Caffé Bene in Koreatown

Caffe Bene in Koreatown. Photo credit: C.C.
Caffé Bene in Koreatown. (Photo credit: C.)

Caffé Bene is a chain imported from South Korea. It’s fitting then that there are two branches in Koreatown alone.

Ever wonder whether anyone works — or studies — at a cafe on a Saturday evening? That is, at a cafe not within proximity of, say, a university? Step in the Caffé Bene off of Wilshire (entrance on Berendo) around 8 p.m. and you’ll see there’s more than a handful of folks out in force, laptops open or books propped.

It’s a mixed crowd at the same time. A good half of the cafe’s tables will likely be taken by pairs or small groups of friends chatting happily over maple latte macchiatos and shared brick toasts. At capacity, the noise can be distracting, even drowning out the K-Pop playing not-so subtly in the background.

The bustle might be welcome though for when you realize you’re out working at a cafe on a Saturday night (!). Because at that point, you’ll find that the cafe is just a few degrees away from being a night lounge, as many 20 and 30-somethings fill up the rather stiff pine tables by 8:30 p.m.

This Caffé Bene features all the concrete trappings of a downtown city loft, complete with four cylindrical support columns and floor-to-ceiling windows looking unto a small courtyard. There is an actual loft space for the quiet* you need to reacquaint yourself with the Pythagorean theorem, right above the counter where you can order obscenely large parfaits constructed for two or more.

The parfaits are just one option in a range of sweets on menu. This particular location has several cakes from Susina Bakery & Cafe, including red velvet, and macarons from Duverger, alongside gelato, thick toasts topped with your choice of fruit, and liège waffles.

If you believe in having a meal before indulging in dessert, prepared salads (Susina’s) and made-to-order sandwiches favoring Korean flavors are available for order. Prices may be a bit steeper than your neighborhood American chain, but it all evens out if you plan to stay past two hours for use of wifi and space.

Outlets are scarce, so come with your laptop fully juiced or bring a book you’ve been meaning to read for when your laptop runs out of power. (Although if you read Korean or want to build your trivia knowledge, there’s a small library of Korean comics and English encyclopedia upstairs). You’ll want to stay just to offset the admission paid by liège waffle a la mode anyway. The cafe is open until midnight on Saturday; you’ll have plenty of time to make it worthwhile.

* If you want to toggle the aural background somewhere between the noise below and the hush level upstairs, you can always play on repeat the new K-Pop jam you discovered at the cafe via Shazam when only a few tables were occupied.

Caffé Bene: 3287 Wilshire Blvd., Suite B, Los Angeles; (213) 384-3713.

Ambiance: Contemporary K-Pop overhead and chatter throughout. Bring your earphones if you want to zone out the noise.
Amenities: Unrestricted wifi. Few outlets.
Drink/Food: Standard list of coffee drinks with a wild card or two. A short list of misugaru, or grains-based beverage, reminiscent of a horchata minus the cinnamon. Cake and prepared salads from Susina. Liege waffles, massive parfaits meant for two, and Korean-inspired sandwiches prepared in-house.

Liege waffle with strawberry gelato. Photo credit: C.C.
Liege waffle with strawberry gelato. (Photo credit: C.)