Restaurant Review #34Literati Cafe, Santa Monica

Large decaf cappucino-my favorite

Located in that hazy is-it-Santa-Monica-is-it-Brentwood-is-it-West-LA strip of Wilshire, Literati Cafe serves coffee, beer, wine, and standard cafe fare, including breakfast, to quite a few patrons. The coffee is quite good, though it would never stand up to any random coffee shop in Seattle or Portland.

At first I avoided the place because it seemed, from the outside, potentially sterile (I think I based this on the nice sign and valet parking). Once inside, it really didn't strike me that way at all, especially because of the attractive wooden tables.

On my first visit, I went on Sunday night around 8, and it was quite busy, though not noisy. I had a difficult time finding a table where I could carry on a private conversation and not disturb someone who was studying--essentially everyone there was studying, reading, and alone, and the tables are excessively close together. I found what I thought was the one table that fit my bill, but learned that the bench where people sit to wait for their to-go orders backed right up to my table, such that everyone who sat there got to hear me talking about. . . well, I tended to change my conversation to a false topic every time someone sat down. Something like, so, I am thinking of moving to New Zealand, what do you think? One person actually turned around to chime in! Had he been less agreeable-seeming, I probably would have had to give him a swift kick in the pants. I will give him credit though--the excessively honest part of me appreciates someone who won't bother to deny that they are eavesdropping on me (not that he had much choice).

On my second visit, a Saturday night around 10, the place was less crowded, almost everyone was there to socialize, and many tables were pushed together, which took away the claustrophobic feeling. I also realized that they have a fireplace, which I happy parked myself next to.

On other visits, the place has been packed with talkative folks. I guess that explains the "we may ask you to share your table if it's busy" and "please limit your stay to 45 minutes" signs on the table. But that's silly! I'm not leaving! Basically, Literati varies from jam-packed to rather peaceful. It's never less than a third full.

Turkey melt

I've had their turkey brie avocado melt, which comes on focaccia with a side of your choice of salad and is pretty filling and a good deal at $8. The sandwich was quite tasty and was also good the next day, but it could have used a slice of tomato. I was very impressed with the menu selection, and even more impressed by the inclusion of beer and wine on the menu, which is rare at a coffee shop. I suppose it helps that a full restaurant, Literati II, is next door.

I also really enjoyed the chocolate cake I had. It did not taste like display case, in spite of being stored in one. Wow! They have a wide selection of interesting desserts. It is always hard to pick just one (or to pass them up altogether). It would be hard to pick just three!

Grilled veggie sandwich

I've also had the grilled veggie sandwich, which comes with grilled peppers, tangy grilled eggplant, tomato, and peso sauce. It was tasty, and the roll it was served on was flavorful and easy to fit into my mouth. It was still a messy sandwich though because grilled vegetables tend to be squirmy. Some cheese would have been nice, both for flavor and to hold things together.

Caesar salad

Sandwiches some with a side of your choice of salad or fruit salad, and the caesar is excellent. I'm convinced that Literati is a place where you can order anything and have it be good.

Fruit salad

So is this a good coffee shop for socializing? Well, it depends. Literati is a step in the right direction, since it seems like most independent coffee shops in the area insist on having some sort of live event every single evening of the week, which prevents coffee-shop-style socializing (if I want noise, I'll go to a bar, thanks). Unfortunately, Literati has a TV. I really think that TVs belong in sports bars, your house, the gym, and Circuit City. The end. The TV isn't too distracting though, as it's not a focal point.

I'll be back. In fact, I already have been, many times. Literati is not perfect (where are the armchairs?), but it's my favorite coffee shop for now.

Chicken pesto sandwich

Literati Cafe

12081 Wilshire Blvd.
Brentwood, California
(310) 231-7484

Other Area Coffee Shop Reviews:
The Talking Stick
18th Street Coffee House
Anastasia's Asylum


Sara said...

I used to go to Literati when I lived in LA. I liked the place, though I have to agree about the whole study vibe thing. I'd go there with friends to have a coffee, maybe a salad, and some chat. I always felt the need to glance over my shoulder before talking about anything private. Other than that, though, I do dig the place (although I hate valet parking--just park at the Ralph's next door).

Jason said...

I've been to Literati twice for breafkast. Atmosphere was enjoyable, food was good, the coffee was some of the most horrible stuff I've ever tasted.

I can't stress this enough. The first time, I thought it was an abberation, so I rolled the dice and tried it again.

It tastes like someone wrang the water out of a sweaty gym towel and ran it through some (stale) coffee grounds.

Foodie Universe said...

I'm curious--what kind of coffee did you order? I've been there many times and the coffee has never been bad. I always get a cappucino though, so I wonder if maybe their regular coffee is crappy but their cappucinos and lattes are good.