Few neighborhoods in Los Angeles have undergone more of a transformation in the 21st Century than the Arts District. Once a more or less unremarkable section of industrial downtown often used as a double for dense urban areas on popular film and TV sets, today the Arts District is packed with art galleries, coffee shops, bars, breweries, bookstores, and boutiques, not to mention hip offices. It’s also one of the most walkable neighborhoods in Los Angeles, with close together amusements and beautiful murals to admire along the way. The murals function as a kind of callback to the neighborhood’s history as a hub for practicing artists, a reminder that this was once an inexpensive “up-and-coming” area, before the Millennials did their thing.
The COVID pandemic hit many cities hard, and it imperiled some of the shops that used to populate the LA Arts District. Although several businesses closed, others have reopened, pushing forward the reputation of the Arts District as a great place for coffee lovers. Today the three-square-mile neighborhood easily boasts at least a dozen cafes, with many more perched just beyond. Among the greats just outside the neighborhood are Go Get Em Tiger’s location inside the ROW, a complex just to the west of the District’s western border on Alameda street. Competition inside the neighborhood is fierce and rent is high, ensuring that only the most popular survives. Today it is one of the best neighborhoods in the entire city in which to explore LA’s ever-growing coffee scene, and home to dramatically designed cafes, often built inside of old warehouses with soaring high ceilings. There’s nowhere else quite like it.
Just across the street from Go Get ‘Em Tiger’s old Arts District location is a new-to-LA coffee roaster: Boxx. Initially founded in Istanbul in 2015, Boxx Coffee Roasters opened their first US cafe in the Arts District in 2021. In addition to a strong espresso menu and several pour-overs, Boxx is also the only spot in the Arts District serving up Turkish coffee the traditional way. Espresso is ground on Mahlkönig Peak grinders and shots are pulled on a La Marzocco Strada. Behind the gold and cream bar, guests can peek into Boxx’s coffee roasting facilities. The resulting coffee selection is robust; there’s something for everyone on sale.
Boxx calls the ground floor of an apartment building home; the building is one of the many new mixed use spaces in the neighborhood. Like many Arts District coffee shops, Boxx has held onto the industrial vibe of the neighborhood, hearkening back to when it was a center of industry. However, the lights, seating, and decor they’ve chosen give the space a subtle steampunk energy. With fast wifi and ample seating, Boxx is a great space to come and get some work done.
Tucked inside of the new Factory Place Arts Complex, Eightfold’s second location is a perfect follow up to their first space. After the success of their Echo Park debut, Eightfold has made themselves right at home in the Arts District as well. The new cafe is about the same size as their first location, with ample seating, bright natural light, and a cheerful atmosphere. With Spotify’s offices right upstairs, and a University of Southern California department down the alley, the space is always busy, but never loud.
Eightfold continues their partnership with Heart Coffee Roasters, making them one of only two cafes in the Arts District not roasting coffee right now. Espresso is pulled on a La Marzocco Linea, and their menu contains fun signature beverages like the Honey Pot; it has to be tried to be properly appreciated. They have a delightful pastry menu, as well as a small food program for the days when a croissant isn’t enough. While you wait in line, check out their line up of puppy photos (and one cat)—these are the furry friends of Eightfold.
Just under two years old, Etiquette Coffee is another newcomer to LA’s coffee scene. The academic chic space is housed inside the LA Academy, which calls itself “a collective of the community for the community.” In the same building is Color Etiquette, a hair stylist, Dopehaus Studio, a tattoo studio, Etiquette Barbers, and a couple more businesses under the Etiquette and Academy umbrellas.
Etiquette roasts their own coffee in a shared facility nearby. In the cafe, espresso is pulled on a two-group Sanremo machine. In addition to the standard espresso menu, baristas can make guests a Shocker–two shots of espresso with condensed milk and whole milk. CBD oil can also be added to any drink for a few extra bucks. Drinks are served in gorgeous handcrafted ceramic cups. There’s also a robust food menu beyond just pastries, so this is an easy space to hang out in all day.
Situated just a block and a half from Maru (and another few blocks from Stumptown and Ryokan) Etiquette is a must-visit for anyone doing a coffee tasting tour of the Arts District. With ample outdoor seating and plenty of comfortable armchairs inside (rare in LA!) it’s a perfect place to stay for a while.
