jolt fresh from a waitress that calls everyone Hon, and they’ll even occasionally put on a t-shirt with an ironic message and hit a hipster haven like “Mr. Bean,” but usually they’ll get most of their fixes in Starbucks, because, let’s face it, there’s pretty much one within a stone’s throw of wherever you happen to be standing.

I’m not claiming that the coffee is always great, but it can be sometimes when the barista hits the mark just right. What it almost always is, though, is consistently satisfying, and there is some real comfort in this world of inconsistency. Look, we don’t do McDonalds drive-thrus over and over and over again because they make the best burger in the world, but they do know how to give you a familiar feel of home – or what would better be described as familiarity that can be recreated in St. Louis, Paris or Beijing. Nor do we go to Bucks because we think we’re going to walk out having had the best coffee experience of our life, but we rarely get bad product, with all due respect to 7-11, “Coffee Angst” your coffees are sometimes good, rarely great, and sometimes burnt, cups of horribleness.

Aside from pouring you a decent cup of liquid energy, your Los Angeles Starbucks baristas will probably offer a genuine smile too, even though, here anyway, they’d likely rather be directing, writing or starring in a movie, but for now they’re cool with the “audition-friendly” and the insurance plan is way better that SAG’s, anyway.   And, of course there’s the perk of unlimited free coffee…because they’re addicted to it just like you.

But c’mon aren’t all Starbucks the same? I mean, if you’ve had one mass-produced Grande Pike you’ve had them all, right? How different can barista A be from barista B after all? The answers are no, no and no. In fact, each Starbucks has its own distinct personality. Each has its highs, its lows, and its in-betweens. Each store offers a unique staff – or partners as they’re referred to in the Starbucks inter-language. Baristas, supervisors and managers alike all help to define the Starbucks human factor of the locations and they are the key reason whether this customer wants to return again and again. Each stores also has its own style, vibe, energy, crowd, atmosphere and, oh yeah, parking situation that makes it a one of a kind experience. In short, the coffee shop that reeks of cookie-cutter uniformity is far from it.

You just have to be willing to look.

I did. I am. So far, over a five-year period I visited # Starbucks across this wide swath of urbanity known as Los Angeles. It would have been a fool’s errand to try and visit every one unless I had a Zagat-like staff of free contributors, which is what I’ll probably do by the time you’re reading this thing in line at the bookstore. My visits started out as a normal human being who likes coffee and writes – about once a day. Then the journeys elevated to an AM and a PM jaunt to two or three different stores. Then it became three or four a day as time permitted.

For instance, on a non-untypical working on the blog day, I would grid out my Starbucks visits in order to increase efficiency. On April 23, 2014 I employed a grid around the Hollywood-east Hollywood area starting at the Vine and Hollywood Blvd. locale for an early morning Pike Roast with 2% milk, before heading east to the corner of Western and Hollywood Blvd to visit the strip mall Starbucks there and then it was a short drive south to one of my recent faves – the Starbucks at Sunset and St. Andrews.

And it wasn’t until May 2014 – already a full two years into this thing that would become a blog – that I realized there might be few naysayers who question whether anyone would have the obsession to visit so many of these places so many times. It was then that I decided to use only one of my credit cards solely for the purpose of visit validation. See years of receipts here (coming soon).

Speaking of taking over earth, Starbucks is seemingly doing just that, and they wouldn’t be if their product wasn’t good. It is and sometimes it’s great, but where else can you set up shop all day and write your novel, while away the afternoon reading the full New York Times (because there’s really no reason to read the LA Times) or sit at once of those eight-seated community tables and engage in conversation with people who aren’t drunk* and that you’ll never see again.

Because the bottom line is this: There are probably four Starbucks within a mile of where you stand right now, twelve if you’re wandering around downtown, so why not let me steer you to the one that will suit your personality, mood and taste. Look, you just can’t trust Yelp anymore as they’ve been invaded by fake $20 reviews, and are you really going to buy that cup of mud from a gas station quickie stop? You might as well just swig the gasoline after you fill up your car.

My non-scientific reviews are based on all of the expected criteria; atmosphere, quality of product and service, and speaking of the last you’ll find my 2% rule is often employed in determining how helpful an employee is during visits. By this I don’t mean that 2% of Starbuck’s staff are exceptional, I’m referring to my favorite milk add-in. Most Bucks do not keep 2% milk on their fixin’s bar, so I regularly find myself having to ask the barista to top me off. Now, if you spend any time at Starbucks you know that the head barista is often the busiest worker in the place, and so it’s there that I find out how things function when balls are being juggled. If I get a smile or at least a non-frown when I ask the barista for a shot of 2%, the place has a good chance of having the rating upgraded by at least .5. It may seem like a small thing but getting that 2% without an attitude can make or break a visit, and I’ve found that it also is a strong indicator of the customer service overall for that particular store. Scientific? Hardly. Can I count on it? Yes, about 45 times 2% of the time I can

And a couple of other numbers to remember: Avoid Starbucks at 12:00 noon and at 3:30 when the two big rushes of the day guarantee long lines and lots of noise, unless you’re into that kind of thing.

Now, here stated is my bias. I favor Starbucks locations that are conducive to the work that I do as a semi-focused writer, rather than those that are social hangouts for people that talk too loud into their phones of insecurity. And while I think it’s equally comical and annoying when people “doing work” set up shop in Starbucks as if it’s their 9-5 office, I still prefer that to oplaces where people feel the need to party like they’re in a bar.*  You know the ones who actually hold office hours and have staff with them and even interview people here all while the execs at Starbucks nod and allow it. Nah, none of that stuff. But to me a person would be able to drop in a for a half-hour sip a good coffee, and do their work if that’s what they want. Therefore any Starbucks that is overly crowded, overly noisy, overly filled with full time people using the place as their office or one that offers little or no workspace will not be highly rated here. A great cup of coffee is important but an environment where I can do some work is equally so.

Comfort is also a nice factor of most Starbucks even if the chain sometime shoots itself in the foot, like with the 2014 arrivals of those uncomfortable bar-like high tables. If the intention is to get people to stay longer it’s working. There is no way to sit in one fo those chairs for too long, and while that might help to increase the turn over it does little to feed the feeling of community, which from what Starbucks porefesses part of their mission is about.

To help navigate should you actually wish to visit all of these establishments, know that the book reads sort-of geographically from east to west? Downtown Bucks will come first followed by mid-city, mid-Wilshire all the way to the edge of the city at 26th Street before Santa Monica. Starbucks north and south of the downtown to west side grid will appear in a manner that is unscientific at best and relies on my own sense of how one might logically move around the city, but generally will cover north to south from Hollywood to the airport and beyond. And Valley lovers, your Starbucks will be in here to – at least those parts of the Valley that I think are part of L.A. and not their own cities, which they may very well be, because let’s face it, no one really knows where L.A. starts and ends. And one last note on that, there are a few Starbucks included in here that might technically fall just outside (sometimes a few feet outside) of L.A. proper: the ones in West Hollywood are most noticeable in this regard. In all cases I’ve made several efforts to identify that the place actually is located in Los Angeles, but then you ask three baristas and get three different answers “West Hollywood, Los Angeles and Hollywood” and when your navigation system says Los Angeles but your Google map claims it’s WeHo, and when your receipt reads los Angeles but the manager declares West Hollywood you just throw your arms up order a coffee and add the joint to your book.

Starbucks at 1111 South Grand Ave. (11th and Grand)

 Visits: 26

First Impression: One of the larger Starbucks in Los Angeles, this downtown operation is an architecturally appealing space with enormously-high ceilings, a vibrant crowd and a location that is one of the new epicenters of downtown – Southpark.

Crowd: Generally youngish as this is where the urban, backpack-wearing hip meets leader of tomorrow dog walkers. Expect a mix of young loft livers and lovers, younger FIDM-types (would be fashionistas and long-limbed models), young black-clad people you’d expect in Manhattan but are still a novelty here, students who look like college under classmen, and there’s even a few middle-aged folks thrown in to remind you this isn’t the remake of Logan’s Run. There are a couple of smokers outside just to make it all feel properly city-ish, and this being a place where people are still buying real estate there’s always a lawyer or real estate person about.
What do I like about Downtown? Well, pretty much everything from the gleaming new high-rises to the dingiest alleys. It’s a dichotomy of everything that’s right and exciting about a city on the move and everything that’s wrong with civic infrastructure. It’s the haves, the have-nots and those that just don’t care…yet – the young. Add in a Starbucks and I’m a happy urban camper. This one sits right smack dab amongst some of the choices converted loft buildings in Southpark – an area famous for the Staples Center, L.A. Live and for more people that walk than drive. This Starbucks works on many levels – from the way the light cascades in through the floor to ceiling windows in the early morning hours to the urbanized views all around you. Yet for all of the city cacophony outside, it never gets overly loud in here, which means you can actually hear the piped in music from one of two master radio stations that the corporate bigwigs control, from, Seattle, I presume. As downtown goes so goes this Bucks. It seems to get busier everyday as the downtown center is growing with activity these days. Maybe the condos upstairs are prohibitively expensive but you can still get your $1.50 Tall here and enjoy the view from the ground floor. Seating is perimeter-base with just enough tables to suit the size of the crowd. There is also a community-style seating area just inside the eastern entrance, although it can get cool over there with the air conditioning vent pouring out frigid blasts on hotter days. If you crave a dark Starbucks to power up your laptop this isn’t it. The huge windows mean sunshine pours in, although it is filtered through what appear to be tinted windows. Outside, just beyond the patio tables, you’ll see Vespas, new construction and young, busy-minded leaders of tomorrow who have the wind at their backs and head full of bright ideas for the future.

Staff: Depending on the day, either talkative (particularly with each other) or usually pretty cool, or all business.

Seen: A wandering young guy (he could have been an X Games champion or a post-grunge rock star) who looked sort of lost, but ended up being the focused client to four lawyers who sat around him taking notes as he vocally and loudly laid out his plans to separate from his formerly-significant other who had recently threatened to have him taken care of. Who needs the intrigue of Raymond Chandler when you have real life like this downtown?

Busy Time: 1:30 the place is packed, but by 2:00 things are relatively quiet. 3:30 finds it picking up with later afternoon fixes rolling in.

As there is a lot of wasted space in this large store, an employee told me they’re planning a remodel – we love remade Bucks – coming in the future.

latest bathroom code 10938

 Starbucks at 1149 South Hill Street – Downtown

 Visits: 6

First Impression: Classy, open and urban cool

Crowd: Downtowners, suits and heels, bike messengers, leggy models and loft-livers with just the right amount of facial hair

Rating: 3.0     (1-5)

This Starbucks could be in the right part of town in any major city. From its large glass windows you look out on an urban scene, news boxes, taxis and a quick-stepping crowd making their way to work and play. The windows on the other side look into the lobby of a sleek, AT&T office tower. But it’s Starbucks I’m writing about here, so to it.

This expansive Southpark store makes a nice cup of bolt and the professional staff here reminds you that you only need to keep the busy line moving and give good product to keep the customer happy.

The high ceiling and acoustic tiles eat up much of the noise here, so if you’re loud noise-adverse – as I sometime am – you’ll be able to relax while you surf the web or write your next blog. There’s just enough conversation white noise to remind you that you don’t live in the vacuum of space and yet you’re not bothered by it as at some other noisy spots around town.

You can sit in the main living room area just inside the door or wander further to the corners for a single table (with plug) or one of the two cushy four-chaired areas near the lobby entrance to the office building. Like a well-designed loft, this large box gains visual appeal from the two distinct and separate zones. So if you happen to be sitting next to a guy who’s solving the world’s problems loudly into his Bluetooth, all you need to do is move to another space on the opposite side and suddenly the guy becomes a silent movie.

2014 Update: They’ve recently taken some of the charm out of this place by removing the high-backed banquette that flanked one whole wall. In its place are several two top tables. I’m digging the roominess of this place, especially the very separate areas to do your work, surf the web or people watch. Clearly more design thought has gone into this Starbucks than other chain entries.

Trending: even

Starbucks at 735 South Figueroa Street – Downtown

 Visits: 2

First Impression: The door doesn’t stay closed long at this busy, small, oddly-shaped store. Not much visual appeal but a nice staff

Crowd: Downtown workers and dwellers favoring the former, film crews who favor Bucks over the offerings of a craft service’s table, a frustrated writer who just got a traffic ticket and accountants from Ernst and Young upstairs.

Rating: 2.5     (1-5)

I fully admit that on my initial visit to this downtown branch I was not in the greatest of moods. I’d just gotten one of those famous downtown parking tickets, after having parked in a spot nearby where there was no meter and a one-hour parking sign. I parked for half-an-hour- came out drove a block away and then discovered a *%#*&!# ticket under my windshield wiper. Thus began a semi-frantic attempt to get back to the offending location to find out how in the hell I got a “meter expired” ticket when there was no meter to pay. Turns out it was one of those “ahem” cleverly disguised non-meter but pay at the box at the end of the street deals. This is how L.A. pays for most of its infrastructure including the great pothole filling that the city never does and the ever shrinking police force.

Okay, enough griping, but you understand that I was not in a great frame of mind when I entered this ground floor Bucks underneath the new, sparkling 7th & Fig development. It didn’t help when this Bucks had no java jackets, wanted to charge me an extra fifty-cents for steamed milk (who knew my regular coffee with 2% steamed milk was called a Café Misto), and then I entered a bathroom that needed some real cleaning, not to mention the face that there was a woman in there who hadn’t locked the door. This day was getting stranger. I wasn’t a huge fan of Starbucks # 6577, but then things began to turn. As the busy crowd began to thin after the morning rush, the same woman from the bathroom walked up to me tapped me on the shoulder and pointed to my wallet which was hanging out of my pocket. I thanked her for averting a loss of cash, credit cards and ID and she beamed a big smile. Forget the ticket.

The friendly staff seems to be the real draw as the store isn’t spectacular. It’s the only Bucks I recall where the head barista offers a “Thanks” to each and every customer. Seating is awkward with a tall four-top table toward the back for sharing and a few other tables tucked in wherever they can find room in this half-circle space. Since it’s a very busy Starbucks, they could use a few more tables into the space and there’s room, but most customers seem to be picking up to go anyway. Maybe it’s because they need more seating. In the outside courtyard there are plenty of seating options.

Fall 2013 update: Seating is worse than before since they’ve done a small remodel in here. There is only one four seat table and two other tall two-seaters. They also have a small ledge by the front window that can be shared with 3-4 fellow customers. The 7th and Fig retail plaza is now fully open and comes with your standard city Target, several restaurants, and a very large Golds Gym, so there’s lots to do without walking far. New parking is convenient too and that’s not usually the case downtown. Enter the humungous parking garage on 8th just north of Figueroa and take the elevator to L1, follow the path east and you’ll come out at the plaza. Take the escalator two floors up and you’ll see the green sign. Don’t forget to have your parking ticket validated for a great discount.
Starbucks at 446 South Figueroa Street – Downtown

 Visits: 1

First Impression: Tight, super busy and a bit claustrophobic, but they do serve coffee.

Crowd: Downtown office workers shoppers and wanderers from the Westin Bonaventure, which is right across the street.

Rating: 2.0     (1-5)

Take the exterior escalator upward and you’ll feel like you’re a cinematographer as the city unfolds in front of you, but your shot doesn’t last long as you are deposited on the second level of a busy business center and, alas, yet another Starbucks in a city full of them. Arrive during coffee-rush hour (8-10) and you may even have to wait outside as the line presses up all the way against the door. If ever there were an urban Starbucks this is it.

The crowd seems to be a corporate mélange of employees from the high rise on Union Bank plaza level and there’s a lot of business talk in the air. The employees try to keep the ling moving but the odd shape of the space – thin and curved like a crescent moon – only slow the process. Take a deep breath and wait your turn and once served your java you might even try your luck at the few tables and thin-edged window counter seating, which with its large windows help the small space to feel bigger and also inspire with their panoramic views of the ultimate 21st century American City.

