Typically if I’m in the market for a bowl of spicy ramen with pork belly, an excellent cup of coffee, bags of pre-packed cookies and French pastries, plus maybe a strawberry boba for the kids, that means at least a couple stops. No longer. Iota, a sprawling, lofty space set behind sheets of floor-to-ceiling glass on Western just north of 6th Street, is a fantasyland where beans roasted in-house and prepped by an alum from the LAMill coffee camp commingles with macarons, madeleines, yet more iterations of Korean-style tacos, crepes, Italian food (if you really must; you probably shouldn’t), and the dizzying list goes on. And on. There’s a fully visible pastry kitchen and self-serve bakery to the right, extensive coffee lab to the left, and flatscreens at every turn enlivened with jauntily bouncing images of shaved ice concoctions and dainty whipped cream cakes that can be ordered to-go at the counter or consumed on-site with full table service. Service that had me very confused on my first visit. A striking salon wall showcases a grid of eye-poppingly bright colored paintings rendered on mulberry bark-derived hanji paper. Sit at a table, coffee counter or on the outside patio. For many it’s sensory and selection overload. But Iota is also pretty darn fun. My kids and my niece from NYC are smitten, and with I Love Boba next door and Beer Belly behind, this campus is a trifecta of K-Town goodies.
While most Hancock Park dwellers will head to Peet’s or one of the other chains on Larchmont, I hope people figure out that Iota is by far the best quality coffee option in the general neighborhood. Since Western is a formidable psycho-social geographic boundary, however, chances are it won’t be the longtime residents of June Street and Irving shelling out $10 a pop for cups of siphon coffee.
Will Iota EVER be my go-to pastry spot? As long as we have Proof, no way. And about that ramen: Shin Sen Gumi it is definitely not, but how many L.A. noodle joints can you think of that have a La Marzocco rig?
528 S. Western Ave., Koreatown