We stopped into Intelligentsia the other day, a few weeks after its opening, and saw that it is settling very successfully into Old Pasadena life. Things were quiet for the first week or two, but now the word is out, and it appears that every under-30 person in town with an deliberately ragged haircut, a frayed messenger bag and an arm tattoo is stopping in to meet equally cool friends over coffee.
Born in Chicago, Intelligentsia first took L.A. by storm in 2007 when it opened a coffeehouse in Silver Lake; next came a shrine to coffee on Abbot Kinney in Venice, where customers are escorted to the coffee-making machine of their choice by their own personal barista. When opening the third SoCal outlet in Old Pas, the owners were smart enough to adapt to the local culture, so while the craft of coffee making is taken very seriously, you will not get your own personal barista.
What you will get is a meticulously produced cup of coffee, made one of three ways: in a siphon, in an old-school pour-over way, or in an espresso machine. All are balanced, rich and intensely aromatic without crossing over into bitterness. One thing you won’t get is nonfat milk—they will only go as low as 2%, because, one barista said, “Nonfat milk makes larger foam bubbles, and we are about microfoam here.” Yes, a bit pretentious and fussbudgety, but the coffee really is good.
The space (the former Wok ‘n Roll) is inviting: high ceilings, lots of reclaimed wood, walls of deep blue plaster and brick, and a good array of seating, from tall shared bar-style counters to quiet tables in the back. It’s bustling but not too noisy, so you can hold a good conversation or read your newspaper, whichever you prefer.
To eat for now are some intensely buttery croissants, dreamy sweet brioches and other baked goods from Bottega Louie and Cake Monkey; coming in a month (or whenever the permit gods say so) will be a wine and beer list chosen by Bar Covell’s Matthew Kaner and a menu of light dishes from chef Matt Poley. There’s talk of WiFi, too, but there’s nothing yet. But even without all those promised goodies, the joint is jumping. And its devotion to high-quality drink and food has already lifted Colorado Boulevard’s marginal culinary standing a couple of notches.
55 E. Colorado Blvd., Old Pasadena, 626.578.1270, intelligentsiacoffee.com. Mon.-Fri. 6 a.m.-10 p.m., Sat.-Sun. 7 a.m.-10 p.m.