On visit one they were playing a nice jazzy soundtrack, which suited the space.

Starbucks at Fifth and Hill – Downtown

 Visits: 1

First Impression: A very friendly staff do their best to make this Pershing Square location bearable, but not enough seats and no restroom access make it hard to spend much time at this store.

Rating: 2.0     (1-5)

If ever a Starbucks called for more seating this would be the one. Unlike so many others in the chain, this location actually has the space to do so without expansion but they choose to keep the place devoid of ample seating. The result is an empty main room connected to a hallway-like entrance way that has a few bolted-down tables. Hey, I guess they’re serious about not letting their few tables end up walking out the door.

The staff have smiles and are courteous but they won’t allow you to use the very obvious restroom toward the store’s entrance, so don’t ask. In that front room, that resembles more of an indoor bus-waiting station, you’ll find those famous connected tables, along with cement ceilings for a post-modernist twist and some of the largest picture windows in downtown. If it’s people watching you’re after you could do worse than to sit by the windows and watch the downtowners in front of you doing the urban dance just outside. On the walls inside there is some interesting plant art painted ion the cement walls that softens the space a bit.

Across the street is L.A. oft criticized Pershing Square, which downtowners count as their least aesthetically pleasing, but the modern park has undergone some recent transformation that is making it a greener more visitable place.

Starbucks at 444 South Flower Street – Downtown

 Visits: 1

First Impression: Small Starbucks best for a quick coffee and a nice seat on the broad patio..

Crowd: Downtown office workers shoppers and wanderers from the Westin Bonaventure, which is right across the street.

Rating: 2.0     (1-5)

One of the smaller Starbucks in the city – so compact that there is no seating beyond a thin six-seat counter, this Bucks sits on the plaza level of the Citigroup Center, smack dab in the middle of downtown on the corner of Fifth and Flower.

Starbucks at 523 West 6th Street (Downtown)

Visits: 1

First Impression: Small, devoid of personality and only good for a quick drop in to do a take-out order.

Crowd: Downtown workers, rushed citizenry and aggravated locals trying to find a seat.

Rating: 1.5     (1-5)

On a too-busy corner in a too small space with a too frenzied vibe, this Starbucks doesn’t offer much chance to retain customer loyalty or many return visits. If your goal is to grab a cup of brew and relax you’ll need to find another outlet. Once inside, you’ll be best served to grab a halfway decent Pike before heading right back out into the urban energy of outside downtown L.A. You probably won’t find a seat inside to offer you another option anyway. The few small tables they have are always filled, but you might get lucky or even squeeze in between the two computer users sitting at the breakfast bar the faces the store’s front. There are larger tables outside but they are right out on the sidewalk close to traffic and offer no chance to relax while sipping your caffeinated beverage. The nearest parking is Macy’s Plaza (three blocks away – three hours free) or the Ralphs (four block away – one and a half hours free), unless you want to pay at one of the overpriced lots within a block. I’d like to tell you your reward for finding the free parking mentioned above is worth the hike over to this store but I can’t. The staff seems too busy for much banter (at least during busy AM hours) and the customers seem none too interested in engaging in anything verbally beyond calling out their coffee order. This is a machine not a destination, partly because of the crowd size, the lack of square footage, a dearth of seating and music too loud for the small environment. Adding to the charm is a blender that sounds remarkably like an ear-shattering jackhammer.

Starbucks at Bixel and Wilshire 1090 Wilshire Blvd. (Downtown)

Visits: 16

First Impression: Large, relaxed and downtown diverse

Crowd: Downtowners, doctors and sales reps from the nearby hospital, smartly dressed urban professionals, Korean couples and overall the face of Los Angeles

Rating: 3.0 (1-5) 3:00

Occupying the bottom floor, corner location of one of those newish, swanky, western-edge of downtown condo/retail buildings, this is a coffee spot to stretch out a bit. It’s one of the few Starbucks I’ve been in that is large enough that you don’t even have a view of the barista area from the main seating area. As the city marches by, sit by the extraordinarily large windows (this place could have been a clothing store if the Green Team hadn’t come in), and write your screenplay (northern exposure, so no problem with the sun baking your computer), read the free copy of the Times (New York or L.A.) or go java glamorous and stretch out on the only love seat* I’ve ever seen in a Starbucks.

The sound system is noticeably high-end here, and the jazz seems to be as important here as the coffee. Of course, anyone under 25 is wearing headphones and probably listening to hip hop on their smartphone, but for the rest of us there is the well equalized jazz making the place sound more like a lounge than a Starbucks. Every so often though the barista with the pipes can be heard calling out a fresh order from the bar that’s just out of sight. Speaking of the staff, they’re a likeable bunch and generally friendly. And you won’t need to bother them to ask for the bathroom code as this is one of the last remaining Starbucks without a locked bathroom system. Just wait in line like the old days. Seats, there are plenty of them most around the corner form where you purchase your coffee, and while there’s never a guarantee you’ll get a table this Starbucks affords you a much better chance than most in the chain. There about 12 two tops and one small community table plus two comfy club chairs along the east wall.

Practical things: Free parking can be found just fifty-feet east of the entrance by turning into the condo building’s garage. Make a right and follow the lot as far to the right as you can go. Look for the parking spots marked “Commercial,” although there are less of them these days and the employees tend to grab them first. Just past those spots you’ll see an industrial-looking door and that’s your back way into this Starbucks and puts you right in the spot to order your grande roast in a vente cup. It’s hit or miss with the limited spots so you can always find a paid parking lot nearby if a free spot isn’t open.

The bathroom hasn’t been cleaned well on a recent visit.

One annoying aspect of this Starbucks is the baristas’ habit of having customers place their order at one register and then making them wait to pay at the next register. This odd procedure that I’ve only seen at one other Starbucks clogs up lines, annoys customers who need to stand in front of each other and go back and forth, makes no sense and adds time to the transactions as well.

 Lots of regulars here too, and it’s a good idea to say hello to a few in case you are in need of sharing a table in a store that has a lot of them that are usually full.

*The love seat is nowhere to be seen as of early 2014, perhaps it’s been relocated to a brothel on the area.

 Starbucks at 2560 Glendale Blvd. (Silverlake)

Visits: 4

First Impression: Relaxed, unrushed and generally a place to hang out and work or dream about work.

Crowd: A Silverlake vibe but without the too-hip-to-be-friendly or flat-out wacky vibe that might be more in evidence on the other side of the reservoir. The multi-aged crowd wavers between band-looking, converse-wearing Coachella types to local families who could be from Anywhere USA. Throw in a businessman, a cop and a couple of tourists and you’ve got the whole slicearama of modern-day L.A.

Rating: 3     (1-5)

When I first used to come to this Bucks with my buddy who was editing a film of mine, I didn’t pick up on its charm. Outside there were too many smokers (and I myself occasionally have one in Vegas or at my local poker game so I’m no smoke snob) and the haze was annoying, the service inside seemed indifferent and the coffee I don’t remember the coffee being spectacular. Caveat: the film was going through a tough edit so my attitude might have matched the setting. What a difference a year makes. Now, I really enjoy this spot on busy Glendale Blvd at the cross roads of, well, everything. You’ve got the glistening lake (okay, Reservoir) due south, the 5 freeway right around the corner and Griffith Park and the zoo are only a mile away. And then there is the cool overall vibe of spread out Silverlake itself. Now, this particular location does not in any way scream Silverlake. It looks more like a suburban Bucks as it sits at the end of a fairly bland shopping center – Ralph’s, CVS, Baskin Robbins, you’ve seen these generic setups a thousand times.

The crowd is what reminds you that you’re certainly not in the burbs. At 3:00, when the afternoon fix is in order, this place quickly fills up with a crowd that would not look unfamiliar to anyone who has visited the Cosmopolitan in Vegas on any Friday night, a Goldenvoice production or is a friend of Nora Jones. That may be overstating it a bit, and there is enough mixture of ‘regular folk” to make you think you might have overstated your declaration about this feeling like the Cosmo on Friday night, rather this is like that same place on Thursday about a half-hour before the sun sets. Or, oh stop it.

The room is large and long with plenty of seating both inside and out. The post-industrial duct work is in place here and the air condition blowing through it is set at just the right temperature for another hot day in Los Angeles. Behind the counter you’ll find a warm team of employees, who aren’t trying too hard to be funny or cute – just nice and professional.

Starbucks at 120 South Los Angeles Street – Downtown

Visits: 1

First Impression: Tucked into the corner of a Little Tokyo business center, this place isn’t a destination Starbucks unless you love crowds or happen to be writing a book that reviews Starbucks

Crowd: Plenty of lawyers, city hall workers, cops from the Administration building, a smattering of Little Tokyo business owners and a few shoppers from the large retail/dining complex down the alley.

Rating: 1.5

The morning rush hour – meaning the 9:00 to 10:30 time frame, when half of the city is lining up for a hot cup a’ joe – can either make or break a Starbuck’s reputation. Is the service friendly, fast and efficient or crusty, slow and confused? On this front, this spot wins out as the crowd approaches LAX level and taxes the nice staff. They rise to the occasion though, although customers literally reaching the door have looks of distress upon entering the place. The staff move fast and even make time for a bit of banter though there really is little time for it. That, however, seems to be the highlight here. The dismal lighting, low ceiling, cramped environment is enough to send you running after you grab your coffee. So once people are done jockeying around the fixin’s \bar, they usually tear out of here, except for the lawyers who like to congregate in large numbers around the tiny table to hear each other talk. Nearby parking is practically non-existent, though you might land one of the two street/alley spots directly to the right of the entrance if you arrive very early and are also very very lucky. A better option might be the shopping pavilion nearby that reportedly validates for two hours. Like all downtown Starbucks, with maybe three or four exceptions, lack of street parking and exorbitant parking garage prices ($3.85 per 12 minutes at one near here) make it hard to choose this location. Better yet, for any downtown Starbucks visit choose public transportation. It’s green! Well, it’ll cost you a lot less green than driving into the money pit of downtown parking.

Starbucks at 232 East 2nd Street – Downtown

Visits: 1

First Impression: The latest entry (11/16) into downtown’s growing Starbucks’s scene, this bright and large space looks like a real winner in the chain.

Crowd: Little Tokyo business people, visitors and urban city dwellers who live in the numerous upscale buildings that are gentrifying this always classy part of town.

Rating: 2.5

If first impressions are anything this Starbucks looks like one of the models for future design. High ceilings, great light and plenty of seating make this a great spot to op in sit down and get to some work or just sip your drink of choice. And outside there’s a great view of bustling Little Tokyo. On the first floor of a new apartment building this one looks like it’ll be a regular stop for people in the neighborhhod or those visting the area.

Starbucks at 534 South Occidental

Visits: 6

First Impression: A bustling entry in the coffee chain. This large store along 6th has potential for writers and chatters alike.

Crowd: A mix of Los Angeles – writers, cinematographers, medical workers and the occasional lawyer and client from the courthouse across the street.

Rating: 2.0

Each new Starbucks opening both excites and annoys me. Excites me because I have yet another spot to get to know and set up my computer. Annoys me because I realize that Starbucks stores are opening at a faster clip than I can write about them. But there is almost always more exuberance than grumbling because I am, after all, writing a blog about Starbucks! This store, though, clearly exceeds my usual level of anticipation as it sits right across the store from my daughter’s school. No doubt I’ll spend countless hours here before picking her up during the school year.

The L-shaped space is big, typical of the newer in the chain and sits at a busy corner on 6th and Commonwealth – just west of downtown and a stone’s throw from Macarthur Park in Koreatown. Huge windows along 6th provide great views of traffic flowing by as sippers enjoy their bean of choice. Although it’s a decent-sized place you’ll occasionally encounter seating challenges trying to find a spot in one of the two seating zones, the further room past the barista bar with those big windows or the rectangular section that you’ll walk into upon entering the store. Outside there is a tiny patio where thankfully there are large umbrellas to protect you from the strong rays of el sol in the summer.

Service-wise things can be a bit indifferent here and they might be one or two baristas short to keep the long lines moving faster.

Parking at this mini mall can be a bit of an issue, but the system seems to be to pull into the driveway and wait there until a spot opens. You’ll usually be good to go in 5-10 minutes. If you’ve got a few extra minutes after your coffee there’s a cool little gaming store in the complex.

Starbucks at 3680 Wilshire Blvd near Wiltern and Wilshire (Koreatown)

Visits: 4

First Impression: Small, noisy and busy, best for a short stay.

Crowd: Predominantly Korean-speaking clientele with a mixed bag of Wilshire dropper-inners who are in the area for work (mid-afternoon)

Rating: 2     (1-5)

Certainly not the most appealing Starbucks in L.A., but it is a convenient Mid-Wilshire location to pull in to for a quick fix. Parking in the building is free for one-hour with Starbucks validation, longer if you validate with one of the mall stores like golf shop, Verizon or others.

Consistently busy store here and the assembly-line staff do their best to keep the long line moving. Large west-facing windows give you a nice view of the buzz outside on Wilshire, but you’ll find a lot of buzz right here in the shop too.

The seating is near horrible in here, so you may have more of a European experience of having your latte while standing by the counter, and, no, you won’t get local’s half price discount this way like they do in Paris. A total of about eight tables (two-tops and four-seater community types) are all you’ll have to hope for seating-wise. There are also a few extra stools against those large windows so you might grab one of those when a table isn’t available. Those solo seats tend to open up fast as they’re often occupied by the people waiting for their to-go orders just a few feet away. Once seated you may find it a bit hard to accomplish any long-form work here, if that’s your intention, because the noise level can be crushing in the small space. Bring your headphones. I’m wearing mine right now. You’ll find plug outlets under your feet at the bench seating and near the right corner of the counter seating.

Since you probably won’t be in here longer than an hour don’t forget to get your parking validation from the friendly barista. If you’re over an hour you might as well go shopping at one of the other businesses in the plaza offering in no particular order, golf balls, duvets and low interest bank accounts. There’s also parking one block away at the high rise on Wilshire/Western. Park there go and visit one of the stores like Verizon on the plaza level and you’ll get a two-hour validation and just a bit of exercise during your walk back and forth.

Fun fact: This is the nearest Starbucks to a world-class karaoke joint in an area full of them. The Orchid is just a mere two short Koreatown blocks away.

Starbucks at Union and Wilshire

Visits: 10

First Impression: A busy Starbucks with a nice surprise – a super-friendly staff that treats you great despite the busy nature of the spot.

Crowd: A western-edge of downtown blend with lawyers mixing with locals, mostly Hispanics and Koreans.

Rating: 2.0

I was forming kind of a soft spot for this Starbucks. It’s too busy, crowded and isn’t the spot I’d choose to write my semi-great American novel, yet each time I come here I’m more impressed than the last. They had me the day second visit when I walked in as “Video Killed the Radio Star” was playing, and it continues to put a bit of a pep in my step when I park in the large shopping plaza and head for the green of Starbucks on the corner of Wilshire and Union. I’m sensing good management as the staff keeps the joint clean and welcoming. It’s the seating that can present a challenge. This Starbucks is long and thin, meaning that the seating is one-table-wide along the perimeter of the L-shaped locale. At busy times you may have a long wait for one of the tables along the walls. A recent seating remodel knocked down the counter seats that seemed oddly placed by the front door, and the result is two new tables that it more likely you’ll find a place to plop. You can always ask if you can share the smallish community table while you wait. However, that community table in the back is sometimes occupied by those who spread out their stuff on the table even as they aren’t actually buying a Starbucks product. They take up the space to check their emails, take a few phone calls or just hang, and the management lets them even though you’ll sometime see paying customers standing waiting for a spot to sit. Stress not, though, as there’s also a large patio on the north and west side of the store, so if you can stand the smoke you’ll easily get a spot out there if nothing is available inside. Super clean bathroom here. The best part of this place is the parking. A large lot shared by many stores assures you of finding a free spot to park your vehicle.

My go to drink here: Ethos water. It’s water, so of course it’s good. How much do I love Starbucks. I even come here for the water.

