On a Friday around 7 a.m., the sidewalk tables and chairs were in the shade and the air was cool (locals wore tank tops and shorts and flip-flops). Our latte was fine. The decaf coffee (only Colombian was available) was O.K., not watery, not with the typical sour taste of Colombian, not bitter, not fragrant, not rich. The chai latte was fine. The croissant was an American croissant: three times larger than an authentic French croissant, with no lightness or light crunch to it at all, just soft and plain. The total for the four items was only $10.
The upstairs lounge has a deeper room with many large sofas along the walls and an outer room with wooden tables and chairs. The deeper room was hot. The outer room was stuffy. No one was up there.
Downstairs, there were three high chairs at the counter inside the window (but only one chair available), and 5-6 small tables on the sidewalk along the wall, with seating either on the wooden bench built-in on the wall or on weathered chairs. The two of us were lucky that one table was available.
Our table was slanted (but not tippy) so we were extra careful not to spill our cups. People lining up across the sidewalk and into the door to buy coffee had to be careful to avoid bumping the back of my husband's chair.
While we enjoyed chatting together, we had to pause for several minutes while other customers had a conversation so loud that we could no longer hear each other. We paused again when a big noisy trash truck came along to pick up trash a few yards away at the end of the block. Between the tables and the edge of the sidewalk, there is only enough space for passers-by to walk single file, and for a row of benches near the curb, so car traffic noise and exhaust was that close to us while we sipped our beverages. The block is essentially a dead end, so there wasn't a lot of traffic, but it was still unpleasant.
After we had parked (which was really easy at this hour, when many parking spaces were empty even in the block where Cow's End is located) and paid for parking, we walked past several closed restaurants to get to Cow's End. The sidewalk was dirty with caked-on gum and who-knows-what, the buildings looked a bit run-down, and many spots smelled bad (typical restaurant-type trash smell).
I would not go back to sit there for coffee, but if I wanted a latte or wrap to go, I would get it there. Walking along the Venice Beach boardwalk is among my most favorite things to do in L.A., and often the first thing I do with foreign guests. I don't mind and in fact prefer "rustic," "eclectic," "local," "one-of-a-kind," "vintage" shops--but not when the neighborhood looks unhygienic or smells bad, or when exposed to car noises and exhaust.
That said, if I needed to observe friendly L.A. bikers or neighbors and dogs meeting over coffee, this would be a good place to do so.
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