Welcome to one of the oddest coffeehouses in America
LA's Paper or Plastik is also a dance studio, and a comedy club, a bar, and a laptop-free zone.
Situated in the up-and-coming hipster enclave of West Pico Boulevard in Los Angeles, Paper or Plastik Café fits right in with its environment. The design is industrial – the inside is decorated with metal beams, vintage light fixtures, and wooden tables – and the baristas are on trend, looking like they belong on Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn.
But wait, there's more. There's a dance studio in the back of Paper or Plastik Café. While diners are grabbing a coffee or meal, they can peer through a window and watch dancers using the space to practice their moves. At night, while they are eating dinner or having drinks with friends, they can attend comedy, music, dance and spoken-word storytelling shows.
“Paper or Plastik is a hang out place,” said the café’s proprietor, Jacob Yasha Michelson. “You come in the morning, and can spend time here in the evening.” Michelson, who grew up in Israel just outside of the coastal Mediterranean city of Tel Aviv, runs Paper or Plastik with his wife and daughter.
When customers stroll in, they can try the café’s signature dishes – which includes lemon ricotta pancakes with strawberry rhubarb compote, shakshouka and grilled polenta, salmon eggs benedict and a roasted poblano burrito with scrambled eggs, queso fresco and tomatillo sour cream.
For lunch, customers are able to order one of the many sandwiches and salads, including the salmon pastrami Reuben, fried green tomato grilled cheese, or the warm roasted kale and sunflower tahini salad. Dinner includes a turkey sausage Bahn Mi, polentina and root vegetable bowl, and spicy black tofu with crispy kale and brown rice dashi. At night, wine, beer and cocktails are served with dinner.
Diners wanting to grab a quick bite can take a look at the pastries like butter croissants, blondie bars and the café’s “PoP tarts,” and complement their sweets with a coffee or tea. Paper or Plastik uses the roasting companies Coava, Black Oak and Elm Coffee Roasters.
Cecily Bleich, who lives in the neighborhood, said she has been frequenting the café for three years now. "I started coming to Paper or Plastik in 2014 after falling in love with their mocha," she told From The Grapevine. "They have skilled baristas who actually know how to compose a drink."
Unlike other cafés in Los Angeles, people typing away on their screenplays do not occupy the tables. This is intentional; there are tables in the back and upstairs for diners on laptops, while the ones in the front are labeled with signs that say “Laptop free.” Michelson said people on laptops “are not good for business, not only because you're occupying tables but you get this image of a Starbucks. Slowly, we get rid of the computers.”
Michelson wants Paper or Plastik to be seen as a gathering place where people can sit back, sip on a cup of coffee or eat some delicious fare, and simply talk to one another. “We are filling up the social void because there is a social void in Los Angeles. This fills one big social void.”
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