Strada Coffee: Old World Charm
The first thing you notice upon entering Strada, the new bistro located next to the King Edward Hotel at 5th and Los Angeles Street, is the light.
Wide windows take in the world as sunlight graces the butcher block tabletops and the 100-year-old tiled floors. The daily specials are written in chalk on the walls, the smell of good coffee wafts through the air and the perfect song fills the lofted space.
From behind the counter owner/operator Julian Andrei sips a Turkish coffee and watches the world go by. The buzz and bustle of the area, as well as the bus stop right outside his window, ensures foot traffic throughout the day.
Andrei chuckles. “It’s like a Fellini film,” he says, his Romanian accent soft and warm. “‘Strada’ means ‘street’ in Italian, and I want everyone who comes in here to feel welcome.”
The location was what attracted Andrei to this storefront. The King Edward was built by John Parkinson, the architect also responsible for Union Station, and it was the history of the building, as well as the feel of the neighborhood that drew Andrei in. Aged wood, marble columns and an intricately tiled floor give the airy space a sense of old world European grace.
Andrei used to manage Mas Malo, and when he decided to step out into his own place he knew what he wanted: something small, something welcoming and something where everyone could enjoy a nice meal, no matter their budget.
“I want people to eat well and not be afraid of coming in,” he says. “For $7 you can get a fresh squeezed orange juice and a sandwich,” he notes.
Strada’s menu is what Andrei calls “Los Angeles Cuisine”, or fast casual dining. There’s a multiculturalism to the menu reflecting the city. The charcuterie - cured meats done in traditional European styles - share menu space with ceviche and caviar, alongside vegan and vegetarian options.
“If I’m hosting a dinner party and two of my guests don’t eat meat, why would I exclude them?” Andrei asks, reflecting his ethos of making Strada a bistro for everyone.
When it comes to coffee, Strada’s signature is Turkish-style: coffee boiled in a copper pot immersed and heated in sand. “The immersion heats the coffee grounds evenly,” explains Andrei, “creating a less acidic coffee than an espresso.”
Stepping into Strada is an opportunity to slow down for a bit. A chance to sip coffee and eat a good meal. To listen to music and watch the buzz of the street outside.
In a busy section of downtown LA, the old world and the new world collide, hitting the perfect note where food and place combine into something truly special.
Written by Abel Horwitz | Photography by Stephen LaMarche