Update: On recent visits the place has been less appealing. Maybe it’s the time of day (4PM) or maybe there’s a huge hempcon in town, but the crowd is looking eye-stoned right now. Nice crowd on visits 8 10.

Starbucks at 3150 Wilshire Blvd. – Koreatown

 Visits: 12

First Impression: Sharp looking designed Starbucks is the next generation store with ample room and plenty of room.

Crowd: K-Town residents, business people from everywhere and a few colorful drop-ins that remind you that you live in the city.

Rating: 2.5    (1-5)

I was one of the first customers when this swanky new Starbucks opened the doors in an impressive new glass walled high-rise on the corner of Vermont and Wilshire in steroid-growth paced Koreatown.

Customers here are a casual bunch with a heavy contingent of Korean-Americans usually in attendance. You are smack dab in the middle of the city at a busy intersection so know that you’ll find a whole bunch of peculiar character here mixed in with the general city types. On my fifth visit there was a guy who may have been a performance artist who made a floor show (not to mention, scared off at least one female) with his mixed bag of tricks, including plugging in his multiples cell phones and then an electric razor.

The staff are very friendly and seem to enjoy working in their new space. What’s not to like? The place is busy, there’s a K-Town energy about and the mural across the street makes your brain feel good.

They offer one of the best ground-level views available from a Starbucks in Los Angeles. Look out front ad you’ll face the street that started it all in L.A.- Wilshire Blvd. There’s a striking six-story mural on the building across the street and also easy access to the city’s rapidly growing underground transit system. Soon the subway there will reach all the way to the beach. Sit here and ponder that in this city of cars.

Inside there is plenty of seating, though a dearth of those smaller two tops that are the most comfortable, but inevitably are slowly being eliminated form Starbucks. Instead you’ll find a lot of the ugly tall two-tops and a nice sized community table and a working area/window counter to enjoy the view. Outside in the courtyard there are tables with more room to stretch out, but the seats seem to be missing from the tables. The plaza of the new building is quickly adding retail tenants, so that free parking won’t last forever.

2016 update: Now that the building is finished the parking is no longer free. You get a half-hour validation from the Starbucks so don’t get too comfortable unless you want to exit and enter several times with your car and that is no way to make a workday. It’s better to think of this one as a place to jump in, grab and brew and check your email kind of place.

Starbucks at 3450 Wilshire Blvd. – Koreatown

Visits: 3

First Impression: Large with plenty of room to stretch out, not that you’ll be stretching out for too long with only a half-hour to swig and run.

Crowd: Leans to a business and casual mix of Korean-Americans along with students from the university upstairs and a wide mix of urban Los Angeles due to its location in the middle of Wilshire Blvd.

Rating: 2     (1-5)

This surprisingly spacious coffee shop is an attractive urban vision of modern-design Starbucks. With its dark-paneled roof, mocha colored walls and high ceilings it invites hanging out for a while. The ample seating and friendly staff help that cause. Plenty of tables, window counter seats and a huge twenty-seat community table in the middle of the room can pretty much guarantee that you’ll land a place to sit, unlike many other Starbucks around Los Angeles that seem more set up for take-out than stay awhile.

Just leave your car at home.

 

Parking is a royal pain here, so unless you arrive by foot or bus, here’s my suggestion: avoid this Starbucks for one of the many others around town. If you do come here you’ll likely have to pay a premium for the parking lot as they’ll only validate for a half-hour. On top of that the parking lot is dark and there is a good chance you’ll scrape your vehicle on one of the large poles that make this place even less appealing. If you do stop by, consider doing so between the 1st and 10th of every month between 3-5, when the store offers its very popular Frappuccino happy hour, where the drink is half-price. Just hope you’re not stuck in the long line of those seeking the discount drink or you might end up paying for it in parking lot fees.

 

Fun Fact: Feeling a little coffee-chain naughty? This Starbucks sits so close to its chief rival, Coffee Bean, directly across the street that you can surf the web from inside the Starbucks using the Coffee Bean’s WiFi? What a feat of java irony. Ya ha ha ha ha! Oh crap, I have to run only have three minutes left on my free parking.

 

 

Starbucks at 1258 South La Brea

 

Visits: 33

 

First Impression: A quirky location, a quirky crowd and a quirky vibe for inspiration. Hey, it’s the quirkiness hat trick.

 

Crowd: A collection of locals, many of whom know each other through this town-hall vibe of a place, plus assorted Angelenos who almost miss the parking lot entrance as they fly around the Indy-like bend just south of San Vicente on La Brea.

 

Rating: 2.5

 

The first time I dropped in here I disliked the place as some big dude with an attitude was staring down people throughout the room. Shortly thereafter I liked it a lot more, when a barista perhaps half the size of the dude came out and did a low key Barney Fife 86 of him without any quarrel. Subsequent visits have been less eventful but fun too. The place seems to be in a location where yet another drive-thru burger giant was destined to sit, and indeed it’s surrounded by them, but this unlikely locale is what makes it a spot to check out.

 

The mixed-bag staff caters to the crowd, a panoply rainbow of L.A. Outside, the everydayers congregate around the few tables and sort of give the exterior a feel of a New York stoop as newbies walk past them. The exposed air duct, track lighting design favored by many Bucks is found here too but it’s framed in a quasi-oval shape that gives warmth to the room along with the DP-approved lighting from God that pours through the many windows.

 

Parking is always a breeze here, just don’t zoom past too fast on La Brea to make the cut into the lot. Mornings are interesting as the locals hold court inside and openly talk across the room to each other. Where are the reality show producers when you need them? Not here, thankfully, as these real people are far too interesting to be on television. This is real reality. Inside, the music is usually jazz, and on occasion they’ll crank it up beyond the corporate recommended level.   Outside, you might even find someone playing their own musical device of choice.

 

Some of the staff here will not win any awards for friendliness, but they’ll get you a cup of coffee generally quickly, even if it usually comes without the familiar Starbucks warmth. Hey I wouldn’t really care if they just added a few more tables. But on occasion you’ll find them downright inattentive, or even rude – and that’s when I’ll take a table and, not buy a thing. If the few tables are swallowed up by the hangout locals you can usually find a seat at the recently added counter seating along the main wall. There are about six counter stools there and underneath plugs too.

 

Bonus: No bathroom code needed, so need to wait in line just to ask a barista for the pass code.

 

06/13 Update: They’ve removed some of the low tables that used to be on the back right side and by doing so the place has lost some of its hominess. They’ve been replaced by the smaller and taller two-tops that are showing up in more and more Starbucks, and these tall tables are less conducive to setting up and doing work, so perhaps marketing did a study that shows you can get the customers in and out faster by elevating the tables. Even more recently they’ve gotten rid of the west facing tables near the door and installed a waist-high breakfast counter, which kind of sucks although it comes with convenient plugs so it’s a wash in the end.

02/14 Update: Later-afternoons seem a little quieter here – not the business – with a laptop heavy crowd tending to be more at work mode than in just hanging out mode. Get here before two and the place will be crowded.

1/15: Those tables that were removed in 2013 have been brought back. They just need more of them now, but they stubbornly refuse to add seating to the big vacant space directly in the middle of the room. And the staff seems to be making an effort to warm up a bit.

8/16. Staff is generally warmer here now, so you’re more likely to get a respectful nod with your respectful coffee than you would have earlier.

 

Will you get any work done here? Only if you can find a table.

 

Times I left because there was nowhere to sit: 1

 

Latest visit: 03/15/17

 

Starbucks at Detroit and Wilshire

Visits: 27

First Impression: Its sardine can-meets-coffee stop at this corner Miracle Mile location, and it seems kind of busy even when it isn’t.

Crowd: Young, serious, and oftentimes quieter than your average Starbucks achiever. Locals and visitors comingle while solving life’s problems.

Rating: 2.5

 

The parking usually sucks, the place is tiny and the fixin’s bar could almost always be a bit neater, but this still rates as a usually decent Starbucks visit. Plopped down in the middle of the Miracle Mile and seemingly with a front row view of gentrification city, you could do a lot worse for a place to see the city go by, and if you sit outside you’ll see just that at this very busy corner.   The staff here can be downright sweet, even when it gets busy – which is often – but get your order in fast and move out of the way or you’ll be stared down by a surly mob behind you waiting to place their order, and watch out for the large support beam no more than a foot between you and the cash register or you might go home with a shiner. And this being ze tiny Starbucks, the crowd can get way too sizeable around the pick-up counter causing a lot of bumping and shimmying just to make it to your beverage of choice. The line here forms on the right, not directly in front of the cash register to save you someone from thinking you’re a line-butter.

 

The brew is fresh here and they do a nice job on the smoothies too. Now only if they could keep their milk-chocolate shortbread cookies in stock, all would be good with the world. Don’t be afraid to ask someone if you can share a two-top with them – that’s a table not a new drink – or you may never score a seat in this Volkswagen of a shop.

Outside: if the squeeze inside is killing you head outdoors to the L-shaped patio that faces Wilshire and Detroit. The Detroit side stays shady while the Wilshire tables are like being at Dodger Stadium at noon. One thing you will see out here is way too many non-customers hogging up the seats. These bozos are too lazy to buy a coffee but they have no problemo taking chairs. Well, if Starbucks won’t do anything about it, you probably shouldn’t either.  

 

A recent visit around 7:00 P.M. found the place to be comfortably uncrowded and quiet with plenty of seats for all as they worked away on their laptops. That might be the time of day to enjoy this shop the best, along with that often quiet 1:30 – 2:00 period. But, c’mon guys you have room for at least another 4-5 tables in here, so why not bring some in and attract a few more customers who might stay around awhile. Another round of visits in 2016 confirmed this is one of the mellower Starbucks and very conducive to getting some actual work done, if you can find the rare seat to do it.

 

2016 Update: As the Subway to the Sea is being built right now across the Miracle Mile on Wilshire outside is a perpetual construction zone, so be prepare4d for lots of dust and noise if you’re sitting outside. In a year or two they’ll be a bustling new Purple Line Subway stop where you’ll be able to take your coffee and ponder the city that continues to grow at hyperpace.

 

Starbucks at 359 South La Brea

 

Visits: 1

 

First Impression: A beautifully designed Starbucks on steroids. This Miracle Mile location looks to be the future of the chain’s model.

 

Crowd: A mix of attractive city-fied folks who are chilling in one of the most spacious, comfortable coffee shops around.

 

It’s one of the first Starbucks Reserved locations, so no green aprons and more of a clubby, café feel than just a coffee shop. This could be one to watch. Nice staff too. Tons of seating both inside and outside on the increasingly posh La Brea side. Beginning in 2017 you’ll be able to get a cocktail here to go along with your java. We’ll see how that experiment works.

 

 

 

Starbucks at 7122 Beverly Blvd.

 

Visits: 9 (2:30) (5:00) (3:30)

First Impression: A real neighborhood Bucks with friendly, occasionally boisterous staff that seems to know a Grande amount of their customers. Hang out here three or four times and you’ll be treated like a regular.

Crowd: Mid-City locals, shoppers wandering over from the trendy shops on La Brea and a laptop-lugger or two working on their soon-to-be-blockbuster…or perhaps informal automobile study.

Rating 3.0

 

This place has a bit more of a hangout-at-your-buddy’s-house vibe than it does a generic Starbucks. Chalk that up to the very forendly baristas here who aside from giving good service actually appear to enjoy their work. The manager is just as much of a good time guy, so the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree with those in his employ. They’re likely to break into song, crack wild jokes or just be generally zany, but they do so without losing any of the efficiency that make successful Starbucks what they are. They more than make up for the horrible parking situation out back (Maybe eight tight spots, but check the signs closely). If you can’t find a spot in the lot, there are modern meters outside, but they are often filled up too. Be patient, though, there’s a spot for you in a minute or two.   And here’s a logical idea that other four-digited addressed Starbucks might consider: they’ve made their bathroom code the same number as their address. Ample seating is not a reason to come here. There are maybe four-five tables inside and an eight-foot community ledge along the front window. It reminds one of the lack of space in the lot outside. Speaking of outside, directly outside, there is some seating there too on the west and north side. If you’ve already got your spray tan you’ll be more comfortable in the shade on the north side, during the warmer months here in Los Angeles where you’ll watch the BMW, Lexus and Mercedes* parade roll by on Beverly.

 

During the Fall of 2013, They’ve did a bit of refurnishing inside making the place a bit less homey. Let’s hope this isn’t a Starbucks-wide trend with the low tables being replaced by the tall two-tops which, while affording you a better view of the room, take away from the hangout and enjoy vibe that makes for a more winning recipe. The large community table has been replaced by a square one that might seat two or three if the people already at it are receptive to sharing their portable office.

 

Truth be told: There are more Toyotas than any other brand in a random hour sampling.

 

Latest visit: 3/9/17

 

Starbucks at LaBrea and Santa Monica Blvd.

 

Visits: 3

First Impression: In the middle of the courtyard at one of those L.A. mega outdoor retail malls, this Starbucks is a fine place to grab one to go, but not always a hang-out and relaxing place that’s suited to getting work done.

Crowd: A nice mid-city mix of Angelenos and tourists that keep rolling in thanks to the busy location and the connecting Target, Best Buy anchored urban mall that surrounds this coffee shop.

 

The first thing you’ll probably notice about this Starbucks, or rather, hear is the booming bass-like voice of the head barista who is a crowd favorite with his opera-quality (if they spoke rather than sang) and his pretty good comedic riffs that come between calling out the completed orders. The friendly staff play off of each other well and aren’t shy about sharing stories jokes and a general sense of having a good time with customers.

 

The store itself is a bit of challenge due to its awkward shape and large support beam that sits smack dab in the middle of the room and breaks up any sight lines that might make the room seem more open.

 

Tables hug the walls all around and offer just enough seating for the general crowd. Large windows open up the view to the outside and allow plenty of natural light to filter in, but if you need to reduce the glare on your screen you can use the handy pull down screens next to the tables.  There’s a seating area just inside the door on the right that is a bit quieter than the rest of the store, but they’ve sealed off the plugs there so laptop and cell phone users with low batteries won’t be able to hang there for long. Not that you can anyways as the parking plaza only offers free parking for one hour.

 

Due to the occasional noisiness of the room and the rotating crowd you probably won’t hang out here too long, but while here you’ll have a good cup of coffee and a reminder of what it’s being around people who actually enjoy their work.

 

Outside there are a ton of tables that the Starbucks shares with several eateries in the plaza. You can always find a spot out there to do some people watching while you sip.

 

About that parking: There is a huge underground lot and at the north end of the structure (try to park near that end or you’ll have a hike) a long escalator that deposits you nearly in front of the Starbucks. To find the lot entrances you’ll have two options: enter from the side street just past the famous Formosa Café or off of NAME OF STREET La Brea about a block west of Santa Monica. The first hour is free and after that you’ll pay $1.50 an hour after that.

 

Starbucks at 6333 West 3rd Street at the Farmers Market

Visits: 4

First Impression: How could the Farmers Market, otherwise a one-of-a kind mash-up of unique stalls and shops, include the bastion of all franchises, Starbucks? Who knows, but, yes, even here the chain has found a foothold, and due to location alone it doesn’t feel like other Bucks.

Crowd: Farmers Markets quirksters, writer teams, youngish families and old-timers who are looking for Dupars (next door).