The darling of LA’s east side coffee scene, Maru Coffee’s second location in the Arts District has certainly lived up to the hype. Building on the popularity of their Los Feliz location, the new space is much larger, but maintains their calm minimalist palette. Everything is rendered in tones of cream and tan, from the seating to their espresso machine. Though the space is a love letter to minimalism, it maintains a comfortable quality that ensures every seat is always full.
Espresso drinks are served from a Slayer, and a robust lineup of pour-overs is available as well. Much like the beautiful simplicity of their space, Maru’s coffee lineup tends to shy away from overly complex coffees in favor of familiar but distinctive flavors. Though the wait at Maru sometimes feels longer than other shops, it’s a nod to their careful intentionality in brewing each coffee. While customers wait, they can look through a bank of windows into Maru’s roasting facilities, and bags of coffee are available for purchase. Also available are all the products someone might need to start brewing coffee at home, plus some Maru-branded merchandise. It’s a great place to have a coffee and relax on a busy day.
Inside a boutique hotel that is itself inside a 1920s fire station, Rykn is the new kid on the Art District block. The space keeps some of the former fire station’s architectural elements, like the large fire door out front, but the recent buildout also updates the building with smooth concrete walls, concrete seating, and low tables. The style is a twist on modern Japanese design, with plenty of light wood acting as a visual accent. With an in-ground tree in the middle and large raw blocks of granite that serve as a counter, it’s a jaw-dropping space.
Thankfully, the coffee is just as good as the vibes. Rykn serves Unity Coffee, which is roasted just down the street. Their espresso is made on a ModBar, and they have a short menu of drinks that includes a black sesame cappuccino and several tea lattes. Among their signature drinks are interesting innovations like a naha fizz (espresso plus sparkling yuzu) and a tensaito latte (made from Japanese beet sugar). From 11:00am to 2:00pm, they offer light lunch options, including the LA-mandatory avocado toast. Also available at Rykn are a few beers and wines, as well as bottled teas and sodas.
One block down from Rykn is Stumptown’s Los Angeles outpost. The shop is one of the mainstays of the Arts District. Before landing here in 2013, the Portland-based roaster was a major supplier of coffee to LA coffee shops. It has kept that business while also earning its place among the great LA shops. The space maintains its warehouse history with concrete floors and steel accents. However, it’s also updated to acknowledge the neighborhood’s transformation by accentuating dozens of plants, bringing in plenty of natural light, and cultivating a general Pacific Northwest vibe. There’s limited seating inside, but the patio in front has space for people to stretch out in some shade while still enjoying the LA sun. The neighborhood is one of the few where it’s possible to people watch, and Stumptown’s patio is a great place to post up with a delicious coffee and watch people walk by.
The made-to-order menu at Stumptown is the usual espresso fare, with a pour-over bar and cold brews on draft. The shop also sells a large array of bottled beverages, including their recent Stumptown-Oatly bottled cold coffee. Their pastries come from Sugarbloom Bakery. Additionally, they have hot sandwiches from Farmshop, which are usually hard to get on the east side of LA.
On the corner of Santa Fe Ave and Mateo is Verve’s largest location in LA. The three distinct spaces where folks can consume coffee—the front porch, inside the cafe, and the tucked away loft—are all sun-drenched and painted the bright colors that make a Verve cafe stand out. Rich wood highlights the high ceilings, and the soft greens evoke the landscape of Santa Cruz. Glass walls separate customer seating from Verve’s downstairs roastery and upstairs coffee lab, but still allow people to peek in and see how the coffee gets made.
As is usual in an LA Verve spot, the espresso bar is home to two Kees van der Westen espresso machines, as well as Modbar automatic pour-overs. This location also has a few drinks on tap, including a coconut sugar vanilla draft. They also have their oat milk soft serve in a few different flavors; any of them can and should be the basis of a delicious affogato. In addition to coffee and soft serve, Verve has a strong food menu as well, with both breakfast and lunch options available. Their to-go fridge is stocked with packaged Verve coffee and Verve food, and nearby there’s a treasure trove of Verve merchandise.