Handsome Coffee Roasters Strip Away Specialty Coffee Conventions in Downtown L.A.’s Arts District

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Handsome Coffee Roasters Owners Mike Phillips, Tyler Wells, and Chris Owens take a brief break.

Most new specialty coffee companies are interested in adding wrinkles to the coffeebar experience, but Handsome Coffee Roasters co-founders Chris Owens, Michael Phillips and Tyler Wells are more interested in stripping away conventions at their new Arts District café and roastery.

For design and construction, the Intelligentsia veterans brought in WoodSmithe, a nearby firm that also worked on Wurstkuche. Phillips said, “Handsome is a company designed around sort of unpretentious quality.” Given that, they opted for “working class materials” like copper, iron, glass, subway tiles, and concrete flooring, with tables and chairs crafted from white oak and a “granite” bar top. “It’s all very functional,” said Phillips. “It’s all meant for the purpose we’re using it for, but it’s also clean and beautiful.” Sight-lines run from the street, through the glass fronted bar, into the glass-fronted coffee roastery, and beyond to the back room. However, it’s not all so straightforward. The packaging and aged maple walls in the hallway sport flair in the form of “Handsome items,” some of which have deeper meaning, like a bowtie, which references Tyler Wells’ attire, and boxing gloves, which correspond to Handsome’s seasonal Fisticuffs espresso blend.

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Handsome has no WiFi or wall outlets in keeping with a nouveau retro vibe that includes a vintage van.

Handsome has no wall outlets or internet, which might make some coffee visitors squirm, but as Owens said, they want Handsome to be “the center for the community to come together, and not being the center for the community to come and isolate themselves in a public space.”

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Handsome opted for a “very simple, very clean” look and thoughtful bar flow.

To optimize bar flow, which Phillips described as “the beating heart of a functioning coffee bar,” the trio relied on past experience and built on a successful model, Seattle’s Espresso Vivace. At Handsome, people enter, the barista takes your order, and they lead you to a register for payment and/or pastries. However, unlike Vivace, Handsome also has brewed coffee, but made sure to keep it “very simple, very clean,” with no overhead menus. Instead, the menu’s painted near the entrance.

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Design permeates Handsome Coffee Roasters, down to their ceramic mugs.



Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

Blog Comments

Handsome Coffee is an amazing space.
However, I witnessed the construction sequence firsthand and Woodsmithe did not do the construction? I dont think they are a licensed contractor or design/build firm…? They headed up most of the design and Natahnael Balon is great. I remember Matt from a design build firm called Delta Remodeling running the show down there.
In any case, Handsome is an awesome spot and they did a great job. I love it there


It sounds like you have intimate familiarity with the Handsome Coffee construction process. Maybe I only know part of that story. Either way, you’re right, the space looks great.

Cambria, a lot of people these days also have their own sources of internet, like 4g modems and such. I do like how Handsome is trying to take away things that prevent people from interacting with one another. Coffeehouses are supposed to be places where people can do that.

Very interesting…curtis one cup brewer. I have to see this in action.

if they don’t offer interwebz how can i suck on coffee while hanging with josh lurie while we both work simultaneously?


Hilarious question. I do try to write at coffeehouses with WiFi, but Handsome could be a good escape. Also, Mike, Chris and Tyler didn’t say they were banning laptops, so I could still see writing there, just not posting.

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