Coffee, Tea and a Script: 18 L.A. Hotspots for Hollywood Writers

6:15 AM 1/20/2017

by Lesley McKenzie

Phil Lord's Italian cafe, Damon Lindelof's late-night hangout, an 'Empire' scribe's "magical Starbucks": "You feel a little less likely to screw around on Facebook when Chris Weitz is a few chairs away."

The Office Brentwood - Publicity - H 2017
Courtesy of The Office

Carlito Rodriguez, writer-producer for Fox's Empire, credits his career break to a place he dubs "magical Starbucks." When Rodriguez moved from New York in 2010, he searched for an outpost of the chain in Burbank. "The constant buzz of coffee shops tricks me into thinking I'm not pushing the boulder up the mountain by myself," says Rodriguez, who spotted Damon Lindelof in line the day after reading THR's 2013 cover profile on the Lost co-creator. "Before I could talk myself out of it, I tapped him on the shoulder, like, 'Hey, man.'" Rodriguez later was named a Humanitas New Voices for Drama winner, upon which Lindelof suggested a meeting at his office on the Warner Bros. lot, where the then-new writer was offered a job on the first season of HBO's The Leftovers. "Boom: magical Starbucks," he says.

Rodriguez now works at home when not in the writers room, but as traditional studio deals that include lot offices are down overall, more Hollywood scribes than ever before are tapping away in coffee shops, at Soho House and at shared workspaces, from Santa Monica's theOffice to multiple WeWork spots to Hollywood's NeueHouse. "For people who are staffing on cable or streaming shows, there's a good part of the year where they're not reporting to the room," says WME agent Jordan Cerf. "Writers can be creatures of habit. Even if it's not that designated studio office, they still have their favorite spots."

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    Caffe Luxxe

    Producer and writer Phil Lord (the Lego franchise) gets down to business at the hangout inspired by Italy's cafe culture. "The espresso shots are so little that I get to have a coffee break every 45 minutes," he says of the growing microchain.

    925 Montana Ave., Santa Monica

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    With 26 work stations and complimentary tea, coffee, Bose headphones and Wi-Fi, this workspace is "cheaper than a solo office," says Michael Oates Palmer (The West Wing, Crossbones). He also likes the proximity to Brentwood Country Mart's Farmshop for breakfast. Past members include J.J. Abrams and Paul Feig. Says Palmer, "You feel a little less likely to screw around on Facebook when Chris Weitz is a few chairs away writing Rogue One."

    256 26th St., Ste. 101, Santa Monica; membership fees vary (currently there's a wait list)

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    Urth Caffe, Santa Monica

    "It's always crowded, often loud and they don't even have wall outlets — likely to discourage laptop-wielding miscreants like myself," says Ben Ketai, creator of Crackle drama series StartUp. "Nothing that a full charge and noise-canceling headphones can't fix." Ketai, who penned a draft of the Natalie Dormer-starring supernatural thriller The Forest here, is hooked on the organic coffee and pumpkin pie.

    2327 Main St., Santa Monica

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    The Getty Center

    Says Hidden Figures writer Allison Schroeder: "One of my guiltiest pleasures is the brownies. I love sitting on the lawn with my laptop, looking out at the view and eating those decadent chocolate treats."

    1200 Getty Center Dr.

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    Night owl Lindelof prefers this Brentwood Starbucks because it's open until 11 p.m. The Star Trek Into Darkness screenwriter gets the Protein Bistro Box (hard-boiled egg, apple, grapes, cheddar) "only to return to the counter and get four slices of pumpkin bread and a cake pop." Lindelof recalls a night when he was writing a scene in which someone is playing "name that tune" to A-ha's "Take On Me," and moments later, the song began playing in the cafe. "I was convinced I was being hacked," he jokes.

    11707 San Vicente Blvd.

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    Joni's Coffee Roasters

    "It's eclectic, low-key and you [can] stay there as long as you want," says Eileen Heisler, co-creator of ABC's The Middle. "My partner and I wrote the first script we ever sold here, which was [for] Doogie Howser, M.D." Heisler recommends the roasted-on-site coffee ("it's delicious"), the muffins and any of the egg dishes.

    552 Washington Blvd., Marina Del Rey

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    Deus Ex Machina

    "In good weather, I roll out to this Venice motorcycle emporium with a strange, wonderful coffee shop hidden behind it," says Doctor Strange and Passengers screenwriter Jon Spaihts. "Good bites, great coffee and a willfully interesting crowd of people."

