Let me start by saying: I am not a morning person. My favorite hours of the day are between 5 PM and 2 AM, but fortunately for me and my atypical schedule is the fact that caffeine exists. I rarely arrive at the office without it, usually in the form of an iced whole milk latte (the color beige is my favorite when it comes to coffee). Los Angeles is a great place to be when you love coffee—on my 15-minute drive to work alone, I pass an Intelligentsia, a Blue Bottle, and a Stumptown, to name just a few. If I had to guess, I've probably ordered close to 500 lattes since I've lived to Los Angeles, and with that has come a certain level of expertise when it comes to the area's coffee shops. Here are 12 of my favorites—and what to order:
Location: Hancock Park
Vibe: This gallery-slash-coffee-shop takes itself pretty seriously—a list of rules is displayed right at the coffee bar, nobody under 18 is allowed, and getting on wifi requires an individually-generated access code that expires after 90 minutes—but the tight ship they run pays off. It's as clean, chic, and Instagram-y as they come.
Best spot: Any of the black couches in the back, or directly in front of the fire place on a chilly day (it kind of feels like Christmas inside year-round)
Special order: Sister Midnight—chocolate ganache and two shots of espresso over ice
Location: Silver Lake
Vibe: I'm often surprised at how down-to-earth Dinosaur feels, from the freelancers who frequent it to the baristas—everyone seems to be in a good mood. It's a great place to settle into for a few hours when I have some work to get done.
Best spot: Grab a seat at one of the communal tables in the back—you'll be bumping elbows, but everyone seems to respect the unspoken "No loud talking" rule.
Special order: Iced almond milk latte or cold brew, both of which are excellent
Location: Silver Lake
Vibe: The Intelligentsia at Sunset Junction is an L.A. institution and one of my all-time favorite spots. It's a full-blown tourist destination and quite a "scene," which makes for the best people-watching ever .
Best spot: The stairs to the right of the coffee shop are their own little institution and a sought-after seat for good reason. They offer unparalleled people-watching + views of Griffith Park Observatory and the Hollywood sign off in the distance.
Special order: Iced whole milk latte and any one of their miso-infused pastries
Location: Downtown and West Hollywood
Vibe: Whenever we order coffee for the team, it's from Verve. The downtown location feels like an oasis—it's of my favorite spots to go to catch a break from the fast-pace of the area, but the West Hollywood location is equally beautiful.
Best spot: Anywhere, both locations are extremely well-designed
Special order: Iced whole milk latte (and a croissant)
Alfred Coffee & Kitchen
Location: West Hollywood
Vibe: By now you've probably seen Alfred's infamous "But first, coffee" sign on your Instagram feed in one iteration or another—but the best part about this darling Melrose Place spot is actually their outdoor seating area. You're almost guaranteed a celebrity sighting.
Best spot: Any table on their outdoor patio
Special order: Iced matcha latte
G&B at Grand Central
Vibe: Nestled into the back of Grand Central Market, this is a great place to grab coffee then cruise the stalls. The baristas are extremely efficient and knowledgeable so I always feel like I'm in good hands.
Best spot: Standing at the bar, or on-the-go
Special order: Espresso milkshake or the iced almond-macadamia milk latte (Don't take it from me—the New York Times called it the "best latte in America," along with the one at Go Get 'Em Tiger, which is by the same owners)
Location: Santa Monica
Vibe: You'd never know this tiny café is right off of the tourist-attracting 3rd Street Promenade since it's so quiet, but it helps that it's right on the other side of Wilshire Blvd. so most visitors don't notice it. I often stop by for an iced latte before beach days since the residential streets around it have free parking (if you can find a spot).
Best spot: The beach afterwards, which is three blocks away
Special order: Lavender hot chocolate in the winter, iced mint latte before beach days
Café De Leche
Location: Highland Park
Vibe: York Avenue in Highland Park is one of my favorite streets in Los Angeles for their restaurants and bars (Block Party being a favorite), but this café provides a reason to make it over there during the day.
Best spot: One of the bistro tables on the sidewalk around the corner from the front door
Special order: Iced Horchata con Espresso (it's as good as it sounds)
Vibe: Now that I live on the East Side, I find myself in Pasadena more and more often, so it's only natural that I found a coffee shop I enjoy there too. This spot has great food and an easy-going vibe. It's a place you can sit and work for a few hours.
Best spot: Any of the tables by the window
Special order: Cortado (and a Croque Madame when I'm there for lunch)
Location: Beverly Grove
Vibe: Like Stumptown, Blue Bottle is one of those burgeoning chains that is consistently high-quality, no matter the location. Their coffee is delicious, they have great, simple food, and there's enough seating at their Beverly Grove location that I've never had trouble finding a spot. Fun fact: this is where I had my job interview with Geoffrey!
Best spot: One of the stools at the countertop that runs along the window, especially if you're there alone
Special order: New Orleans iced coffee
Go Get 'Em Tiger
Location: Larchmont Village
Vibe: Nestled into what was once a Baskin Robbins, between a yoga spot and some of L.A.'s cutest boutiques, the clientele at GGT runs the gamut (you'll often see E and G there!). I love their iced lattes so much I'll actively go out of my way to get one—so the fact that they recently opened one by my apartment in Silver Lake/Los Feliz has cut down on my commute significantly.
Best spot: Grab one of the tables on the left side of the bar to work, or a spot outside with a friend if any are available—it's pretty limited seating most days
Special order: Flat white and pie happy hour! Every day after 4 PM, they have a deal where you can get a slice of pie (they're all fantastic) with a coffee for $7.50.
Black Top Coffee
Vibe: This Arts District favorite is filled with people who just look like the kind of people who know what good coffee is. It's not uncommon to see creative freelancers having meetings, or a lunch crowd there to chow down on tacos from the Guerrilla Tacos truck that frequents the curb outside.
Best spot: One of the adorable shaded tree stumps outside
Special order: The coffee, which comes with free refills
P.S., Here's my guide to Los Angeles Part 1.