Espresso // All photos by Kenleigh Umali
I grew up with diversity, having spent the majority of my life with friends stemming from all cultural and financial backgrounds. We were the offspring of immigrant parents, who came to the U.S. to make a better life for not just their kids but their extended family. Food from all over the world was a short drive from where you lived.
Some of these businesses, if not most, were owned by a friend’s parents or family member. Now after twenty years, some of have gone through financial crisis or retirement.
There has been a sudden resurgence of first generation kids opening their own businesses.
Nestled between Artesia and Cerritos on the corners of Norwalk Blvd. and South St. is Solid Coffee Roasters, a young coffee shop with great potential. Dan and Kevin, the owners, invited me to come out for a night to check out their new offerings. Granted, I am here everyday…sometimes twice. I come here for coffee on my way to school and when I’m working on projects. Needless to say, I’m a bit of a regular who gets mistaken as an employee.
It was a Monday night and, as usual, students and customers alike filled the seats. As guests were waiting patiently for their food, the pungent aroma of coffee ghosted through the air and into my nose, as well as the smell of fragrant oil from the iron.
Panini presses and waffle irons are your best friend when handling a kitchenette. They were gracious enough to explain some ingredients to get a better understanding of them. Are your eyes ready, reader? I would recommend not being “hangry” after this line.
Here’s another take on the ever-so classic grilled cheese and tomato soup combo. With four different cheeses including fresh mozzarella because who doesn’t want their melted cheese to stretch for a whole foot? The intense thickness of the bisque topped with fresh basil & pepper made it easier to dip, causing a holy matrimony of textures.
I’m half Filipino. Growing up eating spam, eggs, and rice was a normal breakfast. It’s also a Hawaiian staple. So why haven’t chefs tried executing their own take on it? Well, you won’t have to look much further. Grilled between two slices of sourdough bread, wiped with melted butter lie scrambled eggs with chives, slices of spam, and a three cheese blend. All those are great but what make this sandwich pop is the Habanero-Pineapple relish. Yes, you read that correctly. Never have I ever tried something so sweet and tangy with a bit of kick. This relish is what we all need in our lives, and it’s spread all over this amazing piece of work. I promise when you order this you will want to order another immediately. Be sure to also keep your excited cursing to yourself.
Just like the band you went to see, the hits just keep coming. Pictured above is the The Hambre, which contains no ham. Fret not pork lovers for there are blessed, thin slices roast beef between rye. With a considerate helping of caramelized onions & red peppers and the ever amazing spicy, poppyseed mayonnaise (saaayyy whaaat), you will have absolutely no problem debating with your friends where to get an amazing take on this delicatessen classic. [Insert your prayer hand emojis here]
Did you think we were done? Fat chance, friend. Do you ever dream of turkey sandwiches? Are you trying find new ways to make such a fundamentally original dish taste even better? You won’t have to use that brain anymore, these guys did the work for us! Tomatoes, shredded & melted cheese, with choice cuts of turkey meat, and a creamy pesto mayo. Let me say it louder for the people in the back: A CREAMY PESTO MAYO with which I wish I could take home with me. Try dipping it in that tomato bisque from the Afterschool Special. (Your mind will be blown.)
Frequent L.A. often? There’s a place called Fritzi’s located inside the Arts District Brewery. They, too, have a take on this dish, but it doesn’t cut close to the initial reaction I get when I bite into this crunchy, warm goodness (with a heaping of cheese, bits of bacon, and chives). Plus, more of that on top of your sour cream, you will have no problem being satisfied and borderline hating yourself. Be sure to be kind and share this with someone or tell them to get their own. Who am I to judge?
Whether the weather is cold or hot, ice cream is always a good call. Ice cream and coffee is even better. Pictured above are some scoops of French Vanilla ice cream with Solid’s freshly brewed Nitro coffee. The first taste I got were caramel with a hint of the vanilla fused by the coffee. Give your sweet tooth some appreciation.
This is a simple Italian dessert. It really takes a lot of effort it to mess this up. When you get it right though, you get it right. Yes, readers, they got this down to a science. A scoop of French Vanilla into an 8 0z. cup with a shot of house espresso garnished with a mint leaf and chocolate love letter cookie. One bite into this dish and you will be lost. My first initial tastes were what I think coffee flavored ice cream should taste like. Maybe (hopefully) these guys get into the ice cream business. Without a doubt, this place has turned one of my favorite desserts into something surprising and even more flavorful.
To understand quality, where my city has been, and where it’s going, this is where you should be. The people who work here are not just working, and they are dedicated to what they do. I’ve seen them come in just to work, perfect their latte art, and pull better shots. I’ve seen them explain countless times (with no pretension) to customers how fair trade coffee works, the different flavors and roasts, and what they like on the menu. For the first time in a very long time, I can say with no doubt that I have a shop with people who try their very best to give the people quality everything. So thank you everyone for doing what you do here at this place. We need more places like this everywhere and people like you.