In Ireland, they say, there are more sheep than people. In Highland Park and its environs these days, there are more clocked-in baristas than residents—or at least it feels that way when you stroll down the perpendicular strips of York and Figueroa on a sunny afternoon. There have been good coffee shops in Highland Park for a while, but suddenly the neighborhood is flush with them.
And somehow, each and every one of those coffee shops is almost always full to capacity with 20-somethings clacking away on slim silver Macbooks, retirees and the underemployed leisurely leafing through yesterday’s newspaper, creative-adjacent small business owners conducting endless strings of totally chill meetings, and New York Times reporters parachuting in to spend three afternoons at the three newest spots to write the definitive NELA feature.
But which shop is the very best one? So glad you asked. What follows is a ranking of pretty much every third-wave coffee shops in and immediately surrounding Highland Park, listed from 11 to 1. Fair warning: if you’re reading this more than 72 hours after publication, there’s a good chance at least three new coffee places have opened since this list was created.
11. Habitat Coffee
Habitat is a very nice coffee shop with good vibes and decent food and a pleasant scattering of tables on the sidewalk along Eagle Rock Boulevard, which is busy but not overwhelming. It may not be the kind of place that warrants a drive from Miracle Mile, but it’s super convenient if you’re exiting the 2 at Verdugo. 3708 N. Eagle Rock Blvd., Glassell Park; (323) 739-0222.
10. Swork Coffee
It’s cold at Swork, both temperature-wise and aesthetically, with its white tile and painted brick walls, cool marble counter top, and blossomless collection of sticks in a vase on the counter. The music is low and the only people who speak above a whisper are the helicopter moms harshly reviewing the set design of this year’s fifth grade musical. The intersection of Colorado and Eagle Rock where Swork sits is busy and loud and the sun outside is bright and hot, but inside it is calm and peaceful. It’s a great place to sit and enjoy a nice sandwich and a blended smoothie, to study, or to develop a tough but fair opinion about whether or not to go see Eagle Rock Elementary’s next production. 2160 Colorado Blvd., Eagle Rock; (323) 258-5600.
9. À Bloc
Highland Park didn’t know what it had been missing until À Bloc, a “coffee bar and cycling centric retail experience,” opened in 2017, bringing the neighborhood its first place to get a nice cortado, a curried jackfruit sandwich, and a skin-tight neon racing shirt in a single transaction. The space is bright and airy with big windows, the coffee and food are both very good, and cyclists filter in and out all day, so no one will bat an eye if you walk in wearing full spandex, because it’s aerodynamic on your bike or because you just enjoy the way it grips your shoulders like an all-day hug. 5025 York Blvd., Highland Park; (323) 739-0351.
Collage is a relative newcomer to the neighborhood, and it’s very nearly the perfect shop— it has excellent coffee and tea, an appealing interior, a friendly vibe, and it’s never too crowded. One downside: there’s no seating inside, no place to set up and camp out for the neighborhood’s keyboard warriors. Come to think of it, that might also be what makes it so great. 5106 York Blvd., Highland Park; (323) 682-8206.
When so many coffee shops are going for Pinterest-chic, Antigua in Cypress Park is refreshingly punk rock, a little haphazard, less Haim and more X. Owner Yancy Quinones—a Cypress Park native—is focused on being a place for locals to gather and hang, committed to organic teas and house-roasted beans, supporting local artists and the neighborhood as a whole. And it doesn’t hurt that they make some killer drinks, from the organic horchata with espresso to the Mayan Mocha and the bright Xol Maya, and excellent sandwiches to boot. 3400 N. Figueroa St., Cypress Park; (323) 358-9772.
6. Tierra Mia
Tierra Mia—the local chain with more than a dozen locations in L.A. and the Bay Area—only opened a Highland Park location in 2015, but this outpost already feels like a beloved institution. Everyone seems to know each other and kids stream in and out, shouting and laughing and getting a little too hyped off of the excellent blended frappes. The scene is pleasantly chaotic, and the outdoor seating makes it almost too easy to give in and indulge in one of those Coco Loco frappes that you can’t help but drink a little too fast. They’re the perfect after-school treat, whether you’ve spent the day in a classroom or not. 5528 Monte Vista St., Highland Park; (323) 344-3844.
5. Found Coffee
If you’ve been to a third-wave coffee shop in any city in the world, this is going to sound familiar. Found has good WiFi and a handful of wooden tables, white walls, high ceilings, big windows, local beans, cute merch, a charming IG presence, and a soundtrack that bounces back and forth between mellow hip-hop and the Beatles. But there’s more here than meets the eye. Found’s teas are weird but seriously great despite their whimsical names, and the pour-over coffee is truly outstanding. Best of all, Found shares its good-sized parking lot with a beer bar, in case you need to temper your caffeinated writing with some buzzed editing. 1355 Colorado Blvd., Eagle Rock; (323) 206-5154.
It’s going to open soon, it’s going to be great, and it’s going to be right next to Triple Beam and Highland Park Wine. This feels like a safe spot on the list. 5918 N. Figueroa St., Highland Park.
Cafe de Leche has been brewing coffee on York since 2008, but in the summer of 2017 it replaced the expansive play place at the back of the shop with a coffee roaster. In that moment it became one of few shops in the area to roast its own beans, instantly moving itself either up or down five spots on the local café hierarchy, depending on where you are in life’s winding journey.
Even if your kid was a regular in the chaotic play place back there, rhythmically thrashing plastic dinosaurs in time with the beat of whatever indie band was on the speakers, it’s hard to deny that the coffee they’re roasting is excellent, fresh, and delicious. WiFi is good, outlets are plentiful, seating is comfortable both inside and out, and now, thanks to that coffee roaster, the atmosphere is way calmer, and it smells better inside too. 5000 York Blvd., Highland Park; (323) 551-6828.
2. Civil Coffee
If there is such a thing as a destination coffee shop, then Civil is it. It’s been feted in design mags and on coffee blogs, featured on both influencers’ feeds and bean-focused web forums, and for good reason. The place is stunning, with high ceilings, pretty patterned floor tiles, and a mirrored bar so you can gaze lovingly at your own footwear without actually looking down. The drinks are phenomenal too, from your favorite espresso and milk combo to their simple brewed coffee. With so much beauty, though, there is one glaring weakness—there’s no mirror in the bathroom, so you won’t know that you had a single strand of hair devastatingly out of place until you’ve already left, and your reputation is totally ruined. 5629 N. Figueroa St., Highland Park.
Kindness & Mischief is so close to Civil Coffee that you can describe their locations in reference to one another, which might be the most hilarious thing about Figueroa right now. “Oh cool, where is it?” your friend from Glendale asks. “You know that other impossibly hip, beautifully decorated, adorably merchandised café with really, really great coffee? Yeah it’s a block from there.”
Kindness & Mischief is sometimes overlooked in favor of that other shop, but it is absolutely deserving of adoration. The vibe is unfailingly happy and mellow, there’s ample seating, and the interior is lovely, at once thoughtful and unfussy with just the right number of colorful adornments and an excellent selection of artwork dangling jauntily in front of the brick wall.
They managed to strike the right balance between style and comfort, and it helps that the baristas are at the absolute apex of both skill and friendliness, a combo that makes this Highland Park’s very best coffee shop. 5537 N. Figueroa St., Highland Park
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