Rating 2.0

 

This busy Starbucks benefits from its surprising locale smack dab in the famous Market of Farmers. While you won’t find cows, chickens and hay at this favorite of farms, there are instead nervous actresses sipping Passion Tea One Pumps before their audition at the nearby casting director’s office, older teens sitting with but ignoring each other in favor of texting on Facebook and plenty of vegetable-laden shoppers hauling tonight’s dinner or next week’s compost, depending on the day’s appetite. Glass walls afford a view of the market on one side and the other is dominated by a very large covered patio seating area, but inside there is adequate seating. This being an old building, Starbucks has done only what it can to bring its brand look, but pieces of the market shine through, from the wood, A-frame ceiling to the well-known green shopping carts favored by market regulars. Maybe it’s the nature of being in a busy shopping zone, but this Starbucks seems devoid of the local crowd that is a common fixture at most Bucks. And that’s a bit of a surprise as the outside market is famous for its clutches of longtime groups that meet weekly to schmooze about Hollywood’s good old days – you know, the era of pre-reality television. Anyway, the crowd in this Starbucks a tad too seems too serious for its own good, but that must be a reflection of the bad lighting and distance from the barista bar where the activity is usually the floor show at other Starbucks. While I certainly wouldn’t go out of my way to trek here for their average coffee, when in the glorious mix of French, gumbo, Korean BBQ, Indonesian, Spanish and pizza, it’ll do.

To those who are noise adverse: This Starbucks can get really loud, really fast due to the room shape. All it takes is one loud mouth “sitting at the bottom of the U” and no matter where you’re sitting you will be part of his conversation.  Get a few and the place rivals an Irish bar on Friday at midnight.

And No Irish Bouncer Needed: In my hundreds of Starbucks visits this is the only one where I’ve seen an employee ask (on two occasions) for a non-customer to vacate a seat for someone who is actually buying a coffee. There’s a novel concept, you can’t set up shop for the day with your laptop, array of pdas and your lunch from Subway, unless you actually spend a couple of bucks for a coffee.

A 2014 remodel took the formerly awkward u-shaped room and carved it into a larger single space. Large enough for a few more tables. How about it? The horseshoe is gone – replaced by a storage room – fronted by a bigger, brighter barista area. The majority of seating is on the opposite side. The spacious and oftentimes noisy(very low ceilings) room has about ten tables and there’s one large community table in the corner nearest the market with underneath plugs and the best spot to sit if you’re attempting to complete a project.

 

Starbucks at 7624 Melrose and Stanley

Visits: 8 (11:30)

First Impression: If you’re around 22, have just the right look and think your more happening’ than the average duuuude, you’ll do well here. For the rest, maybe not so much.

Crowd: Youngish, the east-side-of-Fairfax-on-Melrose self-gloried with just enough regular folks to remind you that maybe it’ll get better in a half-hour. Hey, it’s got some attitude* and it’s on Melrose, what did you expect? Few if any business types, at least not the kind wearing suits and ties.

You will get work done here because: Although it’s noisy and has a lot of eye candy about the place has an energy that invites being creative.

Rating 2.5

 

If you’re looking for a stereotypical L.A. spot that will potentially and simultaneously turn you on or off while piquing the interest of your out-of-town friends bring them here. You’ll spot mini-skirted starlets, 20-something screenwriters comfortable enough to criticize Hollywood, post-punk Melrose poseurs and a bevy of So Cal types that you’ve heard flock to this city of dreamers and schemers. Along the way you may even discover someone over 40 and the smaller subset of those not connected to three PDAs at one time. The place is perennially trendy and attempts to retain a cool factor and that can either be a positive or negative depending on your mind set.

 

There are actually a few reasons to get jazzed about this place, if you can just settle down and not let first impressions rattle you…as some people I know (ahem) do: the interior is one of the most appealing Starbucks in all of Los Angeles. The architecturally eclectic space and strange lines make for a non-typical Bucks look. It’s large too – large enough to spread out and almost always find a space to sit. It’s a pleasure to find a seat at a Starbucks and that is never a guarantee. Here you’re usually good to go. The outside patio that fronts the store is also one of the largest and most visually appealing in town and a nice spot to grab some sun and admire the always eye-friendly floor show walking by on Melrose – L.A.’s primary shopping street for those born after Clinton was President.

 

Once inside you’ll see plenty of seats all around the expansive space and the coffee bar directly ahead on your left. Single tables fill the perimeter with a large room that is broken in two areas by a wood/metal free-standing wall by the side entrance. A get-to-work place to sit, if you’re not averse to being squeezed in with others, is the large wooden table mid-room that can easily accommodate 10 screenwriters or 14 models, and you’ll often see plenty of them there. Aside from the magnificent handmade table they created the first table-length plug station underneath that has now become familiar to Starbucks goers city-wide. This gives juice to all who want to plug in. Heck, for the table alone my rating just went up half-a-point. Then the guy across from me, who upon my arrival seemed to be staking out more space than he needed, daring to infringe on my imagined space on the communal table, showed he was a cheerful type.

 

Don’t tell me this place is actually starting to grow on me? *Maybe my attitude about the place needed some time to adjust.   We’ll see on future visits.

 

Starbucks at LaCienega

Visits: 8

First Impression: Huge, busy and a great location for the bustling South La Cienega corridor.

Crowd: An urban mix of all Los Angeles have made this new giganto Starbucks and instant success.

Rating 2.0

 

Possibly the largest Starbucks in Los Angeles, this former Burger King has been reimagined from former fast food to current fast java. The tremendous rectangular space with more tables than some restaurants, the central location, ample seating and giant parking lot are sure to appeal to a variety of coffee drinkers, internet linkers, story thinkers and people, like me, who just hate driving around in circles looking for parking.

 

And if one very needed to evaluate the success of the Starbucks brand you’d only need to come here. A packed parking lot makes you think you’ve arrived at a small shopping mall, but this is all for a cup of coffee!

 

The early weeks of this store seemed to be a bit disorganized. There are plenty of baristas but the place can be very slow even if there aren’t a line of customers. Probably just finding its near-the-sea legs. But two months in and the place looks to be finding its sweet spot. One thing that seems to occur here are a lot of table-holders, those people who dump their computer equipment and gear on tables and then disappear, only to leave a table sitting as a holder while customers wander around looking for a seat. Where are these people? Likely out on the patio catching some rays or using a table there too as their second, er third office.

 

 

Starbucks at 206 North Larchmont Blvd.

 

Visits: 1 (3pm)

First Impression: In that civilized bastion of small-townness-in-a-big-city known as Larchmont Blvd, this Starbucks is seemingly within a stone’s throw of the old days.

Crowd: A safe and smart-looking bunch of mid-citiers and others who look like they will have studio deal any day now, ladies who post-lunch, Asians who know how to dress, parents and their little ones, and dog walkers/ who use the bowl out front for libation – their dog’s not theirs.

Rating 2.5

 

This is a perpetually crowded Starbucks on a street full of shoppers and action. If there were high rises here, you might think you were in New York with the buzz that fills the place. Alas, outside it’s all one-story, slightly alpine-village businesses. Larchmont is a quaint throwback to another time that draws people from all over the city, all kept in check by wealthy “We were Beverly Hills before Beverly Hills existed” gazillionaires. The busy staff offers a high level of performance and friendliness to a crowd that seems a little less likely to return the gesture. Then again, it is very busy here, so perhaps it’s all about the business at hand – getting a coffee and getting out. The java is capably made and the barista is more than happy top give you your 2% milk. Cream-colored walls, drop ceiling tiles and gray-slate flooring are pleasing to the eye, and ample sunshine pours in from above. Scoring a table here is harder than getting a seat next to Nicholson at a Lakers game, so be prepared to stand and wait, ask to share with a stranger, or to head on down the road to shop or visit the Farmers market directly across the street on every Sunday. Outside there are just a few café tables. Parking is hit or miss on Larchmont at one of the pay station meters.

 

Starbucks at 5545 West Sunset Blvd. (Hollywood)

 

Visits: 14

First Impression: Unique architectural design (and that’s saying something for this chain) and it’s across the street from Home Depot, so you can perhaps pick up some spackle with your Espresso.

Crowd: A mostly* mellow mix of locals, students and Sunset Blvd.-but-too-far-east-to-be-hipster-types looking for their daily fix while creating the next great screenplay or thinking about how to create the perfect backyard barbecue area.

Rating 2.5

 

It’s a deceptively larger Starbucks than its strip-mall location would suggest, so once inside from the perpetual pain of Starbucks parking, you’ll usually find just enough seating* to go around. They’ve also had the good sense to take some of the coffee bar and create additional counter seating so if you can’t get a table during crush times you might score a high-top stool to the right of the bar. Speaking of bar, there’s a privacy bar – think silver backsplash – that gives those at the counter seats separation from the coffee prepare so you don’t need to feel like you’re actually preparing the coffee. Still, the inside is a tad better than the outside where the drivers try to outlast each other for one of the few spots. There is also metered street parking or you can buy a bag of nails at the aforementioned hardware store and park in their large lot. Do yourself a favor and try to enter on the more western St. Andrews Place street entrance instead of the further east street of the same name(?) that feeds into the lot. Taking the street entrance leads you into the lot from a much better position than lining up with several other cars trying to get into the cramped lot. And speaking of the outside, there are a few tables out there but they sit directly on busy Sunset Blvd. and lack umbrellas to keep your skin from getting scorched in the Southern California sunshine.

 

Once inside you’ll see something best-described as an island that sits separate from the rest of the coffee-prep area behind. It sort of works in a, maybe they ran short of wood way – kind of ironic given that Home Depot could deliver here.

 

Grab a table with a window view seat if you can and get down to work or people watching – whatever your pleasure. Know that this being Hollywood, along with the aforementioned mellow types, *you’ll also encounter that persistent Hollywood craziness that pops up time and time again. There are an ample amount of individuals in here that carry varying levels of ‘edge” is the word I’d choose. In other words be discreet in your people watching. The store also has an over-abundance of non-paying folks who will get a free water and then clog up a table for an hour. Don’t count on the staff to move them on their way in favor of you- even if you drop ten bucks for coffees and lunch.

 

The staff is generally low-key and friendly here with only the rare sense that some attitude might be forthcoming if you press the barista too much who claims to not know the bathroom code. To be safe, order your drink before you ask for the code.

And speaking of the staff they certainly have the best voices in all of L.A. for announcing coffee orders – just the right amount of volume, smoothness and character to suggest some of these people might have futures in voiceovers. Believe me; you hang out in every Starbucks in Los Angeles you start to notice, er, hear these things.

 

*As with all Starbucks, avoid the 3:15-3:45 rush when you’ll rarely get a seat at any within the chain.

 

Starbucks at 6102 W. Sunset Blvd. (Hollywood)

 

Visits: 3

First Impression: At the corner of Sunset and Make My Dreams of Stardom Come True, this talent-infused Bucks is full of actors, musicians and anyone else spilling in from Sunset Gower Studios next door.

Crowd: A consitent flow of entertainment wannabes, are-bys and have beens…waiting to happen agains flock to this central Hollywood coffee shop. Hang here long enough and you’ll see everything you’ve ever read about Hollywood in person.

Rating 2.0

 

This attractive and large Starbucks is located directly across the street from the fabled Sunset Gower Studios in the rustic-styled strip mall known as Gower Gulch. It’s pure working class Hollywood here as a parade of entertainment types pay the bills here with copious coffee consumption.

 

The high-ceilinged design gives the large space a feeling of even more openness which is good as the place is usually packed with people and the space is appreciated. The east wall has four large pizza-oven shaped windows that face Sunset Gower never letting you forget the industry that keeps Hollywood afloat. And you needn’t go inside the gates of that studio to see Hollywood at work as this place too has a lot of people pining and plugging for their next gig. The director at the table next to you is casting his projects, with actors sitting down across from him, the screenwriter to you right is no-doubt writing a scene that takes place in this very Starbucks – except Angelina Jolie is playing the barista, and the four rockers and two rappers at the high top tables that front those windows are no doubt discussing future or something.

 

It’s a sweet deal here as you can sit and soak it all in and feel like you’re seeing a real slice of Hollywood at work and play and all for the price of a tall latte.

 

One wall is covered in red bricks, a unique architectural design unseen at other Starbuck that gives the entire room warmth that’s conducive to working or reading, as long as the room doesn’t get too noisy.

 

Seating is adequate with four tables on the right and four-high tops on the left but if you get here when it’s super busy plan on waiting or sharing.   They have room for more tables in the center of the room but choose to keep the space open, and since it appears that three out of four people are to-go orders the people running this place likely realized leaving that space open for those waiting for their orders was a smarter use of the space.

 

Speaking of the team, they are universally nice and it’s one of the only Starbucks I’ve visited where they do a team “Hello” when you walk in the door, at least during those times when it’s not so busy that they have time to look up from their work.

 

The one very big negative of this Starbucks is that there is no bathroom. Thankfully, there is a Denny’s restaurant less than fifty-yards away and they don’t seem to mind people from Starbucks using their restroom, even if you’re buying your coffee from their nearby competition. Just remember to give them some of your breakfast dollars once in a while.

 

Latest visit: 03/15/17

 

Starbucks at the corner of Sunset and Vine (Hollywood)

 

Visits: 2

First Impression: As Starbucks continues its unquenchable desire to occupy every prime corner location in Hollywood, this mid-2014 opener occupies one of the newest, trendiest blocks in the neighborhood. It’s also one of the nicest.

Crowd: An urban mix of all that is Los Angeles, entertainment types, movie goers from Archlight across the street, edgy street types, well-dressed business folk, you’ll find it all here and just a little to the south of crazy Hollywood, which makes it a tad more relaxing.

Rating 2.0

 

You can see the original Schwab’s sign from this roomy Starbucks outpost at the corner of Sunset and Vine, thereby evoking a sense of old Hollywood as new Hollywood stares back at you from every direction. High-end residence/retail giants, the impressive movie theatre for the 21st Century called the Archlight and an architecturally impressive Chase bank all are in your eye line through the floor to ceiling windows that make for walls here. Clearly when they scored this locale, Starbucks Inc. decided this was going to be their L.A. showplace. First, it’s by far the hugest coffee shop in Los Angeles county and also has the most elaborate design elements too. Along with the common community tables, there’s a centrally-located, soft-cushioned seating sofa that’s a standalone wonder topped by a metal artwork that will give writers pause for creative reflection. The ample square footage allows for numerous seats, tables and counter seating areas, so you’ll do well to score a work space here even in the busier parts of the day.

 

There’s a sort of hidden community table on the east side of the store that provides a quieter zone to get some work done. The only thing is there are no plugs for your laptop.

 

The crowd here is an urban mix that leans to hipster film types. You’ll see unfamiliar actors working on their lines, movie-goers from Archlight, and tourists stepping in from Sunset Blvd for a cup to go. While there is a lot of seating, there are some street folks who camp out here for long periods during the day and they pile their stuff on top of tables and then disappear for quite a while, so you could find yourself without a seat.

 

The staff seem friendly and there’s meter parking nearby and even a two-hour free valet (with Starbucks validation) that you can utilize when they decide to show up.

 

Parking is free for an hour if you visit the valet lot just one block south of the store. Make sure to get you validation from the barista before you leave.

 

Starbucks at Hollywood & Vine (Hollywood)

 

Visits: 3 (10:30)

First Impression: Okay, this is the thick of it-smack dab in the middle of Hollywood at arguably the most famous corner in America – Hollywood and Vine.

Crowd: Look around; it’s all here – tourists, city workers, actors, artists, scammers, players, those under the influence, and regular folk all with the slight edge that comes with being in dreamland central.

Rating 2.5

 

Resembling an upscale cathouse meets industrial vibe, this spacious, though very-seat-challenged Starbucks, is a rush – even without the product sole being part of the equation. Given the extreme business, colorful crowd and modern day Hollywood street show in front of you through the dramatic two story windows in front of you, you may leave here more exhausted than when you arrived.

 

The large, square-shaped space has very high ceilings making it seem even larger than it is and the dramatic red velvet curtains throughout suggest a certain old-Hollywood glamor. Unfortunately seating is pretty bad here with only a few tables and window counter seating without a place to plug in your computer.     As such you might not be here too long, but you’ll have a 21st Century feast for the eyes while you partake.

 

Parking is Hollywood horrible, but you can try and find a spot along Vine just south of the corner store for $4 for two-hours or across the street in the lot, where it’s usually $5 flat fee. If you street park make sure to check the signs as they are often shooting around here and have temporary two away zones.

