Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Zeli Coffee Bar (#6 In a Quest)

At 3:20 on a Monday afternoon, doesn't it seem like people should be at work? Well, they are. They're at coffee shops with their laptops. Or at least they're at Zeli, packed in and bustling. I thought maybe I went at the wrong time of day, but the reviews at Yelp.com tell me maybe not.

Zeli Coffee Bar, at 695 Colorado Blvd., is an adjunct to Vroman's Bookstore. It should be perfect - you buy your book then slink into the coffee shop and sit down for a read. Zeli has couches, tables, and a bar facing the window onto Colorado Blvd. Plenty of outdoor tables, too, but it was too cold for me to sit outside yesterday.

So I ordered a latte and found myself a chair in the corner. There was no table available so I had to prop up my laptop in my actual lap. That thing gets warm! (The laptop. Then the lap.) I was crowded, crunched and personally toasted. There was no place to put the papers I needed to read from, so I stuck them on top of my purse beside the chair on the floor and glanced down to refer to them when I needed to. When I had a chance I moved to the couch which was more comfortable, but dirty and torn.

With all that movement and all those bodies, people were working intently and being relatively quiet. Upstairs at Vroman's there's an extensive, wonderful kids' books section and several moms came in with little kids. I thought, "Oh no," but even the kids were civilized.

Music: nice, instrumental, eastern European. But I was stuck under the speaker, so too loud where I was sitting.
Service: impersonal but efficient.
Wifi: free and fast.

Coffee: bad. I mean BAYAD. I like my coffee hot, but it was still too hot to drink ten minutes after I got it. When it was finally cool enough to dare a sip, it was flavorless - flat - blah. Overcooked? I don't know. My guess is if they hadn't burned it it might have had some taste, but I'm not an expert on how to make it, that's supposed to be their bailiwick. Maybe water that hot is good for tea.

I love Vroman's. LOVE LOVE LOVE Vroman's. It's the best bookstore I've ever been in. EVER. Powell's is wonderful but overwhelming. Vroman's is just right. Zeli is beneath Vroman's standards.

Onward. The Quest continues.

27 comments:

Laurie said...

Ack! I am often one of those moms with a kid that make the quiet, pensive laptoppers in coffee houses look like they just swallowed the coffee you describe...

I haven't tried this place but I'm disappointed to know it's not as fabulous as Vromens. I totally agree about that bookstore. It really is close to a perfect bookstore. (Although I still miss Chattertons.)

lynn said...

It's still quite difficult here in Gloucestershire UK to find cafes with a wireless connection! I find it irritating. So often I'd like - or need - to stop and write up notes or the whole article and there's nowhere! The one place I used to make for in Cheltenham, changed hands and they dropped the wireless thing. We are miles behind... sigh.

Jilly said...

Doesn't sound good. Especially the loud music and worse, the bad coffee. Love this quest...

Chuck Pefley said...

A fun, even if sometimes disappointing, quest you're embarked upon. :)

Susan C said...

I agree with you about the sub-par coffee, so I stick with the tea, which is beautifully served in an individual pot.

I never understand why most people order their coffee or tea drinks in to-go cups. Half of the experience is the beauty of the cup.

Petrea said...

I can't tell you what a pleasure it is to turn on my computer at 8:00 in the morning and find comments from South Pasadena, California; Cheltenham, England; Menton, France; Seattle, Washington; and Altadena, California. I guess I'm old enough to think of the Internet as a miracle. Let's all just share a moment and quietly thank Tim Berners-Lee in our hearts and minds.

Laurie, I'll bet your kids are well-mannered, too. And I'm guessing Chattertons is somewhere in or near Austin?

Lynn, that surprises me! I remember everyone in Oxford had cell phones long before they were ubiquitous here. Seems you'd be way ahead of us.

Yeah, Jilly, I think I'm going to have to accept the music. But bad coffee in a coffee bar? I don't think so.

Thanks, Chuck. It really is a fun project. I suppose in Seattle it would be a never-ending project.

Susan C: Not only is it aesthetically more pleasing, it creates less waste. A friend recommends taking your own re-usable thermos-type cup. I keep meaning to and forgetting.

altadenahiker said...

I haven't been here for a few years, but sounds like it has gone downhill. Was a great place to go on a stormy day -- first to buy a book, and then to sit by the window w/a cup and watch the rain.

Per your review, I'm still planning on checking out Zephyr. Saw another one you reviewed -- on Green and DeLacy. Looked industrial and uncomfortable.

ben wideman said...

Is Fuller's Coffee by the Books on your list? It's small, and you can't get on the Fuller network unless you are student or get a guest ID, but they do serve fair trade coffee at a reasonable price.

Cafe Observer said...

LA, chattertons is still open, under new mgmt & name: skylight books. Vromans was kinda like chattertons before it remodeled. But, Vroman's strikes a great balance which puts it almost in a class of its own.

P, I don't think there is a chattertons in TX unless they moved there!

Relatively speaking, Zeli's is one of the better wiFi cafes to do work in.

Laurie said...

Cafe, where is Skylight Books? Is it in the old Chattertons location? I haven't been over in that neighborhood in years -- I loved the indie cinema down the street too.

P, I only have one little rug rat but she is often loud enough for more than one. It's not that she's ill-mannered, just highly social. Along the lines of "What are all these people doing? Hi! Hi everyone! Are you working on a computer? I love computers. Mommy, why do I have to be quiet? I'm just making conversation. Do you like conversation?" Ah, three year olds...

