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Intelligentsia Coffee: Silver Lake First, West Coast Domination Second

We have more info on Intelligentsia Coffee opening at Sunset Junction in April. With a Starbuck's, Peet's, or Coffee Bean every 10 feet in this town, could there be room for one more? We spoke with Doug Zell, CEO of the Chicago-based company, to find out why LA, why now, why Silver Lake, why coffee. One thing we know: They may be from the Midwest, but they're really into SL. The cafe and shop should fit right in?like a chic vintage glove.

The Coffee: Expect seasonal coffees from around the world, and we don't mean eggnog lattes. "In Chicago, you know that tomatoes in winter aren't good. We think the same way with coffee." Zell says the company works with growers and helps develop the coffees literally from the ground up.

The Concept: Consider this a boutique coffee shop, the same way Silverlake Wine is a boutique wine shop. The baristas perform "latte art" and act more like mixologists or sommeliers. "If someone comes in looking to buy coffee, we'll ask them what they're serving it with and what kind of coffee they like. We won't just shove some over-roasted, tasteless cup of coffee in their hands."

The Space: Eastsider Barbara Bester, who wrote "Bohemian Modern: Living in Silverlake," is in charge of design. Intelligentsia's three Chicago shops all have unique designs because the company would rather meld with a neighborhood than force its own aesthetic. The former Latino grocery will have an old-meets-new, not-too-sleek vibe, using some eco-friendly elements.

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Via Morganthemoth's Flickr stream

The Neighborhood: Zell believes LA, especially Silver Lake, is ripe for an artisanal coffee experience. "There's a burgeoning food scene here, and it's really underserved from a great coffee standpoint. Silver Lake seems especially food forward. With the cheese store and Café Stella right there, it will be very symbiotic. It's just the right place to start." He didn't just throw a dart on a map; one of the company's reps lives in the neighborhood. But he did want a neighborhood that really feels like a neighborhood, where people live their lives, take the kids out for gelato, and?walk.

Intelligentsia will also open a roasting facility nearby, so no shipping the goods across country, which will undoubtedly lead to expansion ("We think we'll open more stores, but we'll be very selective and limit the number."), but also tap into the artisanal food scene in Southern California by getting local chefs to serve their coffees. Currently Sona, Mozza, Jar, and Hungry Cat have it on their menus.
· Intelligentsia: A Coffee that Screams Eastside [Eater LA]
· Intelligentsia Coffee [Official site]

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