Cafe Balcony moving

So in putting the aforementioned blogroll together, I came across the Cafe Balcony website. Didn’t know they had one, so good to know. Sadly, the site mentioned that the location I have known and loved and lingered in for years now, will be no more. The building is not renewing their lease. The space will not be theirs come the end of this month.

So no longer at a street corner with free parking nearby, a view of a huge giant billboard advertising mostly for HBO, a psychic two doors down, and sometimes fake plastic flowers planted in the triangular patch out front.

Instead, fortunately, they were already making plans to expand to a different Santa Monica location, so their expansion is now, instead, their moving. Sometime. Timeframe unknown.

So I went to the location, not knowing when next I would be on the Westside to come visit, and asked about their moving. Did they know where to yet? On Ocean Park, the woman behind the counter said, perhaps around 31st. Thanks.

And I took my mocha and sat at the counter, and took a few pictures to remember the place by.

The View towards Santa Monica Boulevard

The View towards Santa Monica Boulevard











 I can’t even remember how it was that I stumbled upon this cafe to begin with. I think I saw the sandwich board outside with the funky psychedelic artwork announcing Cafe Balcony, and people outside, smoking and playing chess. Okay, I’ll bite. I went in. The biggest issue was always their cash only policy, so frequently I had to make sure to visit when I knew I had some cash in my pocket. Once I started working in the area, it was even more problematic, since their hours are noon to midnight. But I want my coffee to wake up with in the morning. Cafe Balcony was first and foremost my leisure time destination coffee place. Even when working just down the street, I visited very rarely. Only when I was dragging after lunch and happened to be driving about.

I liked the vibe there. It was a quiet place. People often came to be in solitude near people. A lot of students needing an internet connection. The red walls attracted me, there was always a new art exhibit on the walls every month, there were regulars who chatted up the sole worker behind the counter, great dance/trance/atmospheric music playing if you cared to listen, but most patrons had on their iPods or headphones plugged into their laptops. Cell phones were not forbidden, but the quietness sort of excluded lengthy use. Hushed talking was more appropriate. If you wanted to talk and be loud, most people went outside. There were regular chess players who had their tables staked out, smoking their cigarettes. No one seemed to care if you languished for hours there. It was also one of those places that you didn’t expect the service to be speedy, and the patrons helped one another out. You could always tell the new patrons, because they just assumed their being there entitled them to rushed service. But everything was done at the pace that the one server could handle, and if s/he had a number of orders to fill, they were always filled in order, but sometimes other patrons would deliver them to the right table. We would also tell a patron where the restroom key was, if they couldn’t find it and the server was not visible. Every order was filled with patience, care and art, whether it was the foam patterns on top, or the siphon coffee patiently brewed, or even a sandwich made, it took time to be done well.

I guess the reason I have always enjoyed it is because it felt like a community. I might not have ever known anyone else’s name, but I felt welcomed. I like the quiet solitude, broken by occassional busy-ness. I liked how it was actually on a side residential street that intersected with two major streets in Los Angeles, on the border of Santa Monica. Hidden, but visible once you knew where to look.

Their new destination is actually an area I am quite familiar with. My brother used to work at Activision, there on Ocean Park. There is already a Starbucks on that street, a little mall with restaurants and things, a few chain restaurants in the parking lots of the business park that backs onto the airfield of Santa Monica Airport. For the most part it is pretty homogenous with mainstream America, with a few quirky treasures hidden. Behind the business park is a restaurant whose theme is aeronautical, and has a wonderful back wall that is all window, to view the planes of the airport. But being a private airport, and despite having an extensive bar, by nighttime, there are few planes to watch. There are a few unique stores on Ocean Park, but although I wish Cafe Balcony luck, I hope their quiet community of solitude and coffee will not be shattered in this new neighborhood.

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