A Safari Tour of the San Fernando Valley Cafes

It’s hard for me to get any writing done at home. This misfortune has led to a patronization of coffee establishments in the Encino/Sherman Oaks area. I anticipate much of this would have been flagged and reported were it written on Yelp, so I’m keeping it urban.

1. Starbucks – Ventura and Hayvenhurst

The caffeinated anchor in yet another manufactured suburban entertainment complex. There’s an outdoor patio where the young and old school each other in speed chess matches. Illegal checks usually lead to a flurry of Farsi across tables.  The police came down hard on the establishment about eight years ago when one of them pulled out a gun on a cop.

Pros: Adjacent to Barnes and Noble. Frequented by cougars. Hot moms make for pleasant eye candy. Radiohead will pop up on the store playlist about once a month.

Cons: Persians.

2. Coral Tree Café – Tarzana

Serving panini, pasta and wine, the food and the prices draw an upscale, professional crowd that come for meetings, awkward lunch dates, and coo over newborn babies with gargantuan heads. I know this because I’m sitting right next to one.

Pros: Curried Chicken Sandwich. The counter to table service, and endless cups of drip coffee.

Cons: Pricey. But you pay for what you get. The sandwiches are enormous and come with a green salad.

3. Coffee Bean – Reseda and Ventura

Where suburbia goes, coffee will follow. I have a special place in my heart for this one –I did my barista training here, got wired on 8 shots of espresso in half the hours. Shaky hands brings angry service. Lisa, the manager, liked to close up on time, so she’d put an out of order sign on the bathroom 30 minutes before close to avoid the heavy post clean-up. They reopened it after Israelis started peeing in the parking lot.

Pros: Equidistant to nearly everybody I know, I’ll see someone every time I visit.  Good place to meet Jewish girls. They have a fireplace during the winter, and Coldstones and Robeks Juice is next door. But who the fuck ever goes to Robeks Juice?

Cons: CB pays no attention to furniture: it sucks far worse than the Office Depot desk my brother gave me for my apartment in San Francisco. Also, Israelis tend to get rowdy during the midnight hour, smoking cigars and eventually turning into werewolves.

4. Aroma Café – Encino

An Israeli style Café in the heart of mini Tel-Aviv, the crowd is mostly Arab and Nazi sympathizers. The food is REALLY good (get the Tunisian on a Jerusalem Bagel), you can smoke on the patio – they also put out misters during the summer! – and the waitresses are all hot Israeli chicks looking to get a Visa. Bring a ring next time you go.

Pros: Besides the food, the best part is that Aroma is a scene, which is exceptional since it’s in the VALLEY. The Hollywood feel, without the pretentiousness. Waitresses like it when I talk in Hebrew. Still, I always leave heartbroken and dateless.

Cons: Expect to wait a long time for a table, especially if you want to sit outside. Flirt with the hostess by commenting on her stupid necklace she bought off her friend in the mall. Usually, you’ll get seated earlier.

5. Starbucks – Kester and Ventura

Same drinks, different feel. This Starbucks stays open till midnight every night, one of the few places in the area to do so. In typical Valley behavior, a spat broke out last time I was here between three burly, goateed Armenians and an older Persian guy, who I call Mr. Bronze. He was hitting on a few young girls. 10 minutes later he was about to “get his jaw cracked and knocked the fuck out for talking shit.” Another ten minutes passed and nothing happened.

Pros: You can sit in the corner, start working, and not order a thing. If the staff can’t see you, they can’t bother you. The music is not too loud or distracting. And you can’t beat the late hours.

Cons: I would again say Persians, but I don’t want to diminish the entertainment possibilities.


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I'm fascinated with people, their stories, where they're coming from and where they're headed. Met many, and now it's time to write my own. follow the footprint.

3 thoughts on “A Safari Tour of the San Fernando Valley Cafes”

  1. Must say I find it peculiar that you reviewed 2 Starchucks, 1 CB and 1 Aroma. I expected more exploration from a young rebellious and innovative chap such as yourself. Nonetheless, these are good tips. Dankeshaine!

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