    2318 Lincoln Blvd., Venice

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    Soho House West Hollywood

    "It definitely feels like a Portlandia sketch," says MTV's Sweet/Vicious creator Jennifer Robinson of the members-only club. There are drawbacks: "Just when I break through on a story, I'll inevitably find myself in conversation with a friend I haven't seen in months." The upside: running into pal screenwriters like Allan Loeb, who read her pilot. "He came back with a second twist for the ending, which is now one of my favorite moments in the series."

    9200 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood

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    Writers Guild Foundation Shavelson-Webb Library

    "Though it could use a makeover, and I wish some of my fellow writers would leave their shoes on," says screenwriter Joe Ballarini, "there's an energy here unlike any coffee shop." When he needs to take a break from penning the film adaptation of the Imagine Agents comic, Ballarini turns to the 25,000-plus scripts housed in the archives. "It encourages me to stop waiting for the muse to gently alight upon my shoulder."

    7000 W. Third St.

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    The Original Farmers Market

    Says Jon Robin Baitz, currently a producer on FX's American Crime Story: "I [co-wrote] most of the Brothers & Sisters pilot and interviewed all the writers we hired there. It's a safe, disarming place." Baitz recommends Loteria's tacos and gooseberry pie from Du-par's.

    6333 W. Third St.

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    C+M (Coffee+Milk) at LACMA

    Adam Nussdorf, creator of Freeform breakout Beyond, credits Americanos at this cafe on the museum grounds of LACMA for helping him write his pilot. "It's a nice oasis and a great way to escape the commotion of the city."

    LACMA, 5905 Wilshire Blvd.

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    Graffiti Cafe

    When in town, New York-based Danny Strong makes a beeline here. "It's big, open and comfortable, and they sell water in a box," says Strong, who wrote episodes of Empire (which he co-created with Lee Daniels) and his upcoming J.D. Salinger biopic Rebel in the Rye at the cafe that sells Intelligentsia coffee and LAMILL teas. "They also have a deal with a nearby Vietnamese restaurant, so I can order pho."

    180 S. La Brea Ave.

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    Coffee + Food

    Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice scribe David Goyer calls this Larchmont spot his "sometimes hang. They serve proper flat whites — refreshingly unpretentious."

    5630 Melrose Ave.

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    Writer-producer Ned Martel of FX's American Horror Story: Roanoke has been frequenting this hipster haven since early 2013, "before the line snaked around the corner," for the outdoor seating. "I would sit with a Sharpie, a hard copy of a draft, a turmeric tonic and maybe a horchata latte." But "these days, you'll feel greedy occupying a cafe table for too long. If I get 10 pages into a script, I feel that food-court glare from Swedish parents, Harajuku fashionistas and hung­over rockers."

    720 N. Virgil Ave.

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    Broome Street General Store

    "This place has a great little patio where I can write outdoors," says ABC's Once Upon a Time executive producer Andrew Chambliss. He has drawn inspiration from patrons, too. "There were characters in the season nine comic book of Buffy the Vampire Slayer inspired by people I'd spy at other tables."

    2912 Rowena Ave.

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    The Semi-Tropic

    AMC showrunner Christopher Rogers of Halt and Catch Fire started hanging out at Echo Park's The Semi-Tropic after a friend became a bartender. Rogers orders Americanos and, on occasion, day beers. "I love that it's also a bar, but the place is professionally soundproofed like a recording studio, so conversations and music don't overwhelm." Note: There's a policy of no laptops after dark.

    1412 N. Glendale Blvd., Echo Park

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    Chango Coffee

    "I like comfy white noise," says The CW's No Tomorrow consulting producer Bill Krebs, who favors soy lattes in the winter. "I wrote the spec scripts that got me my reps and nearly every one of my episodes here. The place has superb juju."

    1559 Echo Park Ave.

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    Market House at Disneyland

    Chris Bergoch, who co-wrote Tangerine with Sean Baker, sits at a table in a far corner at Market House, "which happens to be on Main Street USA in Disneyland." Bergoch has a season pass, "otherwise that would be a pretty expensive writing session." Run-ins include "Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, Pluto and sometimes, if I'm lucky, Rapunzel."

    Disneyland, Anaheim