 

Given the hyper-energy location, the staff are warm and non-rushed and don’t have any of the edge you might expect from this location.

 

This is Starbucks store # 16980

 

Hey it ain’t Beverly Hills, but the dreams that have started and often been dashed started right on this corner so it’s appropriate that the bathroom code is 90210.

 

Best seat in the house: The two “I’m ready for my close-up” two-tops that are directly inside the entrance, but you’ll rarely get one of them. If you do, there’s also a nice plug along the central pillar. Show up around 11:30 and you give yourself the best chance for finding a table.

 

 

 

Starbucks at 7055 Sunset Blvd. (Hollywood)

Visits: 8

First Impression: At the corner of La Brea and Sunset, and in Hollywood, this old school turned new* school Bucks is a staple of the local scene that could tell the other coffee shops a thing or two about the neighborhood from way back, you know, the days even before the W Hotel existed.

Crowd: You’d think this Hollywood place would attract a wilder crowd, but it’s a fairly sane, working group, mixed-age clientele that crosses a wide spectrum of city life. Add in some tanners, tourists and skull-capped covered Gen-Y’ers share the large space in a nice synergy.

Rating 3.0

 

It’s been my experience that when a Starbucks lands in Hollywood – and as the neighborhood speedily gentrifies and expands they’re landing frequently – once the doors open a panoply of all that is stereotype Hollywood strangeness steps in the door, and some stay for a long time. However, this Starbucks, which has been around for many years, belies that pattern. Sure, the crowd occasionally turns temporarily wacky, but in general this store feels like it might be somewhere further afield on the Westside. Dare I say it.

 

The staff are friendly, reasonably fast and know their locals well, and they treat their once or twice a year visitors equally well as well as the international tourists that wander in from the heat, and are more than happy to make change or add 2% milk with a smile. As this store sits on a busy corner, the crowd rises like a wave and then empties quickly only to have the pattern reemerge every ten minutes, so there’s plenty of people watching and bathroom lines, but like all else in this place, as the Gen-Yers say, “it’s chill dude.”

 

Outside, parking is random and only available for one-hour in the L-shaped mini mall. A tanning salon, Burger King and mini-mart are all protecting their spots so pull in, be patient and wait as the parking spots open and fill pretty quickly. Avoid the marked five-minute spots or you might find your vehicle towed before the barista even fills you order.

 

Inside you’ll find a high ceilinged open space with industrial lighting and a ceiling that looks like the bottom of a bouncy house. Have enough coffee and you might be bouncing too. There’s always a seat to be found – plenty of two tops, a few four-seaters and that long community table option. They also have barista bar seating and a nice store length window counter.

 

The bathroom here is large and clean, in case you want to throw a party. Bathroom code: 75319

 

Update: *The formerly square footage-challenged store is now huge after a recent (acquisition of the next door space) impressive remodel and this place may have the most tables of any Starbucks in Los Angeles. They’ve also added a huge community table with plugs underneath for screenwriters to make Hollywood history right here in Hollywood.

 

Left without finding a parking location 1/2015.

 

Starbucks at 1900 North Highland

Visits: 6

First Impression: It’s Rock and Roll meets Blonde Roast at this Hollywood location just at the tip of the tourist zone.

Crowd: Those who choose tattoos over dinner and enough local rockers – alt to metal to Goth – to hold a benefit concert, along with Hollywood a smattering of international tourists from the nearby hotels heading down the street to join the circus at Hollywood and Highland.

Rating 2.0

 

If Axle Rose has a favorite Starbucks, this might fit the bill. There’s more rock and roll edge here than on some of the nearby club stages. Perched just to the north of that mass of crass consumerism known as Hollywood Blvd. this less-locals and more one-timer stop-in attracts people in need of a gig and those in need of a mid-afternoon coffee wakeup (hey, they’re rockers after all), before tackling one of the local less than stellar examples of kitsch museums further down the block. But. C’mon Starbucks, while I love the diversity of music, let’s get away from the canned stuff that’s playing from Seattle to Sheboygan and play music that suits the specific environment. This place should be rocking Billy Idol, Greenday and the Foo Fighters, not 30’s classics. Then again maybe the crowd doesn’t want to be reminded of the record deal gone sour or the groupies waiting back in the crash pad….no, that can’t be it at all. The coffee is decent, the tables very small and the place should be reversed – with coffee bar on the opposite side to open up the views of all that is Hollywood, but all in all the strip-mall java destination makes for a reasonable stop by. There are two square-community table directly to the right and left of the entrance. The comfy chairs are gone. This triangle-shaped Starbucks offers something many don’t – outlets galore. So plug in, spike your hair (if you have some) and wait for a bunch of pale, over eye-shadowed rockers to show up. They have to, eventually. Two things about this place: plenty of tourists walk in, look around, and exit just as quickly without buying, as if this is just another quick spot to tick off of their “I’ve visited Hollywood,” box. And, they keep the place colder than the David Letterman studio too. Nice in August but frigid in the fall. One of the sweetest staffs in all of Starbucks land. A warm and genuinely friendly hello and speedy service is likely to be your experience.

Note: If you sit on the south side couch that runs the length of the store and you plan on some laptop time, you’ll need to reach up behind you and pull the corded blinds to block the sun. The bonus is that these seats are some of the most comfortable in Starbucks these days as those comfy chairs and couches that used to be a fixture in the chain are nearly extinct.

Update: The corner table at the tip of the triangle proves to be the place you might spot a celebrity hunkered down with his agent.

Update: On the latest visit the crowd was much less rockerish than on previous visits.

Warning: No bathroom but you might casually make a b-line for the liquor store in the same strip mall and see if they’ll accommodate you. You can always buy a six pack to take home if it is needed for the use of the facilities.

 

Starbucks at 1700 North Vermont Avenue East Hollywood

Visits: 1

First Impression: A different-kinda Starbucks in design and

Crowd: A diverse mix of East Hollywood hopefuls, homeys and hostiles

Rating 1.5

 

In an oddly-shaped corner spot on the corner of Vermont and Prospect (think Hollywood Blvd. and you’ll find it) this Starbucks subscribes to the general specs of “since it’s in Hollywood” it must have at least a few dubious types in the crowd. Such is the case, though I normally eschew stereotype you can’t help but notice it when it occurs. Nevertheless, the place is not without its plusses.

Ample light pours into this very urban coffee shop as the buzz of the city unfolds in front of you though the large windows. Inside a friendly and good-hip team of employees keep the line moving and serve their wares with genuine niceness. At the tables (the aforementioned attitude-cases aside) you’ll find east Hollywood types (tats and tongue-pierced), local families, screenwriters assorted businessmen and enough variety of humans to make you wonder about the overall diversity of this emerging neighborhood on the eastern edges of Hollywood.

But you’re here for some coffee and that is prepared just fine. Sit inside at the numerous squeezed in community tables or outside on the wide and set-back front patio. Parking is a somewhat breeze behind the shop with one-hour validated parking. Just make sure to get your ticket stamped by the valet and have it stamped inside.

This Bucks is near Thai Town for great food and just down the block from Barnsdale Park where you can always find an entertaining scene and plenty of greenery with a view of the city.

 

 

Starbucks at 5453 Hollywood Blvd. Los Angeles, CA.

Visits: 5 – and that may have been two more than I needed.

First Impression: Not so good.

Crowd: A Hollywood mix that generally doesn’t seem to have woken up on the right side of the bed, and then there are the customers.

Rating 2.0

 

A nice corner location in the rapidly gentrifying eastern section of Hollywood, this shopping center store benefits from plenty of free parking and, for non-drivers, being directly across the street from the Hollywood & Western subway stop.

 

Visually, the thing that made this place stand out – aside from the square footage – was that they used to have velvet curtains that gave the place a swanky, old Hollywood feel, but they’ve even taken those away and with it any sense of style so now the place is about as visually interesting as a box store. They do have lots of seating, so unlike many other Starbucks in town you can almost always find a work space here. Finding a working plug is another issue as most have been closed off. Your best bet to find an electric outlet is along the window rail seats on the west side of the room.

 

Depending on who is working, the staff can be surly or sweet, but usually the former, which sort of befits this location, as there’s that ever-present Hollywood tension in the air here from the parking lot to the barista counter.

 

The bathroom (code 09051) is off limits until you’ve proven you paid for your drink, and the service is consistently about the slowest around. Granted it can be a very busy Starbucks, so that plays into the long wait, but employees jumping in line to buy their own drinks before leaving work and bantering with those still clocked-in only helps to grind the place to a halt even more so than the regular public, who are doing their best to remain calm. Even when there are only three or four customers in line it’s slow and I recently felt the need to converse with the guy next to me when I asked him if he thought if we would ever get out of this line; he responded with a smile and glazed eyes, “my thoughts exactly.” But if you happen to be in Thai Town getting a great massage or you get off the train at this stop, the coffee ain’t so bad. A large backward-L shaped room has entrances on both sides – one on Hollywood Blvd., the other facing the large parking lot in back. The large space is certainly roomy, so if small spaces aren’t your thing this place might work for you.. You’ll also find a Hollywood mix of faces even though warmth is not the vibe most are sending into the cavernous, green-walled room.

Avoid the headache of trying to find a parking spot on the street-level parking area and take the ramp down where you’ll find plenty of spaces available directly underneath the Starbucks. Take the stairway one level up and get your indifferent customer service and slowly deliver cup of java. The crowd of Hollywood-esque artists is an urban blend of the young and the rushed with a few purple haircuts to remind you that you really need to pick up some dye for the Easter eggs. Due to having just had a great massage the edginess in this place was somewhat not as annoying as it might have been.

Highlight: Free parking

 

Starbucks at 6745 Hollywood Blvd. Los Angeles, CA.

 

Visits: 1

First Impression: Tourist central, unless you compare it to the Starbucks a quarter mile west. This coffee shop has tons of people from elsewhere who pop in for a pop before heading back outside to the kitschy energy-ball that is Hollywood’s Hollywood Blvd.

Crowd: Did I mention tourists, and lots of them. Europeans, Asians in abundance, plus some colorful locals bantering about their recent extra work, add in a few scientologists from the center across the street, a few edgy rockers and one or two middle-age condo owners and you have a mix that reads L.A. mélange of fun.

 

I wonder what Yvonne DeCarlo would think? Suddenly her star on Hollywood Blvd. gets more foot traffic than ever, as a never-ending flow of visitors and locals zip past on their way to this ultra-busy. What would se think about people willing to plunk down five bucks for a coffee and a muffin? What would she think of the reinvention of Hollywood all around this spot? Yes, this is “stereotype” Hollywood with all of its wackiness but one lee than a half a block north is the new city of – ultra-sleek condos, hot hotels, trendy cafes where waiters actually smile instead of a snarl (see divey rock bars) and a palpable energy that is giving Downtown Los Angeles a run for its money as the must-visit destination in Los Angeles.   But I’m writing a book about Starbucks, not about Hollywood, so let’s get to it.

 

A thin Starbucks (squeezed into valuable real estate these days) sits on the corner of Hollywood and McCadden and stays busy the whole time you’re here. The throngs from around the world see to that and the staff though rarely finding time to come up for air, handle it all with good cheer. It’s not a place where you’ll find a comfy chair to stretch out and relax, but you’ll get good coffee and plenty of plugs to hook up your laptop. Given its small space and long line of customers there are a lot of table available, so if you’re willing to wait a minute you’ll likely land a spot by the door where you can enjoy some good people watching. The metal tables to the right of the entrance are prime seating, but if you don’t nab one of those there are some tall two-=tops that line the wall directly across from the barista.   Parking is non-existent, so your option are an expensive parking garage on McCadden ($!0) or try you luck and arrive around 10:00 AM and grab a free two-hour spot on Street just one block east.

 

Positive: Good energy and good staff and in the center of a fast-changing neighborhood

 

Rating 2.5

 

Starbucks at 7055 Sunset Blvd. (Sunset and LaBrea)

 

Visits: 1

First Impression: Small, hard to find a table and iffy parking, but the people-watching is worth the hassles.

Crowd: Youngish, good-looking, hard-working and did I mention good-looking.

Rating 2.0

 

There must be a modeling school nearby that offers runway classes and MBA’s in microbiology, because the crowd here is generally super attractive and equally ambitious in their appearance of working away on some computer brainstorm.

 

Located at a busy Los Angeles corner – or so my receipt says – this border Starbucks falls into that area that may or may not actually be part of our city. I don’t care as long as the coffee is good. The tiny space offers little in the way of being an attractive setting – it’s small, the parking is challenging and it’s a bit too busy to make it a place to chill, but man are the people good looking here. It makes me want to wear a better shirt.

The staff does their job well, rarely afforded any breathing time as the customers just keep coming. That the team keep their good cheer going when there’s hardly time to restock the refrigerator unit, means they are pleasant and a hard w-working and yes, attractive too. The room is rectangular in shape and offers a pleasing palette of earth tones. Tables, not enough of them are packed in as best as possible in this challenging space. If you have an extra seat at your table someone will mask to use it or sit with you. You probably won’t mind.

 

Starbucks at Venice and San Vicente (1:00)

Visits: 15

First Impression: Very near a huge bus junction, it gets a versatile crowd from many parts of the city.

Crowd: Students, shop workers, people waiting for a bus and a rainbow of normal city folks who don’t have the need to make you know they’re L.A – you know, those who are high-dressed, high-voiced, high-maintenance or just plain high.

Rating 2.0

 

A rather large Starbucks, by Starbucks standards, this bustling mid-city locale always seems to be busy. A lot of open space is wasted to achieve the store’s look, which means seating can be challenging during busier hours, but if you wait around five minutes you’ll likely score a seat. Speaking of seating, there are numerous table throughout and also two breakfast-bar style seats that give you a front row seat to watch coffee being brewed. The music played tends to be bluesy, not sure if they’re on the perennial Starbucks mega-channel or if they’re spinning their own stuff. Either way, I like it. The staff might not be as cheery as the average Starbucks except when management is present. Smiles aside, the baristas always add my 2% milk without acting as if I’ve asked for them to conquer the earth. For a large shop the noise level here seems to remain low, perhaps due to the large amount of guests who are either working on lap tops (some no doubt writing a Starbucks book) and the students who are hunched in groups at the big table surfing the web, er, I mean doing their homework. This place is particularly quiet during the early afternoon hours and that might be the time of day to find yourself here if you’re trying to hunker down for some work. Now that they’ve open a super-sized Lowes to the place is even busier and no doubt an early morning stop off for contractors getting ready for another day of hard work.

 

This store suffers from a common Starbucks malady – bad plugs and too few of them to boot. They contractors who built many of the Bucks in L.A. must have gotten a corporate discount on their electrical outlets as they are all barely able to hold the plugs that should be inhabiting them. It’s a constant battle of trying to balance the plug so that it remains in the socket.

 

One thing this place does have that kind of makes up for the bad plugs are the little tables tucked away into the corner crannies that afford relative privacy if you’re trying to get some work done.

 

The parking lot our back is large but you might have to wait a few minutes to find a spot as it is used by several stores in this strip mall location. It’s kind of tight back there, so pull aside and be more patient than I usually am and you’ll eventually get a spot. It’s one of the few lots that you’re almost guaranteed of getting a spot, and it’s free so stay for awhile.

 

Bonus: You’ve also got Maria’s and Midtown Lanes next door for a good old-fashioned breakfast followed by a good old-school bowling alley. The last older-school roller rink also part of that complex recently shuttered its doors.

 

02/14 update: This store is busier of late since the large shopping complex called Midtown Crossing opened up next door, so even though it’s spacious inside you might have trouble getting a seat from time to time.

 

They need more tables. I left without a purchase 10/14.

 

Starbucks at 4177 West Washington Blvd. (Mid-City Arlington Heights)

Visits: 6

First Impression: A fairly mellow Starbucks that seems very clean and unhurried. From the jazzy music to the quiet vibe it seems all its own.

Crowd: Leans to African Americans and a small contingent of Korean Americans and people from other parts of town that stop in or more likely drive through for a java fix.

