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Restaurants : Coffee Is a Verb on Franklin Ave. : Hip and cheerful, the Hollywood Hills Coffee Shop is a deft spin on the standard ‘60s model.

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SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Franklin Avenue runs through Hollywood like the cusp between dreams and disappointment. To the north are the lovely, residential Hollywood Hills, to the south, a few long blocks of densely packed apartment buildings before urban Hollywood unfolds in all its seedy, hucksterish bustle. Franklin, a trafficky, cross-town corridor, mediates between these worlds with gas stations, hotels, grocery stores and neighborhood businesses. In one of the more fitful traffic zones--between Beachwood and the 101 Freeway--in the downstairs of the Best Western Hotel, cafe-creator Susan Fine Moore (formerly of the Cadillac Cafe, the Beverly Hills Breakfast Club and the Acme Grill) and her husband, Michael, have opened the Hollywood Hills Coffee Shop.

Hip and cheerful, the place is a deft spin on the standard ‘60s coffee shop; dark wood-grained Formica, fleshy-orange booths and stools, a wall of copper-colored tiles are diluted by cream-colored walls and whimsical artwork. The china is heavy coffee shop crockery and the prices are true, reasonable coffee shop prices.

The clientele is a mingling of hotel guests and neighborhood folk. Early one weeknight, the only customers are a gray-haired Mr. and Mrs. from Cleveland in town to visit their son who dropped out of medical school to live in a dim studio apartment, drive a cab and write script after unsold script.

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The front door opens. Enter a young woman laden with briefcase, large portfolio, purse. Her lipstick has smeared, there’s a hole in her stockings. She’s been schlepping her portfolio to record company art departments all day and now collapses at the counter, to be revived with a double espresso and a huge wedge of chocolate cake. We would not be surprised, at this point, to see Barton Fink or Tod Hackett (“Day of the Locust’s” lovelorn hero) brooding in a booth.

Newspapers will be read here; and Recyclers, as well as guidebooks and Lacan, Dianetics and the Vedanta. Scripts will be written here, and journals, poetry, shopping lists, love letters and personal ads. Here, coffee is a verb. The waiters coffee you. If you are drinking regular brewed coffee or decaf, they will coffee and coffee you until you are coffeed-out.

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The food is updated, freshened-up coffee shop fare. My standard coffee shop lunch used to be a ham salad sandwich and a chocolate malt; in the ‘90s, at the Hollywood Hills Coffee Shop, this translates roughly to an egg salad sandwich and a terrific decaf iced latte.

Breakfast is served all day. Huevos rancheros are lighter and tastier than most versions. Flapjacks are fluffy, eggs and breakfast meats competently prepared. I loved a “baja” omelet with its garden-bright filling of sweet corn, peas, avocado chunks and jack cheese. Orange and grapefruit juices are fresh-squeezed.

The Hollywood Hills “Double Double” is precisely what one wants in a coffee shop burger: It’s juicy, fat, generic and comes with fries or any other kind of potato on the menu. Moore brought her satisfying cabbage-laced Chinese chicken salad from the Cadillac Cafe. Other salads include a classic Cobb (minus chopped eggs) and a wedge of iceberg. Soups are interesting; I enjoyed both a cream of potato and young onion and a clean-tasting, virtually fat-free broth-based mushroom vegetable.

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A variety of house specialties serve as serious lunch and/or early dinner fare. (The coffee shop closes at 7 p.m.) There’s a serviceable meatloaf with buttery mashed potatoes, and a firm, pleasantly bland vegetable and cheese frittata. Carne asada, a daily special, is too tough and dry, even when minced and folded into a tortilla with guacamole and beans.

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Egg custard is classic, slightly watery--or at least it seems so next to the denser, more luxuriant flan with its caramelized sugar sauce. A homemade lemon tart is tart and rich and memorable. Now, when traffic on Franklin is clogging up--there’s that temptation: Why not swing into the free parking lot, have a slice with cappuccino and wait for the coast to clear?

* Hollywood Hills Coffee Shop , 6145 Franklin Ave., Hollywood, (213) 467-7678. Open 7 days 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. No alcohol. Parking in lot. Master Card, Visa accepted. Dinner for two, food only $15-$24.

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