Café Grumpy's real-life staffers are unfazed by their proximity to fame and noticeably more ambitious than their on-screen counterparts.

Kat Palen, a 27-year-old barista, recently relocated to New York from Chicago to pursue a career in coffee.

She settled on Café Grumpy because of its Kenya pour-over, not because of "Girls" — in fact, she's never seen a single episode of the show.

"I don't have HBO. I have, like, rabbit ears and the Internet," she says. Her dad, though, is a big fan. "He just says that Lena Dunham — is that the name? She's really smart. She reminds him of me."

Similarly, manager Jesse Kohn, 24, an aspiring fiction writer, has to rely on his parents for "Girls" updates.

"They're really cool, they watch more TV than I do," he says, wearily stacking cups at the tail end of a shift that began at 6:15 a.m.

Whatever the case may be, an employee as flighty and unreliable as Hannah would not last long at the real Café Grumpy.

"We had a guy bring in a Nabokov book and put it on top of the espresso machine and just stand there reading his book, which I thought was hysterical," Bell recalls. "Yeah, that doesn't work. You actually have to work hard."

meredith.blake@latimes.com