Generally speaking, Los Angeles is not considered a walking city—there are a few small neighborhood pockets that are easy to navigate by foot, but they’re few and far between. One area that’s slowly transitioning to take on more of a neighborhood feel is the Arts District downtown. Visitors can easily grab coffee at Handsome Coffee Roasters, eat lunch and do some shopping all within a few blocks, without feeling like they’re next to one of the city’s busy highyways.
Until two years ago, the neighborhood was still divided into two parts, with not many people strolling down Mateo Street. They don’t want to take all of the credit, but the owners of Handsome Coffee Roasters feel some responsibility for bridging the gap.
“We wanted to preserve the possibility of an amazing walking neighborhood,” owner Tyler Wells told us. With their easily accessible corner location, the shop encourages people to stop by and settle in with a cup of coffee for a morning, or grab a drink to go.
As we’ve found in every city that we’ve visited on the trip (including our own hometown of New York), coffee is having a moment. We’ve found at least one speciality shop in each city, boasting an array of options for your morning brew and often a complicated process to get you a cup. If you’re not familiar with the many types of beans, their origins and flavor notes, it can often become intimidating.
Handsome Coffee Roasters appeals to every type of coffee drinker—if you want to geek out of over a rare blend and the roasting process, they’re more than happy to talk to you about it. If you just want a cup of coffee, you can ask for simply that and still walk away with a perfectly brewed beverage.
When searching for a space for the shop, Tyler told us they had a list of requirements: “Arts District, corner location, skylights and roll-up door.” This space, although a boarded up bunker when they first discovered it, fit the bill perfectly and had “beautiful bones” when they began to tear it up.
The arrival of their roaster, a 1956 Probat purchased from Belgium, was a monumental moment. It’s the most sought after roaster in the world and has been out of production for approximately 60 years. After wiring their payment (and not even seeing photos prior), they waited months for its arrival.
“Essentially, it’s a big fancy barbecue,” Tyler explained. It has a rotating cast iron drum that tosses the coffee beans, which actually green prior to going through the roasting process.
For the first five months after they settled into the space, they operated what Tyler calls the, “ICP—the illegal coffee parlor,” for five months. They doled out free coffee through their back roll-up garage door to anyone to stopped by—often up to 100 people per day.
Although visitors to Handsome joked when they had to begin to pay, they’re more than happy to when it means they get to pick up their day by interacting with the incredibly friendly baristas and support the business as a whole. The business is celebrating its one year anniversary this week and we’ll be there to officially celebrate with them this Friday! The bus will be part of their Arts District block party and will be arriving around 7pm.
Tyler is wearing the Fillmore in Revolver Black.
Photos by Collin Hughes