L.A. Writing Spot Review #6: Head West! Then stop at the Krispy Kreme.

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If you’re in Santa Monica and want to get some work done in a surprisingly accommodating space, head to the Krispy Kreme.  The ambiance is intentionally designed to evoke a bygone era (think later seasons Mad Men) but not in a particularly classy or thoughtful way.  The tile on the walls and the yellow/greenish color scheme has a very clinical feel to it.

What it lacks in style, though, it more than makes up in other areas for laptop slaves like me — ample seating with access to power outlets, free wifi, and, of course, a wide selection of freshly baked Krispy Kreme doughnuts — an uncommon sight in the L.A. area (and one that is largely unappreciated by the lifelong residents of surrounding Santa Monica).  This location also has a Coffee Bean counter offering most (if not all) of the Coffee Bean drink menu.

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Delicious doughnuts + Good caffeinated beverages + laptop-friendly seating = A decent place to kill some time and get some work done.

Krispy Kreme Santa Monica
1231 Wilshire Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90403

L.A. Writing Spot Review #5: THE BEST WRITING SPOT YOU REFUSE TO GO TO

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A few months ago the Corner Bakery Cafe in the Beverly Connection underwent a drastic renovation — so drastic they actually moved the entire restaurant 150 feet.

The new location is surprisingly well thought out for laptop users.  The whole restaurant is lined with intimate, two-person booths, all equipped with power outlets (and there’s a bar with outlets, too).  It’s spacious enough that even during the lunch rush, seating is easy to be found.  The wi-fi is decent.  And the menu has recently been given a once-over (and much improved in my opinion).  If you’re not in the mood for a meal, the staff doesn’t mind if you just buy a drink and set-up shop either.

If you’re near the border of Beverly Hills and West Hollywood, you could do a lot worse than the new Corner Bakery.  It’s one of my go-to spots now.

LA Writing Spot Review #4: Look, another Coffee Bean!

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This is the Coffee Bean across from The Palazzo at Park La Brea (near the Grove).  It’s nothing special.  There’s ample outdoor seating. Very little indoors.  It’s the kind of place the 45,000 people who live at Park La Brea probably frequent, but otherwise there’s no reason why you’d ever need to step foot in this place.

The coffee shop itself had no working wifi, and the free wifi from the neighboring motel was so bad, I couldn’t even post this short review from there.

Now, for a bigger rant about Coffee Bean overall — their smartphone app sucks.  It’ll log you out right when you’re ready to pay (slowing down what should be a quick process). It works by flashing a numerical code on the screen that the barista needs to manually enter into their register.  How quaint.  Oh, and the app took 17 dollars from me.  17 bucks just vanished from my account.  The people at CB corporate were nice enough to look into it and refund the missing money, but the manager on duty when the money actually disappeared — it happened while I was standing at the register, the barista even confirmed that the money was there, before it mysteriously disappeared — was pretty unsympathetic about the whole thing.

If you like CB’s drinks, keep going.  I just can’t recommend using their app.  Oh, and their rewards program is terrible.  Unlike Starbucks, where any 12 drinks equals a free purchase, the CB’s reward system is point based.  Every dollar spent is supposed to equal 1 point. Except it doesn’t, because they round down to the nearest dollar during each transaction.  In other words, if you spend $3.95, you only get three points, and those 95 cents never get counted, ever.  To get those 40 points, you’ll have to spend a lot more than $40.

Next time: I’ll review the absolute best place to get some work done if you’re near Beverly Hills/West Hollywood.

LA WRITING SPOT REVIEW #3: The Larchmont Coffee Bean

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This one will be short, as this location can be summed up quite easily: Small.

Location:  135 N. Larchmont Blvd, between Beverly Blvd and 1st Street.

Parking:  Metered on the street, but if you’re willing to walk a couple blocks, Larchmont Blvd. has free 2 hour parking on the other side of 1st Street.

Ambiance:  Quaint. Feels like a Coffee Bean you might find in a mall or airport.  It’s standing room only on the inside, and not because it’s busy, but because there are no seats of any kind.  If you want to see one of the many famous people who live in the neighborhood (or those working at the nearby Paramount Lot), you’re better off going to the Starbucks or Peet’s across the street. (If you care about such things, which you totally shouldn’t.)

Seating Inside: Zero.

Seating Outside:  Seating for 10 — 5 tables with 2 chairs each.

Amenities: No outlets to speak of.  No bathroom.

Wifi: Even with no one else apparently using it, it’s a rather mediocre 1.83Mbps downstream and 0.41Mbps upstream.  Servicable for reading most websites, but if you need to download/upload a big file, it’s not the best.

Music: Can’t hear what’s currently playing inside.

Ability to do work here:  Not bad if you’ve got plenty of battery power, a healthy bladder, and the weather is decent.  Before coming here, I went by the neighborhood’s Starbucks and Peet’s first, which are larger with more seating (especially inside), but both were packed.  If one of them had inside seating available, I’d be there right now.   In a pinch, though, it’ll do, as it is for me right now.

LA WRITING SPOT REVIEW #2: The Wannabe ‘Bucks (Starbucks @ Robertson & Beverly)

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This is my 2nd Westside coffeehouse review.  You can read the first one here.

Location:  The corner of Beverly Blvd and Robertson Blvd, near The Ivy, at the end of a street full of high-end boutiques you should never actually buy anything at.

Parking:  Metered parking on the street, but if you take a moment to drive through the nearby neighborhood, you should be able to find a free spot that’s good for a couple hours.

