Back when I worked in television, I was always on the lookout for a place to get a quick breakfast that wasn’t made of sugar and white flour. Those early morning shoots required more substance. If Coffee Commissary had been around, it would’ve been my go-to spot. It’s no coincidence then that this modern cafe opened its third location right across from the
Sad but true, they took the place of Choza Mama, a beloved Peruvian restaurant. But Coffee Commissary fills a need in this landscape, a need for amazing coffee and hearty bites aimed squarely at young professionals. It is so tempting to use the word "hipsters" but that term, like "foodie," is hackneyed. I prefer to call the well-dressed, quick-thinking young men behind the counter "snappies." Their snappy vests and fedoras, their neatly trimmed beards seem to put them in a professional, efficient mood which makes ordering a breeze. Watching them make artfully crafted coffee drinks is also a pleasure. This is not your standard Echo Park coffee house where they sometimes ignore or even scorn customers.
They do an excellent pour-over here ($4), a method of slow-dripping off-the-boil water over medium-ground coffee beans to extract the most flavor (e.g. citrus-y or chocolate-y) and create the least bitterness. It takes patience and wrist-circling skills. Don't get this if you're in a hurry. The house brew is perfectly delicious. They offer a variety of complex, balanced coffee beans roasted by small roasters from towns that know roasting best: Portland, Seattle, San Francisco and Sacramento. If you want a shot of courage, try the Gibraltar, strong Brazilian Monteverde espresso in a small rocks glass with creamy steamed milk on top ($3.50).
Along with the caffeine, you'll need some food to keep your foot from wiggling. They have daily handmade oat bars — blood orange when I was there. Nine-grain muffins, cinnamon-walnut coffee cake, gluten-free chocolate loaf cakes and individual rough-hewn quiches fill the display case. Their granola is something special. Made with extra virgin olive oil, the cinnamon-scented mixture won a James Beard award. Layered in their yogurt parfait ($4.50), it's a healthy, quickly prepared meal. Also good but not so quickly prepared is the breakfast sandwich. This took a full 15 minutes but it was worth more than its $5 price tag. Buttery toasted ciabatta holds cheddar cheese, roasted tomato aioli and a free-range egg. I don't actually know if the chicken was free-range but the egg was allowed free-range on the griddle — no weirdly perfect, unblemished circle here.
Lunchtime sees a few more sandwiches like the unique fried chicken sandwich with jalapeno slaw ($9). Slices of fresh jalapeno in a slightly pickled cabbage slaw balance the plump, fried chicken pieces. My only complaint was the hamburger style bun. Next time I'll see if they offer a whole grain sandwich conveyance system. The potato chunks on the side are great — crispy, salty, sprinkled with parsley and accompanied by spicy ketchup. FYI, they're open until 8 each night but only serve hot food until 4 p.m. (2 p.m. on weekends).
If you've got time to wait or even time to spare, the dining room is a cool hangout. Music, mainly guitar-heavy blues rock, is loud but comfortingly bass-y, making it oddly easy to get work done on your laptop or phone (with free Wi-Fi). Wood, steel and copper details warm up the place and the Mossoni zigzag-sweater-painted floor is awesome. The patio, next to a decent-sized parking lot, is still charming and good for conversation. Coffee Commissary is also not a bad choice for production assistants wanting to impress the crew. The tasty food travels well in to-go boxes that are stackable, biodegradable and cool-looking.
Where: 3121 W. Olive Ave., Burbank
When: Daily, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Prices: Coffee drinks, $2 to $5; breakfast foods, $3 to $6; sandwiches, $5 to $9
More info: (818) 556-6055; www.coffeecommissary.com