Restaurant Review #15: Cacao Coffee House, West LA

What is the difference between a coffee house and a coffee shop? Allow me to enlighten you. A coffee shop, as its name implies, is a place where you go primarily to shop for coffee, and a coffee house is a place that actually has atmosphere and encourages making yourself at home to chat, study, or use their free WiFi. Think Starbucks v. Independent.

At Cacao, I felt like the yuppie I may be accidentally becoming. It's a gritty, darkish, smoky place that lies somewhere between depressing and smug. Everyone there, except for the girl making the drinks, was male, which made me feel a little out of place. The customers had the air of being regulars and were clearly edgier and more fundamentally disgruntled than I. I was the bubbly, made-up, dressed-up girl.

The place is very small, with about 8 tables. There were tons of black and white photographs on the wall, indicating that Cacao most likely does the rotating artist show thing. The theme, as they describe it, is retro Hawaiian. I probably would have described it as African, based on the wooden sculptures. They have a fair number of those African masks that inspired Picasso and his contemporaries. (My brain is struggling but not quite recalling the other interesting things I learned about these masks back in modern art history class.)

I had a cup of decaf (the least-toxic thing to put into my body, I figured). You may be thinking that plain old decaf is not the greatest way to judge a coffee house, but I disagree--it's a basic item, and if they can't do that well, the expensive drinks probably aren't that great, either. It smelled excellent and hazelnutty and was freshly brewed; however, its strength was not to my liking. I would be quite happy with a cup of many shots of decaf espresso, so I'm hard to please in the arena of coffee strength. Thank you Europe for six months of amazing coffee. I'll never feel the same way about an Americano.

This is also, for some reason, a place where you can smoke indoors. Frankly, I was weirdly happy about this, non-smoker though I am: a smoke-free coffee shop or bar is not quite the same, and I have many fond nostalgic associations with cigarette smoke (and other damaging odors like car exhaust and gasoline--this is what happens when you travel to certain places).

I'll probably end up at Cacao again at some point, and I will probably enjoy myself, but since the place has a vaguely angry vibe and too much testosterone, neither of which jive well with me, I won't go out of my way for a revisit. Maybe I haven't given it enough of a chance though.

Cacao Coffee House
11609 Santa Monica Boulevard
West Los Angeles, CA 90025
6pm-3am daily

Cacao Coffee House on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

igj said...

No, you are not alone. I don't understand the appeal of this place - and I can be an alt-looking, testosterone-fueled guy. Plus, a coffee place that OPENS at 6pm is trying to be perverse, I think.