If you need coffee immediately, Starbucks is probably the best bet no matter what side of town you're on. Sometimes it seems ridiculous how many there are, but it's also rather comforting. With a chain, you're likely to have consistency, so you know you're going to get the same quality product, and hopefully a clean accessible bathroom no matter which location you end up in. I think their soy latte ranks highest, thanks to the vanilla soy milk they use which gives it just the right sweetness.
While the Coffee Bean does a beautiful latte and a great Americano, it's their specialty drinks that make them stand out as what I'm going to call the more popular Los Angeles chain coffee shop. Ice Blendeds, Tea Lattes (Chai, English Breakfast, you name it), and a wider variety of iced tea flavors than most coffee shops gets the CB some points. They also toast a mean bagel, and the Sunset and Fairfax location has really easy free parking. It also seems to be a celebrity favorite (Perez Hilton used to work out of the West Hollywood location to celeb-spot), Demi Moore is pictured above exiting a Coffee Bean with a large hot drink.
Urth Caffe uses only organic coffees and teas, and they recently opened a location downtown Los Angeles. Their original spot (still open and always bustling) is on Melrose just west of La Cienega. Urth Caffe puts a lot of care into the way they make drinks, often decorating the top of the foam of a latte with a leaf or heart, etc. What's great about Urth Caffe is they have delicious food as well--salads, soups, sandwiches, even lasagna! Their cookies and baked goods are notable as well. If you have a little more time on your hands, and maybe even want to sit down with your latte, try Urth Caffe.
Since I live on the east side now, I need to mention these three: Intelligentsia, Alcove, and Lamill. I'm sure there are more I'm missing, but here's a quick roundup of the Silver Lake/Los Feliz favorites--Intelligentsia can have a very long line, but they do make their drinks with great care, and individually brew drip coffees (you can chose which beans you'd like for your cup). Their cups are very cute, and the beans are locally roasted. Alcove, like Urth Caffe, has a full menu of good food, and it's a beautiful atmosphere to sit a while. Lamill was voted to have the best iced coffee last year by Los Angeles Magazine, and now they serve alcohol too.
Most baristas at all of these places are more than happy to explain their drinks and what--based on your inclinations--may most enjoy.
-- Leslie Anne Wiggins
Photo credit: www.denimblog.com