Intelligentsia Venice: Breakfast of Champions

— by Caroline on Crack

Call me late to the game, the coffee connoisseur game that is. Yeah, so late. Well, Intelligentsia and LAMill opened stores in Silver Lake in the past couple years and I could only read everyone’s tweets from afar about how awesome the coffee at both fancy-schmancy coffeehouses were. But I certainly wasn’t about to brave cross-town traffic all the way from the Westsiiide for a morning cup of java. I don’t care how special it is. But when Intelligentsia opened up a Venice outpost, I ran out of excuses.

So during its opening week back in June on an early Saturday afternoon I got in line. A long, slowww-moving line. But after about 15 minutes and a couple steps forward, I bailed in a huff.

Little did I know that an old friend of mine, Mike, had picked up some shifts at the new location and totally called me out for my Westside intolerance of long lines. “I’m telling you. Go when it first opens at 7 in the morning. Or noon is a good time, too. And if you come on Saturday or Sunday when I work, I’ll set you up,” he said. And then he boasted how they make the best cappuccinos in the world.

What’s this? How is that possible? Better than Italy? I had to try it. So I gave Intelligentsia Venice another go-see. Sure enough, 7 in the morning and nary a line to be found. But with no easily identifiable “Order here” and “Pay here” stations, I was momentarily confused. Where’s the cash register?


there aren’t any as it’s supposed to be a customized experience for each customer, so you don’t feel like you’re being processed like uncaffeinated cattle. Rather, they can ring you up anywhere in the store. So basically that long, slow-moving line in front of the store is to wait til they call on you so you can tell them about your specific coffee needs, which they gladly fulfill. That’s nice and all but I still feel weird waiting in line for coffee. I ain’t that fancy, I guess.

Anyway, there he was, the coolest guy in the world manning the espresso machine. Mike was behind the “counter” sporting his fancy Intelligentsia outfit of vest, blue button shirt and tie. Kinda reminded me of how some of my favorite mixologists dress.

Immediately Mike set to work on the cappuccino. “Can I get that with soy?” I asked, you know cuz of my non-dairy issue. “What? You don’t want soy,” he pooh-poohed me. And then the French woman in line before me berated me as well. “Eet won’t taste good,” she said. “Fine, regular milk then,” I acquiesced. Eesh. But they were probably right.

“So why is it the best cappuccino and not the best latte?” I asked Mike as he made a little heart on the foam. “Because it has less milk and you can taste the coffee better,” he replied matter-of-factly. Fair enough.

Mike said that I also needed to try a croissant as a fresh batch had just arrived from Comme Ca, and, hey check out the pastries from Cake Monkey — banana wheatgerm muffin and pecan coffeecake ($3 each). Ay yi yi. They all looked so delicious, I couldn’t say no. (Here’s a list of their pastries.)

I enjoyed a fresh, flaky, sweet almond croissant ($2.75) along with my best cappuccino in the world. Ahh, the breakfast of champions. And Mike was right. It IS the best cappuccino in the world, well, as far as I’m concerned. It was smooth, full-bodied, and no trace of that burnt taste you experience with the likes of Charbucks. Plus, it WAS better with real milk, creamy, but I guess that really goes without saying. Now there was no way I could go back to office coffee.

Since it was early enough in the morning, there were plenty of places to sit in the airy coffeehouse: the new bar at the rear of the room that overlooks everything, the tiers of stadium seating inside and outside on the patio, and seats along the wall in front so you can watch them make coffee. None of it looks cozy enough for lounging for long periods of time and yet I suspect that doesn’t stop most patrons from making it their workspace. (There’s free Wifi, no code. The network is named after a home espresso maker they sell.) All this place needs is a nearby newsstand.

I would love to make it a morning ritual to sit here with the BCITW, a Cake Monkey banana wheatgerm muffin and the paper. A great way to start the day. Now if only I could get my ass out of bed early enough to beat the crowds.

Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea Inc.
1331 Abbot Kinney Boulevard
Venice, California 90291 (map)
(310) 399-1233
Blog: Intelli(dot)LA
Twitter: @IntelliVenice