Sunday, February 08, 2009

Urth Caffe

Thursday night after Kogi, we headed to Urth Caffe for coffee & dessert.
Urth Cafe
PROS: Pastry is good & they have wifi, & convenient if you are in the Arts District.
CONS: Pricepoint was a bit much, location wasn't that convenient, dining space was a little cramped, and there are no bike racks.
VERDICT: Nice but unless I have a reason to be here, I doubt I'll be coming back soon.

Ok.. so the following is the complete review if you'd like to read the details of our visit:

This was my most recent visit since Urth Cafe's ground breaking around this time last year (and the first time since they opened for business in December 2008).

My first impression was how incredibly small the seating area actually was given the actual size of the land used.

A photo I took on ground breaking day, you can see the sheer size of the space.. at several thousand sq ft.

This Urth Caffe houses offices and bakery, and only a small portion was actually used for a retail location.

The cafe is across the street from the Barker Block and was touted as a neighborhood friendly location, and indeed there are many folks who partake in a coffee at this location (I didn't run into anyone I knew this particular night.. oh well!)

The menu board is fairly easy to read and isn't near as pretentious as some of the other cafes Downtown. Still, I'm kind of spoiled with places like GroundWork Arts District which feels more like an old shoe than this food & drink location.

Yes, food & drink.. Urth Caffe serves sandwiches & salads as well as baked goods and coffee. So that could be a plus if you're looking for food.

We were just wanting coffee & a pastry.. and the staff at the counter were pretty friendly.

They have many pastries to choose from, and they all look pretty good. The price points might be a little surprising, however.

Louisiana Pecan Pie was about 6inches diameter. We of course split ours, but easily could have split it with a third person.

I ordered a Medium Cafe Au Lait and SeanYoda had a single French press. As you may be able to see, the pie was $6.25, so the total came to about $14.00.

After our purchase we got a number and then went to sit down. The immediate dining space to the right of the counter is a small, candle lit room with tables close together. Close enough for intimate dining, but a little too intimate in that your fellow diners are almost on top of you.

collage of images along the wall above the bakery/cashier area.

We didn't have our laptops with us, but I looked around to see how difficult it was to use an outlet if needed for the 'free wifi' and spotted one outlet on the wall and in another location high up on the wall, just as a review on BlogDowntown stated. I can't see anyone going out of their way to use that outlet unless they really had the need. Later before we left we finally spotted the "counter seating" to the left of the entry as you walk in. As far as where the outlets might be there, we never found them.

Eventually my cafe au lait was delivered, and a few minutes later SeanYoda's French Press arrived.

Cafe au lait from Urth Caffe. The (steamed milk is charged separate at 50cents)

SeanYoda's French Press arrived at the table already plunged.

There were a choice of about a dozen coffees to choose from and while SeanYoda can't recall which he chose, he said it was good.

While the coffee showed up pretty quick, we had to inquire a couple times about the pie. I would have thought it would take some time if we had chosen the option to have the pie heated, which we didn't.

So when Sean's coffee showed up and we still didn't have our pie, Sean inquired and we continued to wait. While we waited, we enjoyed our coffee, warming our hands on our coffee cups, and taking in our surroundings. It seemed some time had passed, and so finally I went up to the counter and inquired regarding the pie.

Being my first time, I was starting to wonder if we were supposed take the pie to our table when we sat down rather than wait for it to come out. I was advised that yes, the pie was to come out with one of the servers. So the fact that we'd been there about 20min and still had no pie, it seemed a little awkward.

Once it got to the table though, we cut the pie in half an immediately dug in. The pecan pie was baked to perfection, firm and meaty. We were so glad to have our pie that I forgot to take photos once it got to the table. =) I would gladly try this pie again if I had opportunity in the future, despite the rather high-end price point.

The fact is though, I don't know when I would go to Urth Caffe anytime in the future. I don't get to the Arts District that often, and when I do at $14 for a couple cups of coffee and pie, I would rather go to GroundWork on Traction. It's a much more affordable 'every day' sort of location vs. Urth.

Urth Cafe

I may want to try lunch here sometime but again, the price point puts me off a little. Also, I doubt I would use Urth as a wifi hotspot unless it was a convenient time, as the dining area didn't really lend itself to relaxation or a 'hangout' sort of spot. Perhaps a few more visits might change my point of view on that. I'll keep the option open.

I think it would be a good place to take friends for lunch or have a business meeting, though I can't imagine it being a good place to discuss any sort of sensitive information, rather a "closing" or "lunch break" sort of place.

Another downer,(and it's not something that is Urth Caffe's problem alone) is that there are no bike racks. It doesn't encourage such environmental commuting other than walking if you are in the area. If you are out of foot traffic range, it's a drive (with parking) or a walk from Hewitt & Traction. Then again, if you are stopping off at Hewitt & Traction, might as well stop at Ay Carumba! for lunch or GroundWork for your coffee and sandwich. The coffee is just as good (if not better at GroundWork) and the pricepoint at either location is more affordable.

Urth Caffe (arts district)
451 South Hewitt Street
Los Angles, CA. 90012

Barker Block across from Urth Cafe
located right across the street from the Barker Block


Li said...

I agree with a lot of what you said, but both times I've been to Urth it's been packed. Even in this economy, there are people willing to pay those prices.

meekorouse said...

yah, I'll admit I'm cheap!! ;P

The pie and coffee was definitely good but at $15 or more per visit (assuming I wanted more than a cuppa and 1/2 pastry per visit) I'd be broke in no time flat.

When I hear that people are regulars here I think it's fantastic, but they got way more disposable than I do, methinks. ;P

As an alternate I still really like the Arts District Groundwork and for coffee and/or pastries I *heart* Ma Petite Bakery very much! For coffee, I can't beat Banquette across the street (they serve GroundWork coffee).

For uber cheap we have Peets whole bean that I order online and brew at home.. ok not 'uber' cheap if you get the Sumatran or the Jamaican Blue Mountain or whatever I ordered for Sean once at $74 but there's nothing like the wifi at home and coffee brewed the way 'you like it' but... it's not as social! Love the social aspect of hanging out at a decent cafe. ;)

God I'm chatty.

Rico said...

Pretty informative review. Much appreciated, Ms. Meeko!

The free WiFi is better in theory than execution here. It's just way too packed and busy. I'd feel bad taking up a whole seat with my laptop, even if I did pay my money...

Ma Petit on the other hand... I've been several times in the past couple weeks and every time it's gotten worse. Wait times have multiplied (even when it's not busy), food quality is suffering and customer service is lacking too.

I'm putting them on a three-month moratorium to work it out -- which is better than my one-year moratorium on Wood Spoon that is just now being lifted!

Funny experience at Groundwork: Jake was looking to buy a French press, and I saw they had a free French press with the purchase of one pound of coffee. I excitedly grabbed one and brought it to the register, then asked about the special.

The employee looked kinda nervous and said "Oh... that coffee is $100.00 a pound..."

I almost dropped the damn French press and haven't gone back since.

meekorouse said...

I haven't been to Ma Petite since December and had a big salad.. wasn't keen on the dressing so much but it was ok. I guess I need to head there at some point, but I won't rush. ;)

Regarding the $100 coffee I would hope they'd give you a free cup to see if you even liked it. That just seems like too much! You could get a 1lb of decent coffee and the french press for like $40. Crazy.