55 E Colorado
Intelligentsia is often credited for single-handedly changing L.A. coffee culture for the better in one fell swoop when they opening their stunning Silver Lake location in 2007. They followed up with a cooly off-the-wall bar in Venice, circa 2009. The most recent bar is in Pasadena and it's quite different from the others.
For one thing, beer is served. Really good beer. Pasadena also places more emphasis on food and is possibly part of a larger trend to pair good coffee with good coffee (a similar effort will soon be finiished in my current home, Cambridge MA).
Personally, I don't feel that's a good strategy. The appeal is understandable: if you want people to pay a premium price for coffee, have them interpret it as a culinray product on par with food, something with a similar flavor punch, something that is equally susceptible to artisinal treatment.
The problem, for me, is that coffee and food generally don't pair well together. A beet salad...with a Chemex? Yuck. Even an after-lunc espresso can be yuck if you palette isn't completely clean. Coffee and dessert works but I can't think of anything else.
But anyway, the coffee at Intelligentsia. They have a minimalist daily menu that is meant to foster customer-barista interaction. What is the Maravilla, one might be tempted to ask. The barista will explain that it's a farm that Intelligentsia has worked with closely over the years, thereby improving its quality. Flavor notes will be given and they will materialize in the cup itself, because these folks know how to do a Chemex. It's the favorite brewer of their head coffee buyer, so I imagine they'll stick with it even though better brewers are available (Kalita Wave FTW).
My one knock against Intelly in general is the overly formal quality of the barmen. I don't want a garrulous type, but someone acting like a maitre d' when we're in a coffee bar strikes me as odd. Yeah, it's part of the whole elevate-coffee thing but come on. It's just coffee.