Five Great "Anti-Starbucks" Coffeehouses
By "anti-Starbucks" I don't mean they've launched campaigns against the coffee behemoth (not that I know of, anyway), but that in terms of look, feel and menu they're the antithesis of the chain everybody loves to hate.
The Gypsy Den
Of the two locations (Costa Mesa and Santa Ana), I prefer the larger Santa Ana one. The décor is kooky, the cakes excellent, and the events--including Lee Mallory's Factory Readings on the first Tuesday of the month--impressive.
The coffee's nowhere near as good as the Gypsy Den's, but the marina location (506 31st St., Newport Beach), outdoor patio and beach hut atmosphere make it popular with everyone (there are often lines out the door). Low-key events include open mic and a songwriters' circle.
The Neighborhood Cup
It doesn't help that it's surrounded by seemingly interminable concrete parking lots, but dull setting aside, this Aliso Viejo café is a winner. From the flyers promoting local communities and blood drives (there's one tomorrow, folks) to the events lineup (music, open mic, dancing, car shows!), it's a poster child for community-minded businesses. There's even a public library next door.
The Lost Bean
This Tustin java joint isn't especially atmospheric, but it's hard to argue with its organic ethos, which even applies to the free water it dispenses. It also aims to give up to one-third of its profits to charity. Pretty generous. Friday-night events are restricted to music, but from rock to acoustic, they're varied. Oh, and the chairs outside rock (literally!)
Martin Diedrich is, famously, the founder of the eponymous chain, which he left in 2004. He went on to open Kéan in Newport Beach the following year, before adding the Tustin location a few months ago. Well-sourced beans and community spirit are the focus, and music events are held seasonally.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Orange County dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.