Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The search for my "third place"

I don’t know how many people know about the concept of the “third place” that Starbucks strives to, but it’s one of the few things I kind of like about the company. The “third place” is basically that place that’s not work or home, but it’s someplace you can go and hang out and feel comfortable. Whether or not this is actually achieved is debatable. But I really like the idea of having that place where you can go and do work or read or just hang out with friends and relax.

I used to have several of these places in Berkeley. FSM was where I went with a group of people to study or where I would meet up with groups to work on projects. Brewed Awakening was where I went when I was too lazy to walk anywhere else or if I just needed to get out of the house. Nefeli was where I went every morning for coffee and where I would sit and read or go over an essay before walking to class. Even Strada, which I hated because they only had espresso and no coffee, I went to regularly. But now that I’m back home, I don’t really have one of these places. So I’m searching.

Here are my criteria:

1. Good coffee. I don’t really drink a lot of lattes and sweet drinks, so I really don’t care about how original their shit is. If the coffee is good, then I’m there.

2. Space. Not too many tables jammed together so that you’re having a conversation with everyone around you.

3. Good, soft music. I don’t need to hear the latest whiny girl wailing on her guitar so loud that I can’t hear my own thoughts. If I want that then I’ll go to a show.

4. Quiet without being silent. I can’t stand kids and teenagers who feel the need to go places in packs and then take the place over and are so goddamn loud and annoying talking about which Jonas Brother is the hottest. That’s what I deal with everyday at Starbucks and the Jonas Brothers (at least 2 of them) have come into my Starbucks and the answer to which one is hotter is none of them.

5. Not corporate, or at least not corporate feeling. I hate going to a coffee place and seeing the baristas wearing uniforms and aprons and looking more like cookie cutter robots than actual people. Peet’s usually doesn’t give off this feeling, but Starbucks always does and Coffee Bean is going in this direction.

6. Semi near my house. I don’t live within walking distance of anything, so I don’t expect that, but I also don’t want to have to go over the hill or go to the opposite side of the Valley. The less I have to battle LA traffic, the happier I am.

So as you can see, I’m a little bit picky. But so far I’ve found a few places, but none that I’m completely in love with. I will admit that I’ve been burned before so I’m really careful with how quickly I’ll jump into something serious.

The first place is called Aroma in Studio City. The coffee is great and almost all the tables are outside, which allows me to enjoy one of the few great things about LA: the weather. They also have AWESOME desserts, like a Rocky Road Brownie and a Molten Chocolate Cake, hence the reason I probably shouldn’t go here often. It’s a lot of fun to sit outside and just people watch or read your book. The only downside is that I can’t work on my laptop because there is no WiFi and also because using my laptop outside is just a disaster waiting to happen.

The second place is Pricilla’s in Toluca Lake. Once again, it has awesome coffee and a lot of outside seating. I’ve never gotten anything to eat here, but I’m sure it’s good. They also have free WiFi, so I can bring my laptop and work on it inside. The crappy thing is that there is NO parking. I don’t mind walking, but honestly, if I have to drive somewhere I don’t want to be bothered with walking 5 blocks because that was the closest parking spot I could find.

The third place is a new place that I think I can see myself hanging out in a little more often. It’s called Jennifer’s Coffee Connection and it’s literally across the street from Aroma. They have a bunch of couches and tables and the best part: they are all about coffee! They have a ton of different kinds and flavors of whole bean coffee! It’s awesome! But, the parking sucks and it’s a little small.

The last place fits hardly any of my criteria, but since I go there at least once a week, I have to include it. It’s Timmy Nolan’s Tavern in Toluca Lake. It’s this local pub that has a wide variety of beer and apparently has food, although I’ve never actually had food there. Or coffee. I think I’ve only gotten cocktails there once. It’s all about the beer here. But it’s comfy and it’s simple and, like I said, I go here at least once a week. I know the owners by name and most of the bartenders. How bad would it be to say that a bar is my “third place”? Hmm…

So even though I haven’t truly found that perfect place, I have found a few places that fit, which is all I can really ask for right now.

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