Rating 2.0

 

One of the few Starbucks around Los Angeles to offer drive-through service this pleasant and usually quiet corner location at the busy intersection of Washington and Crenshaw doesn’t seem to fit the mold of the usual frenetic-paced shops more common to the chain. A generally friendly staff – one or two however can be a bit disinterested – presides over what seems to be one of the tidiest Starbucks you’ll find.

 

There’s a decent amount of seating in here – about eight regular sized and one four-seater community table. There used to be a few tables outside, but they seemed to have disappeared on my recent visit. During busy hours seating can be a challenge and I’ve had to leave here for lack of seating. If you do find a seat inside and it’s the afternoon be ready to pull the shades down on the large windows as sunlight floods the attractive space. Along with the right amount of seats – other Starbucks take note – there are plenty of outlets for your computer and cell phone. The color-scheme in here is a nice palette of earth tones with the back wall offering a cranberry backdrop.

 

This Bucks has one of the largest barista work stations you’ll see in all of Starbucks land, ridiculously big if you think about it from a customer perspective, as the tables here are often full. At the far end of that barista bar there is some counter seating to give you a view of the pouring in action.

 

It’s also a drive-in Starbucks, so be particularly aware when backing out of parking spaces here as cars pull in fast and regularly from Crenshaw Blvd and they don’t slow down much as they head for the order window. At busy times of the day that drive-thru can present a real problem for customers who just want to park and come inside as those lined up waiting to get to the drive thru window create a situation that makes it impossible to get into the parking lot, with the line of cars often snaking out to Crenshaw.

 

Most recent visit: 2/23/17

 

 

Starbucks at 8985 Venice Blvd.

Visits: 4

First Impression: On the very tip of the Los Angeles/Culver City border this shopping plaza Starbucks get s a steady overflow for the shoppers around and the new east-west Expo line that stops right here.

Crowd:

Rating 2.0

 

A smallish, rectangular-shaped store with some interesting architectural details – cool inlaid wood counter, dark-tiled backsplash, fun mural and a low-slung writing nook, this Starbucks doesn’t fit the cookie cutter mold that some stores follow.   It feels more like a a downtown view loft than a busy coffee shop. Granted, the views from the large glass windows will only be of the parking lot traffic waiting to pull onto Venice Blvd, but inside there’s a buzz from it being in this area do to the emergence of Culver City –a new hot spot around Los Angeles.

 

Since the shop is space-challenged, seating is an issue here. This could explain the large amount take-out orders. There are only a few tables inside and they’re the high-tops (and no plugs), which are not known for their sit-down-and-hang-out-for-awhile vibe; most of the time I’ll opt or one of the counter window seats. The crowd here usually seems between meetings and earnest in their work, and on occasion you’ll find a filmmaker editing his latest project. There are powerstrip plugs under the counter, which is a good thing, but the stools have no backs and can get a little tough on the posture if you’re planning on staying awhile.

 

The staff seem warm and have an easy rapport with the customers.

 

The crowd is an urban mix of all ages, leaning to youngish with a noticeable entrepreneurial vibe present and with some older surfer types rolling in on skateboards adding in a certain L.A. beach vibe, although the sand is several miles west.

 

Super clean bathroom.

 

 

Starbucks at La Tijera and Centinela

Visits: 3

First Impression: If you’re headed for LAX or Hollywood Park casino and need a quick fix this one will do the trick.

Crowd: Families, chess players and various Westchester computer gazers.

Rating: 2

 

If they ever choose a site to hold the Coffee Drinking/Speed Chess Championships, this place will have a lock hands down. Plus, Magic Johnson owns the TGI Fridays right next door, so he’ll be a fair referee if he stops in for the event. At the busy cross roads of La Tijera and Centinela this Westchester behemoth offers stronger coffee that seems to suit the large crowd and people yelling “check” outside. As the chess players in a rush gather in sometimes big numbers on the patio, inside a predominantly African-American clientele and staff give this place the vibe of a community Starbucks that’s welcoming to outsiders too. Jazz seems to be the flavor of tunes those looking for inspiration to the ceiling of exposed air ducts for inspiration, and further beyond for answers to the bigger questions.

Seen: In a scene that shows you don’t disrespect the staff I saw a guy in line talking on his phone as he threw out his order for a Double Frapachino light on the ice at the barista without looking up. The barista took out her phone and started talking too as she filled his order.

The staff here are low key and friendly, even to the occasional customer who might not deserve that kind of treatment.

The seating in here is ample and given its generous square footage they could put in even more. Currently there are ten plus tables inside and the outside patio has additional seating thought it’s often taken filled. 2014 saw this Starbucks complete an interior seating remodel and now it offers the commonly seen community table (with plugs) as well as window counter seating too.

 

Starbucks at 12313 Jefferson Blvd. (Jefferson and Centinela)

 

Visits: 4

First Impression: Huge environment, multi-rooms and situated just on the east-end of Playa Vista – a behemoth new-city-within our city.

Crowd: Mix of all that is Los Angeles

Rating: 2.5

 

Just a couple of miles due north of the airport is one of the largest Starbucks in Los Angeles. This architecturally innovative space makes most use of its corner location and curvy design that offers plenty of seating and window views to a rapidly expanding new neighborhood right across the street.

 

If you looked south from this Starbucks a few years ago (but you couldn’t have as it wasn’t built yet) you would have seen the cliffs of Westchester and pretty much nothing else except for a former hanger from the Howard Hughes aircraft facility. The rest of the miles – long piece of earth was empty but for huge swaths of undeveloped land. It was, in short, the only large scale piece of Los Angeles proper that wasn’t built on. How long could that last? Then came the freshwater nature preserve to the west followed quickly by the mega-development – apartments, townhouse and retail – now known as Playa Vista. The growth of this new man-made creation dwarfs anything else built in L.A. this past decade and the buyers keep coming and the city keeps pushing east now almost to the corner where this Starbucks sits. Pretty soon they’ll be flush with old-school Paty’s diner and that will be that.

 

The semi-circular design provides a nice flow to the main room – broken up by a large partition wall – and there’s also a more private secondary room off of the main entrance that offers even more tables and extra room to spread out.

 

The very friendly staff, busy atmosphere, ample seating, large – though not always easy to find a spot – parking lot, all click the boxes. All ages are found here, not just the hipster-bearded-beach meets urban vibe types.  Great stop for a bathroom pit stop too as it’s on the way home from the beach.

 

Starbucks at 9824 National Blvd.

 

Visits: 6

First Impression: A real neighborhood Starbucks with a crowd predominantly comprised of locals, with a few business-people mixed in.

Crowd: A fairly blue-collar mix of residents from this working-class area of the city. There’s not a whiff of showbiz Los Angeles in the place.

Rating: 2

 

The first thing you’ll notice about this oddly-shaped Starbucks at the end of an unmemorable 70s-esque shopping center in the gritty part of Cheviot Hills (yes, there’s a gritty part of CH) is the personality of the bubbly barista serving her local clients. She knows them, entertains them and makes this local’s joint a place where coming for a cup of Joe is more than, well, just coming for a cup of joe.

 

With busy National Blvd out front, the space is a warm respite from the exterior noise. There’s more seating than you would expect and plenty of patio seating too if you can stand the traffic.   If you need a lift, there are plenty of places to buy your café Americano, but here you’ll be given a few complimentary laughs courtesy of one particular member of the team. Throw her some love back. The rest of the staff are professional and have a good rapport with their customers, many of whom – based on the familiar back and forth of conversation – seem to be regulars. And plenty of them there are. Stick around this place long enough and you’ll see the half-empty place fill up, empty out and fill up again in regular intervals. Much like the ocean just a few miles away, the waves roll in and out.

 

Seating used to be ample here, but changes are in the air at many Starbucks and this one lost a bunch of cozy seats. Rest assured though there are still enough tables and a couple of the deep cushioned Starbucks chairs that are good for relaxing, napping or chilling like Hugh Hefner – just don’t wear a bathrobe.

 

The October 2013 remodel made this place look completely different, and the customers seem mixed on the results, especially if they’re one of the unlucky ones without a seat. Although they can now boast as having one of the cooler-looking barista bars, the de riguer redesign might have you standing. To avoid this happening try not to arrive during the early morning rush or that dreaded 3:30-4:00 timeslot.   On top of that they’ve done away with the beautiful window-front seats that faced National and are now used as a drive-by advertisement for baristas at work but not for customers.

 

The bathrooms here is sort of clean and require the coed of 90034 to use it. That’s the local zip code. You’re in Cheviot Hills after all, which while not exactly Mayberry has the distinct feel of a small town in the middle of a big city.

 

Large, southwest-facing windows without the customary black-pull downs screens mean the seats along the door are flooded with light. Writers might opt for the tables tucked in the corner by the fixins bar for the opportunity to actually see their screens.

Fun fact: For some reason this Starbucks makes it much easier to get onto the Internet than others. There’s one less step in the signing-on page from the Starbucks sign-in page. Just click in and you’re on.

 

Drink of choice: iced coffee, light on the cream with no sweetener.

 

*An October 2013 remodel made this place look completely different they have one of the cooler-looking barista bars now, but unfortunately in the redesign they’ve lost what appears to be significant customer seating. On top of that they’ve done away with the beautiful window-front seats that faced National and are now used as a drive-by advertisement for baristas at work but not for customers.

 

Times I showed up and couldn’t get a seat: one

 

Starbucks at 11705 National Blvd.

 

Visits: 10 (4:00) (4:30)

First Impression: Mellow, attractive and large by Starbucks standards, and hey they’ve got a huge working fireplace

Crowd: A quietish, working clientele that reflect the neighborhood’s quaint charm.

You might not get work done here because: It’s too hard to find a seat but if you do you might get grooving to the lounge-like sound system

Rating: 3.0

 

Situated on the northern border of Mar Vista, this remodeled (September 2013) Starbucks has a decidedly easy-going vibe that makes it a winner. It’s the kind of place you’ll see locals taking their time to enjoy their coffee side-by-side busy professionals conducting business via their smartphones. Whatever you’re doing here there is a non-hurried vibe common to some other stores where customer turnover is more prevalent. In other words, this is not a fast-in-fast-out version that you’ll find at many stores.

 

Come in and sit down at the ample seating – there’s usually plenty, with numerous two tops and a foursome of comfy chairs, and if it gets crowded during the afternoon rush there’s always the large, comfortable patio just out front and you’ll relax, and that’s refreshing…in a relaxing kind of way. And truth be told you could make it a day here if you were so inclined, as there’s plenty of two-hour parking and numerous eateries nearby.

 

Now about that fireplace; it looks like something you’d find at a high-end ski resort. They light it up in the cooler months here in L.A. when we experience the SoCal version of wintertime. If you’re fortunate enough you’ll land one of the comfy seats that front the fire show and dream a bit of Mammoth , the Alps…or selling your screenplay.

 

It can fill up in here in the afternoon, so even though there are a fair amount of seats, you might find yourself having to wait a few minutes for a spot. And speaking of that other kind of seating, they have a sparkly clean bathroom too.

 

They did a mini-remodel in here in June 2014- to accommodate a larger selling area – so now the seating is squeezed in ever tighter. It can get real cozy around here now, kind of an airport waiting area, albeit one that has its own fireplace.

 

Bottom line: This is one of the more comfortable Starbucks in all of Los Angeles, if you can find a seat.

 

The staff are affable, fast and deliver on the promise of a good cup of go.

 

 

Starbucks at 11280 Olympic Blvd.

 

Visits: 10 (1:00) (4:00) (5:00) (4:30)

First Impression: This high-ceilinged store clearly wins the award for most visually entertaining exterior, on a busy corner that gets very crowded during lunchtime.

Crowd: A Westside mix that favors Asians due to its proximity to the Little Japan area nearby.

Rating: 2

 

One of the busier Westside corners – Sawtelle and Olympic – is dominated by this corner Starbucks as famous for its great location as it is for its forty-foot tall neon artwork aquarium that rises above the front door. Visit at night to see the neon show in full display but during the day is when the place hums with an energy that’s reserved for only a few sections of town as the constant ebb and flow of life pass before you.

 

And since it’s busy here with coffee cravers approaching from all directions, seating can be a real issue. Avoid the lunch and late afternoon rush to give yourself a decent chance of scoring one of the tables. You can always sit outside at one of the tables that face both west and north, but it gets plenty noisy out there at this busy intersection.   Once inside you’ll find a decent staff, a working crowd and not too many full-time Starbucks stalkers, those people that park themselves at tables for half the day without buying a beverage. The main seating area is immediately to the right of the entrance with a few small tables, a communal bench seating and a few tall tables for one or two nearby. Other small tables dot the left side wall all the way to the back of the store. There is one larger table halfway back that can be shared with three or maybe even four seat seekers.

 

Parking, though it can take a while in the congested garage shared with several restaurants and retail outlets, is usually reliable; you’ll just have to be patient, as people can pull out slowly as they give up their free two-hour spots. I’d probably give this Starbucks the award for fastest-and-closest-to-grab a-java fix-if-you-have-to-get-off-and on the-405 as quick as one can feasibly do that in the Southland.

 

Just so you don’t have to bother the barista: The bathroom code is 1066.

 

Iced without the coffee: If you don’t want to be frozen out during your visit to this store, steer clear of the seat directly nearest to the coffee bar entrance. The tall table sits underneath a powerful and consistently frigid air system. Of course on a day like on my sixth visit to the store when there was a heat wave sucking the energy out of the city, this seat was the best thing in the shop.

 

Recent Update: Why bother with a remodel if you’re not going to increase seating? Well, the place might look a tad better but it’s not any more user friendly. They’ve got a couple more seats along the north facing windows as they’ve changed out the tall two tops for the rail seating that is becoming more popular in the chain, but other than that there’s not much more that makes it a comfortable space. Ironic, given their lack of seats, they do have one of the largest barista bars around.   On top of that they seem to have longer lines than most other stores. I’m not one to ever sit in a Starbucks without purchasing a beverage, but this place makes it tempting. But they still hands down have the best neon-aquarium in town.

 

Starbucks at 12100 Santa Monica Blvd. West Los Angeles/Brentwood

 

Visits: 3 (5:00)

First Impression: Different vibe that seems to suit its location as a place that’s situated half-way between the beaches further west and the mid-city equal distance east.

Crowd: A blue-collar, Westside mix that seems to favor locals.

Rating: 2.0

 

This place has always been parking challenged, otherwise I’d probably come here more often, probably. The place has an uneven vibe which usually leaves me scratching my head trying to get a steady bead on how I feel about the joint. Even when I lived in the neighborhood some years ago I favored the Starbucks on San Vicente just because it was easier to find parking, not much easier, but easier and had a more relaxing feel.

 

The peculiar location of this store – situated on traffic encircled median island – on the frenetically busy corner of Santa Monica and Bundy deep on the Westside makes getting in the place a perennial challenge. If you’re hoping to find a parking lot you might as well buy a lottery ticket too, because your chances are about the same. The tiny lot holds only 7-8 cars so you might find better luck at the IHop next store if the car lot attendant will let you.

 

Seating inside is just adequate for the amount of business that seems to be flowing through, and if you can’t find a spot upon arrival you’ll probably score a table or window counter seat within a minutes. There are only four tables – three two-tops and a four-seater community table (if the community will let you join them). There are also two high tops and the window ledge seats. I like the seat in the far corner just near the barista bar. It offers as much privacy as you could expect in a store this size. You can always sit outside on the fenced-in patio although the traffic noise is rock-concert loud.

 

The bathroom here could use a good cleaning but overall the store is clean. Coffee preparation is about standard although on my last stop in the Pike roast was a bit over brewed.

 

The staff here seem friendly enough as they serve their customers that tend to hang out a bit longer than you’d find at some other more business-center located Starbucks around town.

 

Starbucks at 11707 San Vicente Blvd. (Brentwood)

 

Visits: 6 (5:00) (4:00)

First Impression: Smack dab in the middle of trendyville, otherwise known as Brentwood, this super-large entry offers surprises that encourage return visits.

