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Serving a loyal clientele of Hollywood screenwriters, contentious retirees, and sandy-haired beach bums, Venice coffeeshop Cow’s End is, according to their dangling painted sign, “where the locals hang.” It’s a fun house of canted angles, bizarre props (like life-sized plaster cattle), and black-and-white scenes from the neighborhood’s past (like a Miss Venice beauty contest from the 1920s), that is itself a holdover from the more recent past when Venice was a grungy bohemia.
To forget for a moment that your alley-facing room at the Hotel Erwin is costing $225/night, tuck into a create-your-own-sandwich with rosemary focaccia and 19 choices of deli meat, including marbled, slivered prosciutto and Ovengold turkey. There are over a hundred variants of espresso, tea, smoothie, shake-and-fresh juice, but I would eschew them all for the Vanilla Chai Latte; it’s like liquid gingerbread, and in the world of hyphenated coffee drinks, as good as it gets.
Known for: The “quiet room” upstairs, perfect for students, bloggers, and backpackers on bad trips.
Pair with: Cycling the Venice Boardwalk.
The Cow's End Has Down-Home Atmosphere
Cheerful clutter and delicious pastries make for cozy hangout By Vanessa VanderZanden
Daily Bruin Contributor
Saltwater-worn wooden cutouts of coffee cups, smoothies, and a bi-level airplane junkily decorate what at first glance seems the site of a rickety, old barn. If it weren't for the life-sized plaster cow peeking out from the staircase window, one might never realize that this mish-mash of down-home, sea-side art marks the entrance to The Cow's End Cafe, a unique L.A. eatery a few blocks up from the ocean.
Once inside, sweets, treats and goodies beckon from the cozily cramped counter nearby. Such delicacies include the Poppy Seed Lemon Cake, a moist combination of thick, sugary icing and spongy cake, and their Raspberry Bar, a thick layer of raspberry preserves between a chewy dough base and crispy top. Other items include a rich array of nonfat muffins and cakes, all of which come from the private kitchen of the owner's bake-happy friend.
Continuing down the counter, a refrigerated portion houses countless smoothie toppings. All forms of fruit, vegetable and candy ingredients overflow from the cold cabinet, screaming to be added to a frothy drink. Some suggested concoctions include the Bora Bora, Banana Banger, and Venice, with long lists of flavorings as unique as their names.
Behind the colorful counter rests a wall lined with jars of exotic coffee beans and tea leaves. Ten different coffee selections are offered a day, while the tea canisters remain filled with mystical varieties like Jamaica Flower and Yogi Tea Egyptian Licorice. For only $1, a cup of dark brew is available with free refills. And, though $2.65 may be a bit steep for a latte, the espresso drinks are at least as good as any found at established chain cafes. However, the hot chocolate tops all competitors as the creamy beverage is served with mounds of whipped cream, swirled in rich, gourmet chocolate.
But what makes The Cow's End truly worthwhile rests at the top of the shabbily carpeted stairs. Here, a loft filled with weathered couches, mismatched antique chairs, and chipped coffee tables provides a homey atmosphere that encourages customers to mingle. Corrugated aluminum siding acts as a partial wallpaper to the bright yellow, red, blue and green paint which sweeps between mirrors and windows in wide, unsteady strokes. Paintings of nudes and flowers and cattle find their way into the jumble, while a wicker lampshade not unlike the one that used to hang in mom's kitchen dangles unobtrusively over a nearby pool table. A rare touch is found in a chess board table which situates itself directly under a strange corner doorway, so that the two players must stare each other down from what essentially is two, tiny doorless nooks. And, just to ensure no boredom could ever be encountered in this Real World-esque loft, books ranging from classics like "The Last of the Mohicans" to avant-garde poetry in "Molested By the Roses" fill every barren space of the room's dusty shelves.
Other reading material exists in abundance back on the first floor, where a huge magazine stand stocks titles for all kinds of Cow's End customers. Along with film periodicals for the mainstream movie star regulars, English music mags and Italian fashion glossies entice the large number of foreign visitors, while standard teen varieties and car monthlies lure the average Joe. Even homeless people feel comfortable mingling at The Cow's End, though perhaps the best indication of the relaxed atmosphere can be found in the patronage of Alcoholics Anonymous members who socialize here every Tuesday night.
This cross-section of L.A. society is most evident when exiting through the cafe's wooden door, as the sound of anything from reggae to calm, soulful renditions by "Everything But the Girl" flow out into the street. Here, small tables cram the sidewalk, dogs rest on leashes and a vibrant mixture of post-dinner couples chat about politics. The lights from The Cow's End Cafe shine brightly on through the windows, hoping to attract an even more diverse group of coffee-sipping customers.
Posted by Daily Bruin Contributor