Forget the tourists, the crowded pier and the rage-inducing beach traffic—Santa Monica is a hub for every Angeleno who loves the beach and solid happy hours. But we need quality coffee to fuel us through the early morning surf sessions and long work days, and Santa Monica is great for that, too. We rounded up the best coffee shops in Santa Monica for a cold brew, latte, espresso or whatever gets your heart palpitating.
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It may look a tad sterile, but Primo Passo pays just as much attention to their coffee as they do to their pristine decor. Enjoy a rotating list of microbrews made from globally-sourced Stumptown beans at this welcoming corner coffee shop with high ceilings and white walls. Locals sip and chat at the communal bench out front and at the high tables in the back while nibbling on baked goods from nearby Farmshop. Oh, and their latte art is a thing of beauty.
Gary Chau and Mark Wain's cafe has brought a touch of European elegance to this stretch of Montana Avenue. The drinks are all handmade, and the beans and leaves are sourced from small family-owned businesses around the world. Pastries and savory goods are baked locally and there's a small selection of gift items. In fact, the only thing Luxxe doesn't have is internet—deliberately so. You may find cheaper coffee elsewhere, but you won't find better.
An homage to American skateboard history, Dogtown Coffee is like something out of—well, Lords of Dogtown. The walls are plastered with images of long-haired beachgoers surfing and skating in a color palette that may seem straight from the '90s, until an actual surfer walks into Dogtown (barefoot, mind you) and asks for "a cold brew, dude." It's that kind of place, one that fits right in with the neighborhood's "whatever, man" mentality. Skateboards for sale hang from the walls (the cafe is, after all, in the old Zephyr shop), which you can contemplate purchasing while you wait in line for a coffee, smoothie, or the shop's colossal Munchies breakfast burrito. The sea salted caramel latte is a signature drink, perfect for when you're craving something a little salty, a little sweet—kind of like the ocean.
Espresso Cielo does not employ, in their words, Rockstar Baristas—you know, the java know-it-alls who look down on you for adding a packet of Splenda to your cappuccino. Instead, they share their knowledge of coffee and tea with anyone who asks, offering suggestions if you need a little nudge. Cielo whips up your standard offerings using 49th Parallel coffee (lattes, cappuccinos, espressos); their larger portions are served in huge cups that look less like mugs and more like bowls. And for tea drinkers, a cup of Pacific Coast mint tea is perfect for foggy Santa Monica mornings. Free Wi-Fi and ample indoor and outdoor seating make this a spot conducive to hanging out for hours.
Walk through the big glass doors at Lo/Cal, a new coffee shop and market on Pico, and you'll be greeted with the smell of Stumptown coffee brewing. But don't automatically ask for a hot cup—their cold brew on tap uses nitrous oxide, giving this fan favorite a creamy, beer-like texture (fill up a 64 oz. growler to go if you can't get enough in-store). Shelves are lined with goods from Lemon Bird and Isabella's Cookie Company, as well as a solid selection of fresh juices and retro sodas. Snag one of the few spots inside or grab a pastry and coffee (the Art of Tea is also on hand, for all you tea drinkers) for a morning stroll down Pico.
Funnel Mill may claim to be a low-key coffee shop, but their rare selection of coffee and tea makes it clear that they're not messing around. An array of coffee is elegantly served on silver trays with milk and sugar on the side; enjoy your cup in the Asian-inspired lounge area featuring draped curtains and elegant furniture. The most notable item on the menu is the $80 cup of Kopi Luwak, made from beans that have already passed through the digestive system of a creature called the Sumatran Paradoxurus. Mmm, tasty.
La Monarca’s Santa Monica location boasts an impressive selection of desserts, though it's their unique coffee choices that may have you sticking around for a while. The Cafe Oaxaca (with Mexican chocolate) and Cafe Taxco (with whipped cream and cinnamon) lure sweet-toothed passers-by looking for a caffeine boost. If you’re in the mood for something more traditional, don’t worry: there are enough cafe lattes, mochas, and espressos to go around (as well as cafe con leche). Make sure to order one (or five) of the small, 50-cent cookies to go with your coffee. If you’re stopping in for lunch, browse the pastry display as well as their afternoon and dinner menu, which includes salads, molletes (a steal) and tortas.
Most people are familiar with M Street Kitchen for its breakfast, lunch and dinner offerings, the bakery that taunts you with rows of muffins and cookies, and the intoxicating smell of pizza that wafts from the attached Stella Barra Pizzeria. But they also offer a daily happy hour that slashes cocktail and sushi prices, and their coffee bar—a small counter between M Street Kitchen and Stella Barra—brews fantastic java that's perfect for either enjoying with a pastry at the bar or taking it to-go for a morning stroll on the beach. You can also order anything off the menu to-go, if the line for a table is super long.