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Deborah Schoeneman

Deborah Schoeneman

Posted: March 31, 2010 11:54 AM

Cafe Society

What's Your Reaction:

LA is home to perhaps the most writers with wildly varying degrees of employment than any other city. There are the struggling ones trying to break into Hollywood, the stressed out ones on a deadline and the established ones who just want to get out of their big houses.
And there's a lot in between.

What these writers have in common is that they don't have an office. They tend to gather at local cafes, hunkering down with laptops and caffeine for a structureless day where they must focus on structure within a story. They like to be surrounded by other people working on the same kind of stuff. It helps from snacking, napping, self loathing and waiting by the phone for your agent to call. Plus, there's the extra bonus of being able to talk through an idea or get help with a joke if you're lucky.

Last week Insomnia Cafe on Beverly, one of the city's most popular spots for writers to work, abruptly closed. Last year, Dr. Tea's, another favorite West Hollywood spot, also closed.
What are we all to do?

After two years of embedded research, I've come up with a list of the best cafes to work. I feel a little guilty about spreading it around in case they get overrun, so promise to play by the rules if you show up:
1. Go outside to talk on your cell phone and keep the phone on vibrate.
2.Buy food/drink to support the institution.
3.Tip big to help out the staff.
4. Use headphones if you watch a video or listen to music.
5. Try to keep your voice down when you're having conversations.
6. Protect people's unattended laptops from theft.
7. Save the business meetings for cocktail hour.
8. Don't complain loudly about all the work you have.
9. Don't laugh out loud too much at something you're reading.
10. Don't have a parade of friends visit you if they're not also working.

Here's my top 10 list of the best spots to write if you want to avoid mega chains like Coffee Bean and Starbucks:

1. Palihouse
Pluses: Free parking until around 5pm, good music, very nice help, great decor, central location, booze, outdoor seating, free Wi-Fi.
Minuses: Food is good but a bit pricey. Non-writers tend to have loud meetings there about things that involve marketing and synergy. Sometimes there are photo shoots and models lounging around.

2. Bricks and Scones
Pluses: Family run and there's delicious pastries baked in house, some free parking, great tea, outdoor seating, free Wi-Fi.
Minuses: It can get too crowded to get a table (often with students), the menu is limited, sometimes they play the soundtracks to TV shows.

3. Soho House
Pluses: Gorgeous outdoor seating, star sightings, stunning views, cool decor, exciting tea time special.
Minuses: Membership only, pricey, you have to pay for parking, people are pretty dressed up, spotty Wi-Fi, not a ton of outlets for power cords.

4. The Novel Cafe
Pluses: Multiple locations, good food and decor.
Minuses: No parking, paid Wi-Fi, can get crowded.

5. 18th Street Coffee House
Pluses: Outdoor seating, good vibe, great food, friendly help. Apparently Bob Dylan used to hang there.
Minuses: No Wi-Fi, limited parking.

6. Casa del Mar
Pluses: Ocean views, comfy chairs, quiet.
Minuses: Expensive, touristy.

7. Abbot's Habit
Pluses: On Abbot Kinney, one of L.A.'s best streets, great food, local vibe.
Minuses: Crowded, small tables, people tend to have loud conversations.

8. Intelligensia
Pluses: Fantastic coffee, multiple locations.
Minuses: Most seating is outside, where it can be hard to see a laptop screen when it's sunny.

9. Mustard Seed Cafe
Pluses: Great food, free Wi-Fi, very nice help, outdoor seating.
Minuses: Only metered parking, not a ton of seating.

10. Casbah Cafe
Pluses: Good food and music, cool decor, free Wi-Fi.
Minuses: No parking, very limited seating and outlets.