Quick Caffeine Fix: Philz in San Mateo

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If you find a free table, preferably near an outlet, you’re set at Philz – that is, when you’re San Mateo. Which is emblematic of most branches of the Bay Area-borne chain where coffee orders are tweaked until customers approve.

This approach to customer service bleeds somewhat into cafe ambiance. Of all the nearby chains, it’s got the most agreeable pitch of vivre and studiousness. The AC isn’t on crazy blast, and you just might get an enjoyable rotation of early 90s R&B.

All throughout weekends, and on certain parts of weekdays, Philz becomes a quasi preschool with kids under seven running about. Fellow guests have a tendency to camp out, however unabashedly with takeout brought into Philz halfway into a study session. Juicing up your Asus, or Kindle, is only smart.

Philz: 113 S B St, San Mateo; (650) 931-1770. [map]

Ambiance: Busy… Or perhaps it’s buzzy? (You know, because of the caffeine?)
Amenities: Restrooms for hers and hims. WiFi. Several outlets.
Drink/Food: Great for discerning coffee enthuasists as there’s a range of roasts to order. A barista will make sure your coffee tastes right, not stopping until it does. Healthier snacks like instant oatmeal and yogurt.

Caffeine Fix: The Daily Dose in the Arts District

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The Farmer at The Daily Dose. Photo: TS.

The Daily Does is arguably the most picturesque café in Los Angeles.

Not just for its location, which takes up an ivy-leafed alley between two brick buildings in the Arts District. Not for the ironclad outdoor furniture that complement the alley. And not for invariably pretty people who arrive to dine and dish on the latest.

It’s also the colorful breakfast and lunch menu of stacked yogurt parfaits and even thicker made-to-order sandwiches. The beauty is in the ingredients that compose each item. Owner Sarkis Vartanian is a proponent of natural food, which translates into non-GMO, organic, seasonal and local/regional.

The Farmer sandwich alone is a telling composite of his culinary politics. Sometimes, Okinawa yam is swapped for sweet potato if he can’t find at the farmers market. There are heirloom tomatoes, a veggie patty and roasted seasonal squash. Delightfully sloppy spreads of guacamole, burrata, nutless vegan pesto and ancho chii jam get layered on top and on bottom. All this is held together by olive bread.

You won’t find soy milk as an alternative, and if he’s around, he might delve into the deleterious effects of current soy bean farming practices. Instead, you’ll stick with the Buena Vista, a latte sweetened with caramelized sugar.

Can you work here with all this prettiness going on? It depends. This is not necessarily a place to set up for a long slog through your front dev project. It’s great for catching up on the books piling on your must-read list and for a real (work) lunch with 2-3 colleagues, clients or industry friends.

Daily Dose Cafe: 1820 Industrial Street, Los Angeles; (213) 281-9300. [map]

Ambiance: Especialy vibrant from noon onward.
Amenities: Password-protected WiFi. Outdoor seating. One electrical option inside.
Drink/Food: Wholesome sandwiches, salads and grain bowls. Lunchtime gets busy. If the Farmer speaks to you, but you want some meat, check out Jive Turkey. If not, there’s his daily market sandwich – what’s currently inspiring him and his team, as with a pineapple grilled cheese sandwich with Gruyere, maple syrup, jalepeno basil and sautéed pineapple, natch.

Caffeine Fix: Stereoscope Coffee Company

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Waffles with fruit at Stereoscope. Photo credit: TS.

Stereoscope Coffee Company is a newer kid on the cafe block to offer great house-roasted coffee and good work ambiance in Buena Park.

Stereoscope looks as if it could be anywhere, but on a corner of a Korean-focused strip mall. Unless you have little understanding of what it’s like to grow up in SoCal surbubia where strip malls are bigger and its offerings more elaborate. And as they’ve been a part of the commercial lifeblood for decades now, it’s not uncommon to see creative reuse of the space in its 2nd and 3rd generation.

Stereoscope is pretty indicative of this. Inside, there is a minimalistic set of roasting equipment to the left. The communal table is off center towards the right, flanked by a long windowside work table bar top that faces Beach Boulevard. The table almost always gets packed with freelance graphic designers by day, college students at night.

You can get easily spend the afternoon there, getting most of your design or writing work done. Distraction might come from a trio of elegantly dressed Korean ajummas, chatting and chuckling at anecdotes you wish you understood. The white guy with a dog-eared paperback will likely get over his shyness and ask the guy in front of you all about his graphic design work. Or it might be the otherwise well-garbed woman on your left who’s so comfortable that she places her bare feet on top of her shoes (not cool).

You probably won’t get a real good sense of Stereoscope without trying their coffee, which is organized by addition of milk or not. On your first go, avoid the Instagram-worthy temptations of the latté and try a pour-over for a taste of their roasting efforts. Your barista will review with you the roasts you can select. Add a made-to-order waffle topped with fruit, or vanilla ice cream if you’re inclined. You’re going to stay 2, 3, 4 hours anyway and you may as well settle in with a worthwhile treat.

Stereoscope:  4542 Beach Blvd, Buena Park; (714) 747-5572. [map]

Ambiance: Chill, but focused like a study room for college sophomores.
Amenities: Password-protected WiFi that gets a bit spotty at night when you’re joined by other laptop jockeys. Parking can be easily found in the lot. Restrooms towards the back. Outlets alongside the way; one extension for communal seaters closer to the counter.
Drink/Food: House-roasted coffee. Eight types of organic loose leaf tea from Art of Tea. Waffles with fruit or ice cream. Housemade cookies and lemonade. Fresh fruit juices.