A breakfast in good company

The Argonaut | By Richard Foss

I’m used to restaurant marketing, and I understand that names often reflect what a place once was rather than what it is. When I went to the legendary Iron Works Barbecue in Austin, it was with the understanding that no blacksmithing was currently in progress. It’s just a name, one that honors activities that once occurred there.

On the other hand, when I went to a place called Coffee Company in Westchester, I rather expected to be able to buy coffee — perhaps even several kinds of coffee, since I could see roasted beans through the glass-fronted bins by the register. When I asked about buying half a pound of dark roast, an employee explained that they used to sell it but don’t much anymore. The only thing she had for sale was caramel hazelnut, and since I’m not a fan of flavored drinks I declined.

What Coffee Company does very well is

serve breakfasts and lunches — accompanied by coffee if desired, and on weekends by mimosas if you happen to be celebrating something. Like the fact that it’s a weekend.

On our first visit I ordered a Belgian waffle with roasted pecans baked into the batter. It’s very rare to find a real Belgian waffle in L.A., as the cooking process involves a yeast-risen batter that takes much more time to make than other waffles, but delivers a heavenly lightness. This one sets a high standard, and the chopped pecans mixed in added some crunch and nutty flavor. The waffles are also available with chocolate chips as an add-in or topped with strawberries or bananas, but I find it hard to believe anything could top the pecan version. I got mine as a combination with poached eggs and smoky and spicy chicken sausage, and was glad I did — it was a breakfast with hints of the Old South.

My companions had a smoked salmon platter and a special of salmon croquettes and eggs with freshly made biscuits and grits. Like most Californians I didn’t grow up eating grits, but my wife did, and she gave these the seal of approval. They were buttery and creamy, with a nice corn flavor. The salmon cakes had plenty of fish, not much binder and gentle herb flavors. The biscuits were appropriately light and flaky.

Smoked salmon entrees are judged by quantity, variety and presentation, since there’s no real cooking involved. This one touched all the bases — lots of fish, along with shaved purple onion, lettuce, capers and a toasted bagel with cream cheese. Though variety of coffee wasn’t an option, they do make the standard coffee drinks; my mocha was a bit too sweet, but the cappuccino was just fine, and the standard Americano was served hot and strong, which is all one can really ask.

On a return visit for weekday lunch I mulled over having a burger or sandwich, but on a server’s recommendation I ordered the “feast from the East.” This is a sampler of Arabic specialties: a Greek-style salad, hummus, sautéed spiced chicken and warm whole-wheat pita bread. Hummus comes in many varieties, and this one had a comparatively rough texture and little olive oil flavor, with plenty of garlic. I usually like the creamier versions a little better, but this was quite acceptable. The salad had cucumber, tomato, black olive and greens in a mild dressing but no cheese; I would have preferred it with some feta, which would have added creamy tanginess.

The star of this feast was the chicken. I had expected simple sautéed meat with mild herbs from a place with a coffee shop format, but this was peppery and liberally spiked with herbs and garlic. The grilled chicken is also offered along with rice dishes and various vegetables, and it’s probably a hit with all of them.

These days The Coffee Company isn’t really the place for those who crave fancy caffeine delivery systems, but what the restaurant does, it does well. There was a line both times I was there, but since the restaurant is large, the wait isn’t long. The short wait is worth it for an experience much richer than that offered by the many chain restaurants that dominate the Westchester area.

Coffee Company is open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Beer and wine, vegetarian/vegan options available. Wheelchair access OK.

Street parking only.

The Coffee Company, 8751 La Tijera Blvd., Westchester (310) 645-7315 laxcoffeeco.com

Source: The Argonaut

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