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Bricks & Scones (Larchmont)

Santa Barbara lacks many things, but when I lived there, never did I want for pleasant coffee shops in which to work. Coffee Cat on Anacapa, The Daily Grind on Mission, The French Press on Carrillo, Cafe Zoma on State, Santa Barbara Roasting Company on Motor Way, Hot Spots on lower-lower State if the wee hours came and you didn’t mind the scuzz factor… and that was just downtown. While I feel convinced that Los Angeles has equivalents aplenty, it doesn’t present them in any obvious manner (not Los Angeles’ way), nor do they sit particularly close to one another (certainly not Los Angeles’ way). After nearly a year of trial and error, I’ve found that, every day I have several hours of reading, writing, and internet-y work to do, a slight hunger, and no food at home nor any desire to remain at home even if it did have food, I face the same question: do I go to Bricks & Scones, or do I go somewhere else?

Bricks & Scones has become, in other words, my default “third place.” Urban theorist Ray Oldenburg defined third places as, roughly speaking, areas that aren’t your home or your work (this “work” you speak of… ?), and which offer such characteristics as neutrality, status-leveling, conversation, accessibility, regulars, and a low profile. This particular third place also offers a baked good called a “sesame chewy roll,” for which I keep coming back in spite of myself. They charge well over three bucks for the thing, or so I believe; I try not to think about the prices. Little Tokyo’s Cafe Dulce offers a cheaper, arguably superior version — less hollow, with walnuts, and bright green to boot — but that’s five miles in the opposite direction. Bricks & Scones’ Larchmont location does at first seem awfully inconvenient to a Koreatowner such as myself: two and a half miles away, with no direct train route. (You have to connect to the low-frequency local bus on Beverly, and even then you won’t be happy about it.) But the bike ride through Hancock Park lasts just long enough to qualify as “invigorating,” and you can usually lock up right out front.

You can order actual food here — sandwiches, soups, wraps — although eating a quick lunch and splitting won’t really get you the value. I often set up camp, eat a half mango curry chicken sandwich (fruit on the side), work for a few hours, then enter the second phase with a cappuccino and sesame roll. I figure I drop about twenty bucks, all told. Not a painful price to pay for the accommodations, I would argue, to the implicit agreement of Bricks & Scones’ strikingly young crowd: the inner-ish fringe of The Industry, college students, Korean twentysomethings. Sometimes the place starts to feel, comfortably, like an outpost of Koreatown; though no bargain, it does represent a discount from the sometimes flamboyantly expensive coffee shops of my own neighborhood. I willingly pay for the vibe of productivity, though; it just feels like, as slowly as they’re nursing their coffees, people are getting a lot accomplished here. I’ve even recorded interviews on the premises. But given the effects of all work and no play, I’ve promised myself that when next I bring someone here, I’m ordering the menu’s “afternoon tea,” complete with scones and jam. Genuine Britons (or even just people from Victoria) might consider it a travesty, but that’s how we do it in the colonies.

(More such writeups on Yelp.)

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