Garcons de Cafe
Perhaps you’ve seen them — the hats. Part cap, part beanie, they’re an homage to the classic sailor’s watch cap in canvas and denim. They’re designed by Parisian label Beton Cire and are nearly impossible to find anywhere west of New York’s Dover Street market — anywhere, that is, except a small DTLA wine bar in the Spring Arcade Building. That’s right, Garcons de Cafe, Downtown’s newest enological venture, not only pours fine wines, but is home to a collection of hard-to-find designer goods.
But first, a little background: Thomas Choulot and Sofian Ketfi are a couple of footloose Frenchmen. They met in Chad while on a construction project — Thomas was an engineer, Sofian was working in finance. Before long, they had become close friends and aspiring entrepreneurs. “As French people, at some point you always want to open a bar,” Thomas says. And they wanted that bar to be in California.
They had travelled out here before; San Diego and San Francisco were more exciting off the bat, but L.A. — Downtown in particular — proved to have the enduring slow-burn appeal of a city on the up. They were drawn by that specific allure of history, grit, and potential that has proven irresistible to so many of us. “Actually, even in France they start to talk about Downtown,” Thomas says. “They say it’s an area that’s interesting.” With the help, guidance, and co-ownership of their friend Olivier Gaquieres — he’s started three successful restaurants in France — the two moved to DTLA, leased a space in the Spring Arcade Building, and got to work. Garcons de Cafe opened in March.
A few steps within the Arcade’s ornate Spanish Baroque archway off Broadway, their cafe beckons passersby with the soothing sound of jazz (or maybe something chill off The Life of Pablo). Thomas slices cured meats behind the bar, while Sofian pours glasses of Cab Franc for a mellow after-work crowd. Their organic and biodynamic offerings are some of the best France has to offer, Sofian says, so it’s good news they do wine flights.
Before, after, or while you sip a glass of Syrah, you can peruse a selection of gorgeous handcrafted skateboards, leather bags, candles, and paper goods — plus the French edition of GQ. Even better is their small but oh-so-impeccably curated assortment of clothing, biodegradable sunglasses, and those Beton Cire beanie caps — they’re called mikis, by the way — that are selling like crazy. Their products are exclusively shipped in from young French designers whose in influence in the states hasn’t seeped beyond the East Coast.
Their unique blend of bar and boutique is perfectly executed, a self-contained evening out. “Personally, I like to go to the same place and find everything I want in the same atmosphere,” Sofian says of their array of products. “And there’s wine because everyone loves wine.”
Written by Thomas Harlander
Photographed by Kort Havens & Kelly Sorensen Hansen
Videography by Matt Daniels