coffee and canada
Traveling for coffee is fun. The sights en route to my destination teach me about neighborhoods within a city. The journey is a visual reference guide that has a kaleidoscope or color theories, architectural views and always includes interesting encounters with humans who, like me are coming discover something that hopefully is wonderful.
On a weekday, when all the skies’ clouds had parted and a spring breeze blew, I mapped myself to Chinatown for a sandwich, not a Canadian cold brew coffee which is the main cause of writing this. So how do I end up praising a beverage as much as a sandwich at a place known for its sandwiches?
Let me tell you the story.
After taking a walk down Broadway, a street lined with vendors of Chinese descent selling visor hats, miniature Buddha’s and fresh fruit, I made a right turn into the building that GPS said I’d arrived to.
I might as well have been a kid in a candy store, as I was instantly enamored with this sandwich factory whose color palette made me feel like the kid in me was about to have a lot of fun in one of the six, plush cushioned swivel chairs at the counter bar.
A woman sat two chairs over to my left, deep into a laptop having just placed her sandwich order. She looked comfortable as if this wasn’t her first time. Nor, was it the first time of the man to my right, sitting in the seat next to the wall of mementos, aged cooking books and framed photos, one including the type font of Los Angeles magazine.
Social media told me visually that the sandwiches here were Instagram worthy – colorful, generous proportions and beautifully plated.
Upon arriving to the commercial kitchen space where fluorescent lights lit up its pale pink and turquoise green palette, I felt like I was definitely inside of a building where some entrepreneurs were making greatness out of what they had, versus a super shiny open concept, fine dining restaurant – that’s okay too – with ample seating and miniature portions.
Upon seeing my neighbors to the left and right receive their orders, I was happy about my choice, but could see how successive visits would be necessary, because I now wanted to try their choices sans meat. I was tempted to choose the Ira Glass for the obvious storytelling reasons, but I went with the Hettie Lynn Hurtes Baguette.
Truth be told, I came here for the story that the branding told, and the story about a couple Lauren and Peter Lemos- who met while working in L.A., later married and then decided to start a sandwich shop. Their first go at it existed in a shipping container and then this Chinatown one where I dined, where light greens, soft pinks and sandwiches named after NPR personalities is storybook material.
The sandwiches are full of personality. My baguette with seasonal vegetables in between included a green olive tapenade. Bomb! I didn’t even know that I would like it since I’m
not a fan of green olives but I loved it and the green cesar pumpkin vin which dripped down the corner of my mouth like vin does.
So far, I’ve talked about the sandwich, I know. And here is where I talk about the coffee. I ordered a hot tea to accompany my lunch because it seemed agreeable and I was skeptical of the coffee. Then I inquired what my fellow guest to the right had: it was coffee. A pinch of curiosity appeared. So, I asked about the coffee and was told they served cold brew, although my hostess told me she could make a hot drip for me if I liked. Not wanting her to go through the trouble and curious about this menu item that I overlooked I opted to try the Canadian cold brew.
It had me at first cold sip. No lie! The key was the maple syrup, sourced from Canada, after one of the owners tasted it and fell in love with it. I see how. That balanced sweetness paired with specialty beans from San Francisco’s Ritual Coffee coupled with vanilla bean and almond milk made for four parts deliciousness. In this iteration cold brew was cool literally and like a vanilla bean custard – sweet with just enough acidic pinch.
With my sandwich nearly gone by the time I ordered the cold brew, I was sad that I didn’t have it earlier, to enjoy during the duration of my lunch. This is a testament that coffee doesn’t and shouldn’t just be considered as a menu item to round out an establishments offering. Not that such was the case here. As well, it’s a forward move in modern culture to see coffee is in an age where it’s being served to complement menus and not just be on them.