Crowd: A mix of locals, casual entertainment types and college-aged crammers

Rating: 3.0

 

“Welcome to Starbucks Island…” sounds kind of like an opening line from a show dedicated to coffee enthusiasts at sea, but this sea happens to be the bustling, upwardly-mobile community of Brentwood on L.A’s far Westside. But if toniness isn’t something you seek out, you’ll still be pleasantly taken by this enormous Starbucks that sits on its very own island surrounded by the streets of San Vicente and Barrington Blvds.

 

Years ago, before Starbucks took over the world, I used to come here when this was a simple little coffee shop. No longer is it, for this store has become the mega-Starbucks that other stores look to for design elements, not to mention customer base. The place is busy, very busy, but they’ve got the seating to accommodate and much like the large Bucks on Melrose this store offers ample seating for anytime during the day. And if you happen to arrive at crunch time, there are several outdoor patio areas that are comfy to hang out. Inside you’ll find tons of two tops, several counter seats along the San Vicente-facing windows, and a large sharing table that can easily fit 14-15 people with lap tops. Plus there’s the great electrical outlets built into the table for easy power.

 

Outside you’ll find one of the few outdoor patios in Starbucks-land that you’d actually like to sit at. It’s large, clean and even has a cushiony row of built-in seats more familiar to Vegas pool clubs than coffee drinking venues.

 

The staff, serving from their own triangle-shaped island within an island have their hands full with the perpetual line of coffee achievers but they handle the constant rush with aplomb and seem more than happy to fill any request. Across from the baristas you find one of the largest fixins bars in the world.

 

The tricky part here – as it is at many Starbucks in this car consumed city – is finding parking. The best thing that can happen to you in this scenario is to find a spot in the free one-hour lot that lies just to the north of the store. There are only a handful of spots so it’s kind of a parking lottery out there. From my experience I’ve found if you roll up to the lot and there’s no spots open it’s not worth waiting.   There are so few spots that the odds of someone returning to leave are slim. Your next option is to roll back down to San Vicente and look for a meter. There seem to be more on the far side of the street than on the Starbucks side.

 

A large crowd here can usually be found and it is not always a quiet environment, so I suggest this location when you are looking for more social activity and not necessarily as a place to relax. If work is in order find a seat at either corner of the L-shapes room and you’ll be fine.

 

Starbucks at 11155 Santa Monica Blvd. West Los Angeles

 

Visits: 1 (5:30)

First Impression: It’s not the most memorable Starbucks you’ll ever visit but it’s close to the freeway so easy enough for a quick cup.

Crowd: Not too far from UCLA, and near a bunch of eateries on busy Santa Monica Blvd., this mid-sized Starbucks brings in the students and the post-meal crowd, not to mention commuters looking for fix before facing the 405 rush hour.

Rating: 2

 

There’s not much personality to this San Diego Freeway convenient Starbucks, but sometimes you just want a cup of coffee to go and for those purposes you’ll find this place just fine. It’s close enough to university to guarantee a decent student/professor population but there doesn’t seem to be much going on here to want to bring me back.

 

Seating is adequate for the decent-sized crowd that the place gets, and there are a mix of two tops and smaller community tables to give you some options. There not putting much money into this store and the furniture shows it. They do offer a pleasing mural on one wall to take your mind off of the otherwise generally uninteresting vibe of the place.

 

The staff are chatty and friendly and there’s a small parking lot just behind the building. It’s also the only Starbucks where I’ve heard hip hop being played, a surprising change from the canned music usually floating around the walls of Starbucks.

Starbucks at 1898 Westwood Blvd.

 Visits: 2 (12:00) (4:30)

First Impression: A basic Starbucks that could do with a lot more seating, but a really friendly staff.

Crowd: You’re even closer to UCLA, so, more students, more activity and more Bruin pride.

Rating: 2

I arrived at this Starbucks the first time to make an in-person Ebay purchase. It was the preferred Bucks of the seller and a chance for me to learn about a new store. This UCLA close store is also on busy Westwood Blvd and has its share of students and locals.

The store is tiny with a large community table in the front, followed by the coffee bar and about five small tables that line the south-side window seats. It seems like a quieter version than is typical of the chain and this could be because there were a lot of students hitting the books on my first midday visit. The staff, on the other hand, are a talkative bunch with voices that carry and lots of laughter and they seem to know a lot of their regulars by name. If not they call you sir, which can make you feel a bit old until you realize they call every man – regardless of age – sir.

There’s a large parking lot in the back and the sign says there are four spots only for the Starbucks, but according to the locals you can use the other spots without getting towed.

Trivia: this is Starbucks #5567 for those into numerical classification.

Latest visit:  3/20/17

 

 

 

Starbucks at 2215 Westwood Blvd.

 

Visits: 2 (2:00)

First Impression: A fairly large entry in the Starbucks family. This Westwood-located spot offers all of the usual trappings of the chain but with extra room to spread out.

Crowd: You’re just down the street from UCLA, so, not surprisingly, this Bucks has its share of academic types – from cramming students to art professors sneaking some time in on their screenplays, um, I mean grading papers.

Rating: 2

 

Starbucks at 10911 West Pico Blvd. (Westwood)

 

Visits: 1 (4:30)

First Impression: A large Starbucks that has room for growth. The lighting is low, the crowd mellow and the vibe quiet. It feels more like a comfortable study hall but with much better coffee.

Crowd: Directly across the street from the Westside Pavillion on busy Pico, this store attracts a mellow crowd intent on not makinga spectacle of themselves in showy L.A. What a concept.

From where I sit, this Starbucks is pleasing and seems an ideal place to get some wok done in an unhurried environment. The huge Bucks easily has room for a dozen more tables should they deem them necessary btu the seats available offer enogu to satisfy the customers. Maybe it’s just because the place is so darn big, but it seems they need to fill the joint with more tables and seats. Consider this the mimialist standard by Starbucks standards. They also have a really huge barisa station that runs a good thrity yards along the east wall.

The burnt orange and beige wallw are soothing and the furniture seems a cut above the average coffee shop. Along with an eight-seater community table near the front door you’ll find perimeter seating consiting of about seven tables along with two leather chairs. Want to watch the baristas in action, then grab one of the four stools along the counter.

The staff are nice and accommodate a crowd of locals, students and people on their way to a movie across the street.

Rating: 2.5

 

 

Starbucks at 8844 South Sepulveda Blvd.

 

Visits: 3

First Impression: The nearest Starbucks to LAX without actually being at LAX. On the busy thoroughfare of Sepulveda and, oddly, across the street from another Starbucks, this corner spot offers a quick turn-over in crowd and is a popular place with Westchester locals and limo drivers.

Crowd: Westchester shoppers, people killing a half-hour before picking up their relatives from the nearby airport and assorted people pounding away on their laptops and more limo company owners than you can imagine running their business from the good seats.

Rating: 2

 

From the right angle you can sip your pumpkin spice latter and watch planes just before touchdown on runway #2 at Los Angeles International Airport. It almost puts you in a mood to ponder life’s bigger questions: why are we here; what does it all mean: and who in the world but Starbucks would think of adding pumpkin to a coffee? A sort of big Starbucks, and oddly directly across the street from a smaller Bucks (the original on this stretch of Sepulveda) this place has easy parking out back and an energy that comes from being close to a major airport. For some reason the barista zone reminds me more of a wine bar here due to the way they stock their goods, but that’s hardly a reason to come fro a cup. The reason you’re hear, unless you happen to be a resident of Westchester, is because you’re either on the way out of town or picking somebody up who you’ll soon be giving your own special tour of Los Angeles. It’s noisy outside but fairly quiet once you come through the doors. The seating area is ample, there are just enough plugs and they don’t clean out the newspaper bin so fast that you have to actually buy a Los Angeles Times. No outdoor seating here but it would be too noisy anyway.

 

Starbucks at 8817 South Sepulveda Blvd.

 

Visits: 10

First Impression: Okay, perhaps by a few feet this is the nearest Starbucks to LAX without actually being at LAX. Directly across the street from a much nicer Starbucks, this uninteresting spot is also popular with Westchester locals, people waiting to pick up those arriving at LAX and limo drivers.

Crowd: Westchester shoppers, people killing a half-hour before picking up their relatives from the nearby airport and assorted people pounding away on their laptops and more limo company owners than you can imagine running their business from the good seats.

Rating: 2

 

This is aesthetically one of the least appealing Starbucks in Los Angeles, but it is close to the airport for a last-minute-before-heading-into-the crowds slice of modern-day airport travel. Sitting in a corner location in a busy shopping center this square-shaped room begs the customer to buy coffee and get out. And outside you’ll want to go as there is at least a nice large patio that usually comes with an ocean breeze. Unfortunately the ocean breeze can get a bit odorous since this Starbuck’s seems to keep their garbage containers just a few feet from the tables. If you happen to be on this side of Sepulveda stop in get your drink of choice and be on your way. If you have time to go across the street you’ll find a more pleasing Starbucks to hang out in.

 

So, why do I keep coming back? Aside from an addiction to coffee, this is my old neighborhood from years ago. Old habits die hard. Hey isn’t that Bruce Willis?   No, just a guy who looks like him.

 

 

Starbucks at 5757 Wilshire Blvd. (Mid-Wilshire)

Visits: 14

First Impression: Central Casting meets copious coffee consumption

Crowd: Actors, ex-actors, soon-to-be-actors, actor watchers, writers, show-biz folks from Oprah, SAG and the numerous office buildings nearby, and some regular folks (guys in reverse ball caps, stroller families and tourists who just wander in)..

Rating: 2.75

 

Spacious, loudish and perhaps busier mid-week than most other city proper Starbucks in Los Angeles, this locale promises all that is stereotypical – both fun and sometimes annoying – about our city. Out of work actors, working actors, genius screenwriters, Armani-clad show-buzzers, assorted businessmen and even a few non-industry locals converge in this Mid-Wilshire hot spot. The staff (minus one) is excellent here and handle the non-stop line with aplomb (note: I will not use the word aplomb again, I mean beyond this second usage of the word).   Toward the back there are several tables that hug the wall, which are the faves of writers, and those individuals who apparently treat Starbucks as their personal offices (taking meetings, interviewing people, etc., but it’s the wider front of the store that has the buzz. Twos, threes, fours and mores gather together for conversations that often seem to generate healthy amounts of laughter here (maybe there’s a high oxygen level present). There is a long row of padded wall seating to the left when you enter that provide you a good view of the Starbucks show unfolding in front of you a new counter seating section at the front t for those who wish to watch what’s walking on Wilshire. The inevitably good- looking crowd (cmon folks it’s a bunch of actors folks) almost always has to deal with more good looking lines, but the wait is usually worth it, as the coffee is very fresh here. For those who desire the great outdoors there is a huge patio on the front side that offers ample exposure to the sun, not to mention the occasional star sighting. If you want to experience this place and actually hear yourself think then a weekend visit might be more your ticket.

Fun Fact: They’ll validate you for free parking for 45 minutes, but the adjoining Screen Actors Guild building gives validation for two hours. Just walk in to the satellite lobby of the SAG building and give them your parking ticket. Almost everyone in L.A. is an actor, and even if you’re not, you watch a lot of movies, so they’ll give you a stamp.

Nearby Extras: If hanging out in one of the coolest new areas of the city isn’t enough for you, you can walk just a half-a-block south of this Starbucks and see giant mastodons stuck in the LaBrea Tar Pits since the Mesozoic Period, well, they’re plastic so probably since the 1970s.

In late 2016bit became one of just a handful (so far) of the new Starbucks Reserve locations.

 

Starbucks at Fairfax and Olympic

Visits: 25 (2:30) (10:00) (4:00) (3:00)

First Impression: It’s remodeled, occasionally re-attituded and has gone from one of the worst to one of the more enjoyable, and increasingly, colorful Starbucks in Los Angeles.

Crowd: Transient mix of people waiting for a connecting bus, hanging-around newspaper readers, local mid-Wilshirers, Little Ethiopia diners and workers, staff and patients of the nearby medical centers and a small amount of homeless individuals.

Rating: 2.5

 

I’m not going to mislead you, this Starbucks was far from one of my favorites in Los Angeles, and I kind of wish it were as I live just a few blocks from it and my mechanic is just a hundred-yards down the road. In other words, by osmosis I’d spend a lot of time here increasing this particular Starbuck’s profit margin if only the place were inviting. It’s not.*

 

More often than not the place is a mess that reminds me of a subway station not a Starbucks, the crowd is unusually surly and there are way too many customers bickering over sharing seating. In short, this is not a feel good coffee shop. If, however, you’re in the area and want to do a quick drop in/take-out order you should be fine. The crowd seems intense here, unlike other Starbucks where the vibe is usually reasonably mellow (odd, given people are gulping pure adrenaline in a cup). The staff is fine although I was intrigued to see a manager not have a 20-something take her bare (not to mention filthy) feet off the couch so that another customer could share the sole remaining seat in the place. Ah, just another afternoon at a place that will probably become a Coffee Bean if it doesn’t pay better attention.

 

Why the *: This is one Starbucks that takes on a whole different shine as of late. The crowd becomes local and mellows, the place is cleaner and the anger in the air seems to have gone away with the busses. And the customers have their shoes on too. Also, the early morning hours during the week seemed to have taken on a slight semblance of normalcy as of my last two visits.

 

Most recent: Things are definitely on the upswing here. A total remodel in mid-2013 changes this formally cold, disjointed space into one of the more attractive Starbucks in Los Angeles. They’ve removed the couch put in nearly twice as much seating, two (one large, one small) community tables, a nice counter area and there seems to be an overall more positive vibe to the place. The staff too seems to be renewed with a friendlier attitude. They seem to be having fun at their work and it shows. And, for those in the know, although changes are apparently afoot here, there’s still a good chance you’ll see the older man who sells jewelry will pop in to pitch his products.

 

A nice spot to spend a quiet Sunday as the crowd never gets too large and that extra space to stretch out is always appreciated.

 

Starbucks at the corner of Wilshire and Highland (Miracle Mile)    

Visits: 24

First Impression: Too small for its own good, considering the amount of people that want to enjoy a coffee here. A recent remodel has added a dose of personality, previously missing, so if you’re familiar with the place you might like it better than in previous visits.

Crowd: A multi-ethnic mix of all that is L.A., but favoring Koreans as K-Town continues its street-gobbling move westward. You’ll also find some show biz journalists as Hollywood Reporter is just across the street, and the occasional BMW salesman from the dealership nearby. Friendly staff makes up for the lack of elbow room and places to sit.

Rating: 2.5

 

This place recently went up to a 2.0 as they squeezed in a bit more seating for the customers. Not that it’s a big Starbucks. This square-footage-challenged locale need all it can get. Of course, you can always sit outside on the western-facing patio, but the rays beating down but there are only appropriate for Brazilians and lifeguards. None of the exposed air ducts here, this low-ceiling old school Bucks is best utilized as a drop in/take out option. If you want to write, read, work or appear to be doing one of those things, you’ll have to play seat lottery and jump for one when someone’s butt leaves the cushion. Since Beverly Hills BMW just moved in next door, you’ll see plenty of white-shirted, tie wearing guys looking for their mid-afternoon fix, and you may even ponder why it still insists on calling itself Beverly Hills BMW as it sits two-miles away from the tony-named community. The bathroom is usually pretty nasty due to the large amount of customers and non-customers who wander in before their bus arrives out front.

Parking Alert: One of the more challenging parking* lots of all regional Starbucks. Be prepared for a tight fit if you can find a spot at all. Don’t even think about parking on one of the spots designated for the other stores in this ugly strip mall. Your car might not be waiting for you when you come back.

The biggest plus of this Starbucks is their affable staff. They keep it moving and do so with smiles and a good sense of humor too.

