G&B Coffee @ SQIRL: Seasonal, Thoughtful, Ephemeral
720 North Virgil Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90029
213 394 6526
Synchronicity isn’t just an album from The Police. It’s also what happens when like-minded people come together for a cause. In the case of G&B Coffee co-founders Kyle Glanville and Charles Babinski and SQIRL founder Jessica Koslow, the goal was to create a fluid and complementary food and beverage experience at SQIRL’s Silver Lake headquarters during an extended pop-up. The trio incorporated a contemporary FreelandBuck design, complete with a vortex-like shade and zig-zag benches to accommodate guests, before opening October 4.
In Los Angeles, caffeine junkies won’t find a more accomplished duo than Glanville and Babinski. Glanville has been working with coffee since 2001, helped plant and grow Intelligentsia Coffee in Los Angeles and won the 2008 United States Barista Championship. Babinski most recently worked for Intelligentsia too, serving as an educator and placing second at the 2012 United States Barista Championship. At SQIRL, they’re the only people behind bar (for now), and the results are excellent. They operate a three-group La Marzocco espresso machine, prepare Kallita Wave filter coffee and bottle cold brew coffee and tea.
When G&B Coffee finds a permanent home(s), they plan to roast their own coffee, but even then, they’ll still rotate roasters, casting a wide net to source the best coffees of the season. During our two initial visits, they were brewing beans from Vancouver’s 49th Parallel.
One of the things that sets G&B Coffee apart from other shops is their attention to detail. Hardly any other shops (in the country) weigh espresso before serving the demitasse cups. When Glanville pulled my first shot of 49th Parallel Epic Espresso ($3), he junked it because the weight didn’t fall into an acceptable range, which was 28-31 grams, though that number varies depending on the beans and day. His second well-flecked shot hit the marks for sweetness and acidity and brought minimal bitterness.
Koslow, a farm-driven jam maker and chef, and former Canele chef Ria Wilson, preside over SQIRL’s open kitchen. They change the blackboard menu even more frequently than G&B, inspired by finds at farmers markets and products they get directly from farms.
They source buttery brioche from Proof, an early SQIRL backer, and treat the bread to savory and sweet toppings. We stuck with savory Brioche Toast ($6.50), featuring hearty kale, tangy tomatillo puree, lacto-fermented hot sauce and a photogenic fried egg.
Kukoho Rose Brown Rice ($7), produced by the family-run Koda Farms in California’s San Joaquin Valley since 1928, featured sorrel pesto, tart preserved Meyer lemon, a gorgeous poached egg, tangy feta, blistered San Marzano tomatoes, tiny, burgundy hued cherry tomatoes, and a judicious amount of hot sauce.
For breakfast, SQIRL sells Proof Bakery granola with homemade almond milk or homemade yogurt and jam. Since this is SQIRL headquarters, jars of jam line the shelf behind one coffee bar. Choices change with the seasons and might include Seascape Strawberry & Rose Geranium, Brown Sugar Blenheim Apricot and Elephant Heart Plum.
Malva Pudding Cake ($3) is a muffin-like South African cake that incorporates apricot jam. When the round is still hot, Koslow pours in a sauce of cream, butter and light water, but the cake still doesn’t get very rich, a testament to her deft touch..
We returned for more Kukoho Rose Brown Rice, this time as Porridge ($6). The cool rice pudding-like bowl came with a choice of jam and toasted hazelnuts. My jam was brown sugar Blenheim apricot, which contributed to a great combo.
Glanville tends to stay behind the espresso station, and pulled shots of 49th Parallel Coffee Roasters Sidamo, from Ethiopia’s Fero Co-op. In a Short Capp ($3.50), aka a Gibraltar, when combined with milk, the espresso is mocha-like, even without chocolate. Amazing.
We visited G&B Coffee at SQIRL in the collaboration’s infancy, and we were already impressed with the results and value. G&B’s coffee is worth experiencing for its precision and flavor, and SQIRL’s food is welcome thanks to the quality and timeliness of the ingredients, the creativity (and flavor). However, each element elevates its counterpart, so try both.