Just past the VENICE sign on the way to the oceanfront skate park, stop off at Menotti’s Coffee Stop, the domain of coffee legend Christopher “nicely” Abel Alameda, to self-medicate. A secret menu lurks behind a photo of the coffee bar’s patron saint, Cesar Menotti, a man who ran a Prohibition speakeasy in the basement. That subterranean space now houses Del Monte Speakeasy, a sister business from Netty Ryan and husband Louie, but let’s get back to sharing secrets.
I flipped over Menotti to find new secret menu items. #2 Pencil ($5) is a cappuccino featuring fresh-pulled espresso blended with Schizandu Organics activated charcoal, which makes the appearance bolder, and the texture a bit grainier, but ultimately doesn’t impact flavor. If you’re looking for a bigger jolt of creativity, nicely and his crew also serve Charcoal-ate Milk with house-made Valrhona chocolate ganache, hemp milk, more charcoal, and a dash of Maldon sea salt.
You won’t get black lung from ingesting this charcoal. Instead, activated charcoal is used as a detoxifying agent and has also been known to help treat spider bites. In the case of Schizandu Organics, they char hardwood to create this powder, though other companies use materials like bamboo or coconut. Regardless, I found this drink to be especially fitting since I enjoyed a #2 Pencil during LAUSD’s return for their fall semester. Good thing my barista’s pour was so sharp.