Restaurant Review #189: Java Groove Coffee, Van Nuys

Grilled chicken panini

Java Groove is a relatively new coffee shop and cafe in Van Nuys about a four block walk from the Van Nuys Courthouse. Despite its warm wood floors and deep orange walls, it maintains some of the sleek sterility of a corporate coffee shop while seemingly aiming for something a bit more personal (it is family-owned, after all). When I visited on a Saturday morning, they had a live saxaphone player--live in the way that the saxaphone players on the Third Street Promenade are live, with shrill notes played against a back up tape. Java Groove is small, with seven, two-person indoor tables and a few outdoor tables. They are one of the only places in the area with free Wi-Fi.

Java Groove is about a year old and inhabits a sleek, relatively new pedestrian-friendly shopping center on Victory just east of Van Nuys Blvd. It is one of several new sandwich shops that have popped up in the area, presumably to serve the nearby Van Nuys Courthouse's lunch crowd, who are (so the festering of sandwich shops would have me believe) not interested in trying one of the many nearby taco shops or pupuserias. Java Groove's neighbor, formerly the Mexican restaurant El Pedregal, is now also a sandwich shop called The Patio Grill. Then there's the Subway at Erwin and Van Nuys, the Quizno's across the street from the Subway, and the sandwich and smoothie shop opening at the corner of Friar and Van Nuys where the never-open Zairov Chicken used to reside. Java Groove was dead on a Saturday at lunch and isn't even open on Sundays, further proof that it doesn't exactly cater to the neighborhood (can you imagine a Westside coffee shop dead on a Saturday?).

I must admit that I did not try the coffee (in fact, it did not even occur to me to try the coffee, so hungry was I). What I did try was a grilled chicken panini. It took longer than I expected for the sandwich to be made, but that's because it was made to order, so I really cn't complain. The freshness and high quality ingredients made all the difference for this flavorful sandwich with juicy chicken and perfectly melted cheese. The true test that no sandwich shop ever passes is the tomato test--everyone puts their tomatoes in the fridge and turns them into tasteless, mealy, dessicated disks. Well, Java Groove's tomatoes were none of these. Quality tomatoes at a random coffee shop--who would have guessed? The sandwich ingredients are slippery, so leave the toothpick in while you eat it.

I also ordered a chocolate smoothie. Chocolate smoothie, you ask? Yes. For some reason, Java Groove does not (or at least not on my visit) make chocolate milkshakes, only chocolate smoothies. They do, however, make mango milkshakes. But not mango smoothies. And milkshakes only come in one size, but smoothies come in three. Are you confused yet?

If you're spending the day serving jury duty at the Van Nuys Courthouse, Java Groove seems to be one of the best options in the area for an inexpensive lunch (or, ahem, "cigarette" break) that you can walk to. If you're looking for something with a more authentic Van Nuys flavor, you might try El Traipiche Pupuseria on Sylvan (on the opposite side of Van Nuys Blvd. from the courthouse) or Taqueria Emanuel. Most people will not enjoy Rincon Salvadoreno for the dingy atmosphere and lousy service, but their pupusas are awfully good. If you have enough time to jump in the car, I recommend Mi Casita Salvadorena, Zankou Chicken, or a short drive to Sherman Way in North Hollywood where you'll find the delectable Krua Thai. If you need some fuel before the day begins, don't miss the crullers at Donuts and Delites.

Java Groove also offers catering services and rental of their coffee shop for private events and meetings.

Java Groove Coffee
14310 Victory Blvd
Van Nuys, CA 91401
(818) 785-6593
Java Groove Website

Parking lot in rear
Java Groove Coffee on Urbanspoon

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