Café de Leche in Highland Park: The Best Kind of Neighborhood Spot

Café de Leche. Photo credit: C.C.
Café de Leche. (Photo credit: C.)

Located on the busy corner of Ave 50 and York in Highland Park, Café de Leche is a neighborhood café with a mild hipster vibe in all the best ways. Whereas some local coffee spots can be subdued, so quiet as to discourage conviviality, Café de Leche is where you’d catch up with a friend or dish the latest development of a project.

That said, it’ll take supreme discipline to zone out and work on your Great American Novel. During busier hours, there’s a constant stream of customers and the tables are almost always filled with freelance writers, graphic designers or students from nearby Occidental College.

Snagging a table in the first place is not easy. (TrySpace Tip: Sit at the leather couches near the entrance and keep an eye out for a spot. Make a beeline when one opens up.) If you do, you might get distracted by the ever-present fly zipping about, the conversation to your right on the state of indie music labels or the thin layer of toaster smoke that never seems to dissipate.

If you are intent on working sans earphones, you might be better served sitting outside, at one of the lime green metal tables. There’s plenty of spots available, even when the cafe is packed. Keep in mind that one benefit of working inside is you’ll never want for an outlet. There are built-in outlets at every segmented spot; you’ll find them tucked just behind the bench running lengthwise of the café.

Stumptown serves as the base for a concise coffee menu with slightly atypical options like an agave latté. For those with dietary restrictions, milk options include soy and almond. There are a handful of bottled beverages, including Health-Ade, a kombucha drink that’s been gaining traction at local cafés as a coffee alternative. You’ll find little to no pretension in service, just straightforward friendliness.

Café de Leche adheres to a policy of wifi-less weekends, a touch — alongside the kid’s play area in the back, a display of art by (mostly) local artists on one wall and rows of photos on another wall — that clues you to its deep connection to the surrounding community.

Café de Leche: 5000 York Blvd., Los Angeles; (323) 551-6828.

Ambiance: Low-volume downtempo/alternative jams. Happy chatter; indoor-voice conversations are rare (no one feels the need to whisper).
Amenities:: Unrestricted wifi during the weekdays. Outlets everywhere.  Kiddie play area in the back. Self-serve water near a sink — perfect for sticky hand situations.
Drink/Food: Stumptown coffee; cookies and muffins; Roman planchitas that can be heated upon request.