The Vibe:  It’s technically in West Hollywood, but the atmosphere is all Beverly Hills circa 1995.  The place is a magnet for well-to-do locals who have nothing to do during the day (and the tourists who love them).  At least, the locals want you to think they’re well-off. They love to talk rather loudly about their latest “projects,” making sure everyone in the establishment knows they’re a producer/entrepreneur/investor/whatever.  Posturing like that doesn’t bode well for authenticity.  Either way, because most of the clientele are not confined by “jobs,” the place is always busy.  Fun fact:  If you see a tourist with a really nice camera that looks like he hasn’t showered in a week, he’s no tourist at all!  He’s actually a paparazzo waiting for a reality “star” to show at one of the many Kitsons on the block. (Yes, I said many Kitsons, as in more than one. FYI: The last time an actual celebrity shopped at Kitson was in 2006.)  How do the paparazzi know when a wannabe celebrity is coming to the block?  Because the “star” tips them off.  (Another thing that doesn’t bode well for authenticity.)

Seating:  Inside there’s room for about 16 to sit (6 two-tops, 1 larger table).  Outside there are several more tables, but they’re mostly lined up against a long bench with oddly placed armrests that limit the number of people who can sit there.  Whether inside or outside, if you can find a seat, the good news is that it’s probably within reach of an electrical outlet.  The outlets can be hard to spot (one is even in the ceiling), but they are there if you look for them.

Wifi:  Typical Starbucks wifi powered by AT&T.  As I write this, with four customers using laptops and a few more using tablets & smart phones also possibly on the network, I’m getting a maximum download speed of less than 1Mbps.  0.89 to be exact.  That blows.  It’s so slow, I couldn’t even post this review from the cafe. I had to cross the street to use the wifi at a Coffee Bean to post it.  Because Starbucks’ wifi networks aren’t password protected, there’s probably a lot more people on it than there appears to be.

Food & Drink:  It’s Starbucks.  If you find yourself actually coming in here and waiting in line for something to drink, it’s only because you really wanted to tell people you went to Starbucks.

Music:  Currently playing something that I can’t make out.

Distinguishing Feature:  The $100,000+ car with a handicapped placard parked just outside at an expired meter, driven by an asshole who clearly has full use of all their limbs and not a single shred of decency.

Ability to get work done here:  If you need Starbucks-branded coffee and can find a seat, sure, you could get some work done if you really have to.  But you’ll need headphones, a high tolerance for Persian cologne, and blinders if you’re easily distracted by sideboob.  Otherwise, just cross the street where the larger Coffee Bean offers more seating and better Wifi.

L.A. WRITING SPOT REVIEW #1: The 90210 Coffee Bean

One of the perks of being a (mostly) freelance writer — always a change of scenery.  I do a lot of my work out-and-about, at various places on the Westside of Los Angeles.  My writer-friends are always asking me what I think of certain spots so I figured, what the heck, why I don’t just review them all?  First up is the Coffee Bean on North Beverly Drive in Beverly Hills, which is not to be confused with the Coffee Bean on South Beverly Drive (just a few blocks away) or the one on Beverly Blvd (about a mile away).

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Location:  Heart of “downtown” Beverly Hills on the corner of N. Beverly Dr. and Little Santa Monica Blvd. (Do people still call it Little Santa Monica? Or is just South Santa Monica now, which is confusing because it runs parallel to North Santa Monica?)

Parking:  It’s near two city-run garages that offer free parking for up to 2 hours before 6pm. Nice.

Seating: By my count, at least 20+ inside.  Another 10+ outside.  In total, 8 two-tops, two “lounge-y” areas with more plush seating, one larger table that three or four people could sit around, and two bars.   One is a communal “power bar” that seats 7 with individual outlets for every seated patron.  There’s also a slimmer bar against the wall that sits another half-dozen people who don’t care about power (or having their backs stared at by people waiting for their drinks).

Food & Drink:   Same selection as any other Coffee Bean as far as I could tell.

Typical Customer:  Appears to be mostly people who don’t want to wait in line at the more crowded Starbucks across the street.  The power bar attracts laptop wielders willing to sacrifice space for some much needed juice.

Amenities: Public bathroom.  Lots of the aforementioned electrical sockets.

Wifi:  Typical Coffee Bean wifi (i.e. requires a passcode that is readily visible on their infotainment screen).  At 11:50am on a Monday, with two laptop users, a guy on an iPad, and a couple smartphones appearing to be on the network, the download speed was 4.38Mbps.  I haven’t run this official speed test anywhere else yet, but based on personal experience, I have a feeling it’ll beat the other coffeehouses in the neighborhood (two Starbucks, a Peet’s, and another Coffee Bean).  The upload was a dismal 0.51Mbps.  So don’t plan on Skyping, but you know what?  You should never Skype at a coffeehouse anyway.  It’s tacky and hogs the bandwidth.  Also worth mentioning:  My Dropbox folder had no trouble syncing over the wifi, but my Google Drive folder was “unable to connect.”

Music:  Currently playing “Dig A Little Deeper” by Peter Bjorn and John.

Distinguishing Trait:  The gas fireplace fully encased in glass that produces no heat.  Any perceived warmth comes from the emptiness of your soul (or the people sitting around you, as around it are the most popular places to sit).

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Ability to do work here:  Pretty good, actually.  There’s almost always seating, and because it’s never all that crowded, it’s never all that loud.  If you have a meeting anywhere in Beverly Hills and want to get some work done before or after, this is an excellent choice.