About twenty years ago somehow I came across a place in Little Tokyo called "Focus, Salon De Cafe", how? I have no idea. It was a Japanese coffee house hiding inside a building with no visible entrance and a very secret clientele of coffee officiandos drinking $4 cups of coffee years before Starbucks ever ever considered charging that much. As I say on my coffee page, it is still listed, but I have not gone there to see if it is still really there.
What was their gimmick? Vac Pots.
At the time I had no idea what vacuum siphon coffee brewing was about, I only knew that the coffee at Focus Salon was unlike anything I had ever had.
20 years later and after many close calls buying my own Vac Pot I stumble onto what might be the best cup of coffee in LA at balcony cafe.
balcony cafe (they use all lower case in their logo, does that mean I should as well?) with it's innocent and deceptive sign reading merely "Cafe" is across the street from "My Gym" where my five year old son Jack goes every Tuesday between 3:45pm and 4:30pm for a work out. I have often thought, oh I sure would like to get a snack over there and see what it was all about, but crossing Wilshire Blvd at junction of Centinela always seemed to be more than I could handle.
The other day all that changed.
I walked into Cafe Balcony and I was immediately fascinated by what was going on in the place. It just had a good vibe. As I got closer to the counter I shook my head in disbelief, because what I thought I was taking into my field of view were Vac Pots. Lots of 'em. I was a little nervous, like I wanted that moment to last as long as possible. The anticipation and the discovery of whether or not this place was actually going got make me a vacuum siphoned cup of coffee. Well, I am not going to beat around the bush, as soon as Ray the proprietor excused himself for being low on beans, I ordered a $2.50 cup of coffee, siphon style.
I went back to my car, got my glasses, my camera and the Wall St. Journal and came back to the most amazing cup of coffee I have had since the Focus Cafe, and this time it is right here on the West Side of Los Angeles.
After thoroughly enjoying that cup I got into a great conversation with Ray regarding many aspects of coffee brewing, drinking, roasting and storage. The conversation lead to an new level of obsessive do-it-yourself coffee mayhem when he started telling me about roasting your own beans using the West Bend Poppery air popcorn popper as outlined in this article here.
Clearly I had found a place that I felt a comfort in and a familiarity with. And yes I am now considering when and where I will start the process of roasting my own beans, but of course before all of that I have to buy a Hario Vac Pot (which are getting harder to locate even online) and wouldn't you know, Ray has 'em, brought back from Taiwan by traveling freinds where they are easy to pick up.
Alas, Cafe Balcony only takes cash. I am getting one very soon.
There is a coffee god.