Back when I worked in television, I was always on the lookout for a place to get a quick breakfast that wasn’t made of sugar and white flour. Those early morning shoots required more substance. If Coffee Commissary had been around, it would’ve been my go-to spot. It’s no coincidence then that this modern cafe opened its third location right across from the NBC Burbank Studios and within walking distance of Warner Bros. and Disney.
Sad but true, they took the place of Choza Mama, a beloved Peruvian restaurant. But Coffee Commissary fills a need in this landscape, a need for amazing coffee and hearty bites aimed squarely at young professionals. It is so tempting to use the word “hipsters” but that term, like “foodie,” is hackneyed. I prefer to call the well-dressed, quick-thinking young men behind the counter “snappies.” Their snappy vests and fedoras, their neatly trimmed beards seem to put them in a professional, efficient mood which makes ordering a breeze. Watching them make artfully crafted coffee drinks is also a pleasure. This is not your standard Echo Park coffee house where they sometimes ignore or even scorn customers.
They do an excellent pour-over here ($4), a method of slow-dripping off-the-boil water over medium-ground coffee beans to extract the most flavor (e.g. citrus-y or chocolate-y) and create the least bitterness. It takes patience and wrist-circling skills. Don’t get this if you’re in a hurry. The house brew is perfectly delicious. They offer a variety of complex, balanced coffee beans roasted by small roasters from towns that know roasting best: Portland, Seattle, San Francisco and Sacramento. If you want a shot of courage, try the Gibraltar, strong Brazilian Monteverde espresso in a small rocks glass with creamy steamed milk on top ($3.50).
Along with the caffeine, you’ll need some food to keep your foot from wiggling. They have daily handmade oat bars — blood orange when I was there. Nine-grain muffins, cinnamon-walnut coffee cake, gluten-free chocolate loaf cakes and individual rough-hewn quiches fill the display case. Their granola is something special. Made with extra virgin olive oil, the cinnamon-scented mixture won a James Beard award. Layered in their yogurt parfait ($4.50), it’s a healthy, quickly prepared meal. Also good but not so quickly prepared is the breakfast sandwich. This took a full 15 minutes but it was worth more than its $5 price tag. Buttery toasted ciabatta holds cheddar cheese, roasted tomato aioli and a free-range egg. I don’t actually know if the chicken was free-range but the egg was allowed free-range on the griddle — no weirdly perfect, unblemished circle here.
Lunchtime sees a few more sandwiches like the unique fried chicken sandwich with jalapeno slaw ($9). Slices of fresh jalapeno in a slightly pickled cabbage slaw balance the plump, fried chicken pieces. My only complaint was the hamburger style bun. Next time I’ll see if they offer a whole grain sandwich conveyance system. The potato chunks on the side are great — crispy, salty, sprinkled with parsley and accompanied by spicy ketchup. FYI, they’re open until 8 each night but only serve hot food until 4 p.m. (2 p.m. on weekends).
If you’ve got time to wait or even time to spare, the dining room is a cool hangout. Music, mainly guitar-heavy blues rock, is loud but comfortingly bass-y, making it oddly easy to get work done on your laptop or phone (with free Wi-Fi). Wood, steel and copper details warm up the place and the Mossoni zigzag-sweater-painted floor is awesome. The patio, next to a decent-sized parking lot, is still charming and good for conversation. Coffee Commissary is also not a bad choice for production assistants wanting to impress the crew. The tasty food travels well in to-go boxes that are stackable, biodegradable and cool-looking.
What: Coffee Commissary
Where: 3121 W. Olive Ave., Burbank
When: Daily, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Prices: Coffee drinks, $2 to $5; breakfast foods, $3 to $6; sandwiches, $5 to $9
More info: (818) 556-6055; www.coffeecommissary.com
LISA DUPUY has reviewed over 200 local restaurants for the Los Angeles Times Community News. She can be reached at [email protected].com.