The biggest downside is a lack of power sources in which to plug in your electronic life support system/aka laptop/smartphone/tablet

Noise Alert: Unless you can work or drink your coffee over the sound of dozens of screeching teenagers, steer clear of this Bucks at 3:00-4:00 when the throngs of predominantly Korean-American teens show up waiting for the bus that stops out front. Of course, if you’re scalping Justin Bieber tickets then you’ll have a built in customer base.

In July 2013 they did a complete remodel of this store. New floors, counters and more seating. These may be a few more seats but the place isn’t noticeably more customer-friendly and an occasionally distracted staff doesn’t always encourage repeat sipping. The new place, though, does have an aesthetically pleasing downtown loft feel.

A winter 206 visit at 1:00 had the place slow, relaxing and offering plety of uncrowded table space, and that’s a real rarity here so check you watch and if it’s near 1:00 come on over for a visit.

 

Number of times I left because there was nowhere to sit: one

 

*Of Starbucks that actually have parking lots. Some downtown offer none.

The expansive Starbucks at Robertson and Pico has the worst parking of all.

 

 

Starbucks at Jefferson and La Cienega (3344 La Cienega Blvd)

 

Visits: 12

First Impression: For a rather bland uninteresting section dominated by a radio station and some Big Box Stores this Bucks somehow gets points for its quirky location and view of the new downtown to Culver City Metro Station.

Crowd: A surprising mix of locals, students and hipster-types (probably coming from Blackwelder complex down the street), plus the occasional A.M. radio talk show host who needs to cool his pipes from a long day of bashing the President.  Oh, and Stephen Tyler too if he happens to be doing an interview across the street at the radio station. For those under 25, he’s the guy that used to be on American Idol….

Rating 2.0

Starbucks Trivia: In case you’re ever invited to play Starbucks “Jeopardy” this is Starbucks # 14412

 

Not a great looking Starbucks at all, that is until its subtle charms tend to sneak up on you after a while. Maybe it’s the quirky location, the interesting color palette on the walls (lime green, tangerine and slate grey, or just the unexpected visual diversity of the crowd, but I’m sort of smiling as I write this section. Of course, that could be the coffee jolt, although my father-in-law recently told me he read a report that stated coffee actually gives you no additional energy….huh, not buying it! You’ve been past this one many times as you’ve been in your holiday rush to get to the nearby Target, so maybe it’s time to swing in for your java fix as well. Maybe it’s the acoustics but the female barista seems to have the perfect voice for calling out “Soy No Fat Latte” to an anxious customer. .Maybe she’s yearning for a job at WABC or KLOS down the clock. There are woefully few seating options here, so by default, or perhaps design, this store is more of a take-out option. Wait, where are all of these good-looking women coming from – there are only storage facilities and muffler shops around here? Where is that chick with the pink and orange swirl-do going back to? Where are the six industry-types taking their coffees once they head out of here? These are the kinds of questions that get my mind reeling, and therefore have created a Starbucks I must return to if only to learn more. The crew here are engaging, especially the guy with the dark mustache, and the locals are amiable and chatty if you’re into the conversation. Otherwise, they’ll just leave you alone to create, think, or dare to attempt it, do both. Seating, though, is terrible here and I’ve left on occasion without buying a coffee because there simply was nowhere to sit. It seems on each visit that there is one less table than before. The store could easily reconfigure its numerous product displays and get a few more tables in here. The latest count of tables was a mere five.  They have a little breakfast bar with a few stools set up on the north side of the barista station where you might get a seat if the few tables are full. If you score a stool you’ll have a front row seat to watch the latest coffee creations being created. Beware the parking lot – nearly every spot is marked for a particular store. Park in the Arby’s spot or the one for the yogurt joint and you risk hefty priced tow charge to go along with your hefty priced Frappuccino.

 

They’ve recently opened the new Culver City to Downtown train line across the street from this Starbucks, so it’s going to be busier in here now, all the more reason for management to consider some more seats and tables. Also, the connected Arbys recently closed so there’s more parking for this store until a new tenant moves in.

 

1/16 update. The ugly mini-mall that this Bucks is part of is under scaffolding for one of those famous L.A makeovers.

 

Starbucks at Pico and Robertson (Beverly Hills Adjacent)

 

Visits: 41

First Impression: Close your eyes and listen: You might be in a busy café in the middle of Tel Aviv. It’s a bit of the Middle East right here in SoFax. One of the quirkier Starbucks in L.A.; a place that has a uniquely colorful crowd and probably the only in-the-chain-store with its own mermaid* overseeing the operation…

Crowd: An eclectic mix of colorful locals and visitors in this part of town on business.

Rate: 2.0

 

On any given day here you’re likely to experience a Rabbi who delves in comedy, hipsters that have invaded the formerly Persian-Jewish neighborhood south of Pico, band members from the club a few doors down and white-garbed Kabbalists looking for coffee enlightenment before getting the real thing at their house of worship.

 

In years of visiting this former-pet store turned coffee emporium, I’ve had the good fortune to see more interesting folks – and, yes, interesting comes in both good and bad forms – walk through the doors here. A few have been escorted back out. For a screenwriter looking for inspiration you could plunk down here and come up with a wealth of future role inspirations. You can get coffee anywhere, but here you’re bound to get a floor show too if you hang out for a half-hour. Depending on the weather, placement of the moon and lack of meds, the crowd might be inspiring on one day or downright dismal on another. It’s sometimes loud and annoying but it’s rarely boring. Maybe those factors help to explain the numerous staff changes over the years (and this being a Starbucks that’s really saying something), going from great to uninspired and recently back to warm again. I think this Starbucks is a must-see for serious viewers of the L.A. human condition, and it why I can’t resist returning time and time again; even after I swear I’m finished with the place. And it gets me every time. Just when I’ve spent two quiet blissful writing hours here and think the place has finally become “normal” the room shows me yet another example of how it retains its “there must be someone filing a wacky reality show” vibe. They’re not, but the reality here is better than anything on television. So sit back listen to the new language being created as Hebrew mixes with hi- hop and medical-ese (yep a lot of pharmaceutical students plunk down here) and go with it.

I could go on and on with stories of this place but I’ll tell you just three: 1. Saw a couple get engaged here as the groom secretly placed a camera crew around the room to surprise his soon to be bride when he popped the question 2. Saw a guy take out a row of those small airplane booze bottles and line them up just right on the table in front of him near his coffee as he carefully chose what to mix with his caffeine. Then, inexplicably he got up and left the entire design right on the table. 3) Actually, I missed this one and I’m thankful to God for helping me to miss it. In the middle of a night a few years ago when the store was dark for the night, an out-of control car plowed through the window here and destroyed a large section of the store including my usual table on the far right by the door. I’ve since suggested to the store manager that they place those strong curb barriers out there to avert a future similar incident. They’ve ignored me, so if I ever buy the farm here know that I did what I could, even changing tables.

 

Nice: This is the only Starbucks that offers a “to stay” porcelain cup on a semi-regular basis. Although of late I haven’t noticed them suggesting the hardware s much.

This is a large room with lots of seating and the corner location has impressive two-story windows that face south and west. Even though there is more seating than in about 90% of the others in the chain, it can still be a chore to land a seat here during the busy hours in the morning and later afternoon. The two community tables can usually cover in those times, so just sit dewn with some strangers and become less of a stranger and then you can move to a two top when one opens up. Expose ductwork, a pleasing coffee-golden paint job and some nice lighting make this place pleasing to the eye – particularly in the evening. You’ll get bonus points if you can find the two hot=pepper lights hanging for one area of the ceiling.

 

The NBA must be hanging out here: Looking for an outlet for your laptop? Look over your head, for twelve-feet up are arrow of them too far to reach unless you happen to carry your own step ladder, and here that wouldn’t make you stand out much.

 

*Mermaid: Before you step inside look to the roof and catch a glimpse of the mermaid who proudly holds the Starbucks logo in her hands. She probably held gold fish when this was a pet store back in the early 90’s. Starbucks might consider taking her to the store on Pico and Barrington where she could find a more suitbable maritime home in the giant neon aquarium.

 

New stuff: Out with the comfy arm chairs (an employee told me it was because management thought they were getting dangerous with springs popping out, but sleeping customers might be a more logical reason) and in with more of those community tables that are becoming a Starbucks feature.

 

Don’t blink your eyes here or they’ll do another redesign. 2014 saw the second in as many years. The standard changes are evident: larger barists bar, fewere tradional tables replaced with the tall two tops that take up less space, and a trend that is good on the plug front but bad for those of us who like actual tables, the increasingly common Starbucks window ledge. While the changes haven’t left this formerly fun store without any charm they’ve done their best to make it just another coffee shop. The one plus that’s come out of the dust is that they built a second bathroom.

 

Nearby Highlights: That’s a Wrap for wardrobe featured on another recently cancelled tv series is right next door and there’s a big bar a few feet east in case you want something stronger than a Latte.

 

Unfortunately a mid-2104 Starbucks redesign has made the place noticeably less homey. Yes, they’ve done the standard Starbucks changes – mainly consisting of a bigger barista bar so the employees have room to move around – but again it’s come at the expense of the customers who have less seating than before. The large community table is gone, replaced with a few tall-two tops and a new counter seating.

 

They didn’t get my business at least 5 times because there was no parking.

 

Starbucks in areas of Los Angeles that you might not have known are actually part of the actual city.

 

Starbucks at corner of Lankershim and Magnolia (North Hollywood)

 

Visits: 3

First Impression: Nice, busy, airy Starbucks plunked down on a busy corner in the happening NoHo Arts District.

Rating 2.0

 

The first thing you notice about this very active shop is that the staff is very friendly and, no doubt having learned from their continually busy scene here, work in a great synergy to keep the line moving and the customers well fueled.

 

The architecturally unique space is large enough to handle the large flow of people, but they are just short of enough seating to satisfy, although there is an outside patio that has really comfortable chairs, not those metal clunkers you tend to find at most in the chain. And if you’re not doing work, the patio is the spot to sit to watch the people show – a nice mix of Valley business people, theatre-types and locals who have watched this neighborhood grow in leaps and bounds over the past few years.

 

Note that the north facing floor to ceiling windows have no pull down curtains so the sum can be difficult on your computer screen. Choose a seat at one of the two tables on the south side if you can.

 

The place does, however, attract a fair share of oddballs, maybe due to the NoHo location, so depending on your mood the loud mouth sports prognosticator or the non-stop-talking lady way off her meds may affect your comfort level here.

 

Starbucks 4800 Laural Canyon Blvd. Valley Village

 

Visits: 1

First Impression: Busy mid-Valley Starbucks that attracts a mobile crowd as well as some sitting down to do a bit of work.

Rating 2.0

 

This Valley Starbucks in what was formerly North Hollywood benefits from a busy Laurel Canyon/Riverside Drive location. The place seems to be perpetually active with the door barely shutting before it’s opened by a new customer. There’s convenient wo-hour parking just past the building and the coffee is pretty decent.

 

 

Starbucks at 3242 West Cahuenga Blvd. Universal City

 

Visits: 1

First Impression: Considering it’s squeezed into a sliver of land between busy Ventura Blvd and the even busier 101 freeway this place is fairly mellow.  

Rating 2.0

 

If you ignore the outside traffic whizzing by on Ventura and the 101 you could almost forget you’re sitting in a place that could very well be another lane on either of those roadways. This tiny Starbucks has a mellow feel and isn’t all show-bizzy even though it’s just down the hill from Universal Studios in the eastern edge of the San Fernando Valley.

 

The staff is small and maybe not the fastest in Starbucks land but they are friendly and you might find yourself getting some good work done here as there’s a non-rushed attitude present. Seat-wise they should use a few more but given that most customers seem to be in-transit-take-outers there are probably just enough spots to suit stayers on most days. There are a couple of comfy leather chairs just inside the door and a community table along with less than a half-dozen two tops around the modified L-shaped store. The customer-base seems across the board – young and old urbanites keeping their voices down to suit the vibe of the place.

 

The bathroom is super-duper clean and no code needed. Just knock on the door first so you don’t walk in o the person who forget to lock up. I’m just saying.

 

Starbucks 6833 Van Nuys Blvd. Van Nuys

 

Visits: 1

First Impression: Situated in the gritty area of Van Nuys Blvd, visiting this location feels like a drive through a small Northeast city. Inside, the space lacks seating but has a friendly staff that makes up for the lack of places to sit down and work.   It does a brisk drive thru business and that might be its best appeal for the Starbucks lover in you. To go with your well-prepared drink of choice this location offers loud music and really cool air conditioning.

Rating 2.0

 

 

 

 

 

 

And ones that technically might not be part of L.A. but they still are so close that you can just about stretch your arms wide and actually be in Los Angeles

 

Starbucks at 4264 Lincoln Blvd. (Marina Del Rey)

 

Visits: 1

First Impression: Large, airy and busy with a crowd that blends business and beach.

Rating 2.5

 

Okay, this one is so close to Los Angeles that forty feet away there’s a “Venice” sign, and Venice is part of the city. Marina Del Rey, with its gleaming bay-front condos and busy port-meets-city vibe is technically an unincorporated section of the county of Los Angeles but not part of the city proper. Now that we have that cleared up, know that your coffee will taste just the same as it does in any number of actually-located-in-L.A. Bucks.

 

The large room, on the corner of a busy two story strip mall offers plenty of room to stretch out although seating can be tough to come by. There’s more room for more tables if they elect, but they probably don’t want to block the view of the sales displays. There are two comfy chairs along the windows on the right side just past two community tables and several small two-tops. There are also plenty of tables outside to enjoy the L.A. sunshine. The staff seems warm and the attractive crowd has that at work yet sort of beachy feel to them that is sometimes visible at communities within a half-mile or so of the actual sand, but never in evidence on the other side of the city. Speaking of the attractiveness level, spend more than few minutes in here and you spot your share of good-looking hot bodies as there’s one of those super gyms in the same strip mall.

 

Starbucks at 100 Washington Blvd. Marina Del Rey/Venice

 

Visits: 1

First Impression: Small, corner Bucks on the border of MDR and Venice. It’s loud, busy, colorful and a good place to bring in a visitor so that they can soak-up both the real and perhaps imagined life of the urban beach life of Los Angeles.

Rating 2.5

 

Not much in the way of seating – you could almost think of this as a Starbucks walk-thru, this seat-challenged coffee shop puts you almost in the thick of Venice but actually in Marina Del Rey, which by beach-town standards is mellow compared to its zany and recently Siliconized neighbor just a couple of blocks north.

 

You’ll see more skateboards and characters in her in a half-hour then you might find in a full day in other parts of our always intriguing metropolis, and the vibe here though crowded and hardly relaxing comes off as a positive vibe kind of deal. It’s Cali baby and they’re spinning non-radio hip hop and it seems to work.

 

Latest visit: 2/24/17

 

 

Starbucks at 7901 Santa Monica Blvd. West Hollywood

 

Visits: 2

First Impression: Tiny, corner-strip mall Starbucks good for a quick pick me up.

Rating 1.5

 

Located across the street from Los Angeles this space-challenged Starbucks sits on the NYC-busy like corner of Fairfax and Santa Monica Blvd. in a throwback strip mall. A generally disinterested staff pours out okay coffee to a busy crowd even if those customers will have once heck of a time sticking around. There are no tables at this semi-circular Starbucks – at least inside – and only a window-wall-hugging series of ledge seats and a thin railing to plop down your computer or IPAD. Need I mention that there are no plugs either? If you can stand the traffic noise you might grab one of those outside tables.

 

A youngish, We-Ho crowd is present on their morning coffee runs before the days audition or day-long commitment to Flappy Bird. This being a small space the line literally crawls out the door onto the sidewalk. Parking is free for one-hour in the interior lot off of Fairfax. Just remember to get your validation stamp inside after you pay for your coffee.

 

In all honesty and based on only two visits so far, I can’t think of a single reason – beyond your body is screaming out for caffeine – to make this your los Angeles Starbucks choice, although it is right across the street from the wonderful Mocafe, where a great mid0day meal is always in order.

 

 

 

Discovering Los Angeles