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The Downtown Diner feeds her caffeine addiction

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Now a “career woman", Leilani Wertens searches for the perfect meal during her lunch hour in an oft neglected part of Los Angeles—the newly revitalized downtown district. Read about her weekly culinary adventures on LAist.

by Leilani Wertens

I am a self-proclaimed coffee junkie. With a Starbucks just around the corner from my apartment and a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf just across the street from my office, what else could I be? Grande peppermint mocha frappuccinos and ice blended white chocolate dreams are my poisons of choice. Sure, I feel a little guilty supporting these corporate chains that are a little soulless, but it’s hard to ignore the fact that they’re dependable and convenient. They’re also ubiquitous, if there isn’t one in the basement of your office building there’s one across the street or around the block. But what has happened to the institution of the coffee house, where live music and cozy couches invite customers to stay a while rather than rush out juggling cell phones, brief cases and a nonfat venti vanilla latte? This weekend I take a look at three locally owned coffee shops downtown, Ground Works Coffee, The Bishop, and Lost Souls Café in a quest to find quality java and a place where locals can just truly hang out.

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Ground Works Coffee

It is only fitting that I found a cozy and slightly bohemian coffee house in the Arts District on Traction Avenue just a short walk from Little Tokyo. The area of warehouses and lofts can be gritty in parts but this stretch of the street sees more foot traffic with a tobacco shop and the popular Zen Sushi restaurant nearby. The interior feels industrial—large wooden crossbeams dominate the ceiling and exposed pipes jut out from the exposed brick wall— that gives it a sense of roughness and ultimately character.

The clientele are almost a study in artistic stereotypes: in one corner a guy doodles in his sketchpad as another customer pushes up his thick black glasses while flipping the pages of a thick tome, and a brunette tugs on her vintage beads while scribbling furiously in an open notebook. With the bright screen printed graphic posters lining the walls and … it is easy to see why artists, writers, and intellectual types would flock to Ground Works. While they don’t offer a performance space for musicians, the coffee house still retains a neighborhood feel with a large bulletin board for posting and several old typewriters available for use.