I agree with pausing for a moment to give thanks for the internet. I'm with you about thinking it's miraculous.

maria said...

i find that more and more coffee bars don't have a bar to sit at and drink your coffee. there are usually not enough tables and couches, chairs to sit on. and most of the time, there is plenty of room to add more seats. its bad enough not to find a seat, but BAD coffee....eeeek. you are truly a brave lady Petrea ;-)

HearkenCreative said...

I'll second Fuller's Coffee By The Books -- at least for the great coffee & other beverages. Not much seating, though, and, when school is in session, the line can get extremely long.

Sorry to hear about the bad coffee, Petrea. I haven't walked down to Vromans much since Bungalow News went out of business across the street. While Vroman's is still my first choice for browsing (especially their extensive children's section), I haven't found time to try out Zeli recently (and probably won't now). I did try The Daily Grind over on Green and Delacey, and agree that the music is too loud, and feels a bit too much like a chain for me (coffee was okay). Oh well. I'll keep braving Equator for the time being...

Cafe Observer said...

LA, yes it's the old location. Actually there are 2 theatres next to it, the one on Vermont & the oldie/indie at the corner of sunset/hollywood (u know that multi-intersection).

I need to ck it out more often to compare Chat vs Sky versions

I remember the old Fuller Book Cafe. I have to find someone I know who goes to Fuller so I can use this place!

USelaine said...

The names of coffee joints are second only to hair salons for puns and fun nonsense. There's a tiny drive-through coffee shack up here, that is cheesy-unphotographable, called Brewed Awakening. I guess when the names get too ridiculous, it's a relief to have just-a-name.

pasadenaadjacent.com said...

Like Vromans, love Hennessey and Ingalls, don't care for Zeli's. Thats the coffee bar where you can watch the dentist in action from the third floor of the building across the street.

marley said...

Quest 6 made me smile. Was your lap as cooked as the coffee?! Lol.

Let the quest continue :)

elizabeth said...

USelaine- we have a drive-thru espresso shack too. Ours is called Gotta Java.

You'd have to drink your coffee in your car, though, and no wifi, so I think it fails to qualify for Petrea's quest.

Miss Havisham's Tea Party said...

I like Zeli's. I had a delectable piece of apple pie there. The coffee wasn't memorable but then you know me, I'll drink anything!

Speaking of Chatterton's, I thought they were once on the SE corner of Colorado and Madison but I could be wrong-whatever that bookstore was I loved it. Book Alley moved down the street closer to PCC, and I like that place a whole lot-sans the liquid refreshment obtained at it's old location next to Famima! on Colorado. I miss their hard wood floors.

Tash said...

Vroman's was the best in the 70s too. 2 stories, jamb packed, narrow eisles. At this coffee place has free wi-fi, that's why everyone is putting up with all the other stuff. Happy questing.
Miss H., I'm sorry to have to say this, but that is not an apple pie - I'm sure it's delicious, but not pie. If there is another Tea Party, I will bring pie.

Miss Havisham's Tea Party said...

You're right, Tash. That is more like an apple building or savings and loan (now vacant).

Cafe Observer said...

MH, I think u mean Chattertons books @ Colorado/Oakland in Pasadena, something that was way before my time, like pre-birth. In which case, I guess you would know better! The Pasadena Chatterons gave birth later to the better known Los Feliz chattertons, which died in 1994, then gave birth 2 yrs later to skylight books at the same location. The original Pasadena store closed sometime after the los feliz branch opened.

Zeli's supposedly gets their sandwitches from Patticakes in altaDena. Zeli's gets packed on movie nites from de Laemmle theatre next door.

Tash, 70's pre-remodeled Vroman's was good also.

Petrea said...

Hi everybody, thanks for joining in. I'm enjoying the Quest. Each place has something unique, good or bad. Zeli has Vroman's and nobody else has those bragging rights.

AH, you'll like the Zephyr. There's no other place like it.

Ben, Fuller's on my list, though I may wait 'til school's out per Hearken/Loren. (Equator's on my list, too.) When is school out?

Laurie and CO, Skylight was John's haunt before he met me and we moved in this direction. A great spot.

Elaine, there used to be one in West Hollywood called "Buzz." I dated a guy in high school named Buzz.

PA, what are Hennessey and Ingalls? I googled but my search was too general.

Marley, ouch!

Elizabeth - I didn't know about Gotta Java. Reviews are so good I'm going.

Miss H, where is that tabletop? It's familiar. Driving me crazy. I thought it might be PattiCakes but no.

Tash, everybody's got free wifi. Everybody doesn't have apple pie, though.

Cafe Observer said...

P, i think the tabletop is from the Zeli's outside porch.

Miss Havisham's Tea Party said...

The young pup is correct. That's outside Zeli's on warmer day.

USelaine said...

"Buzz" could be both a coffee joint AND a hair salon! Your only choice, a buzz-cut. Don't even have to leave your car...

Petrea said...

On a warm day, I'll return to Zeli, order tea and sit outside. I think it'll be more pleasant, as long as I can avoid smokers. I'll enjoy the street view.

Elaine, all that hair in the car. Am I just being a party pooper?

Christie said...

Glad you love the bookstore, but sorry you had a bad cup of coffee. Not fun. Especially when you're primed for a good cuppa joe!

Happy Hunting!