Nestled among an eclectic, colorful mix of restaurants and storefronts on famed Sunset Boulevard, a new coffee joint has bravely opened its doors in Hollywood.
Rockpaper Coffee is easy to pass by because of its small, unassuming storefront. But once customers make their way inside, they’ll encounter a hole-in-the-wall coffee shop aiming to bring an independent, music-infused appeal to the Hollywood community.
An exposed brick wall jumps out as a unique feature of the coffee shop’s interior. A diverse mix of artwork adds character throughout the shop, with album art and music posters hanging alongside playful character portraits of Marvin the Martian from Looney Tunes and Buzz Lightyear of Toy Story.
A music playlist of enjoyable — albeit mainstream — soft rock and acoustic tunes sets the mood for guests — with hits such as Keane’s “Somewhere Only We Know” and Coldplay’s “The Scientist” providing a soothing backdrop.
Rockpaper Coffee’s biggest strength is its broad and affordable array of coffee types to choose from. With a menu that includes espressos, freshly grounded options, iced and blended coffee and freezes, there’s something for even the most selective coffee guzzler. For the non-coffee lovers, the shop offers an assortment of iced tea and all natural fruit and protein smoothies.
So how is the coffee itself? When it boils down to taste and quality, Rockpaper Coffee’s brews unfortunately offer nothing spectacular. One of their specialties, the Spanish latte with condensed milk, is pleasantly frothy and not too sweet. The coffee’s flavor, however, is average and indistinguishable from a cup you could get anywhere else.
For customers seeking a sweet fix, the vanilla cupcake coffee — smoothly undertoned with vanilla — is decent but not revelatory.
Perhaps most disappointing is the shop’s highly touted organic pour-over drip coffee. Though smooth, it lacks flavor and acidity, a quintessential element in an enjoyable cup of coffee. Dangerously akin to instant coffee, it tastes like it wasn’t brewed at a high enough temperature.
But not everything is a miss. The ice-blended caramel latte differentiates itself from similar offerings at The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf and Seattle’s Best Coffee by avoiding overt sweetness. A wise choice for tired patrons, the drink gives a caffeinated kick with its strong coffee flavor.
Though the coffee may be underwhelming, Rockpaper Coffee offers a diverse menu of breakfast sandwiches, lunch subs, healthy wraps, salads and assorted snacks for the hungry customer.
One highlight is the chocolate brownie, a delicious cakey square with gooey bits of chocolate chips inside. And, the grilled chicken, turkey bacon, egg white and cheese breakfast wrap is simple and tasty, although it could use an extra kick of flavor.
The shop is also tech-friendly. Customers can conveniently place orders via Twitter, tweet at the servers for a free cup as well (@RPCoffee) or make a phone call through the shop’s iPad checkout and curbside service.
Despite these modern advertising tactics and a pleasant atmosphere, the bottom line is that a coffee joint should have good — if not excellent — coffee in order to stand out. Rockpaper Coffee offers nothing groundbreaking, and it’s doubtful whether USC students will want to venture so far from campus for an average cup of joe and decent grub.
Rockpaper Coffee might be especially worth a stop once its concert and entertainment schedule kicks off, though.
The cafe plans to host nightly shows, stand-up comedy performances and monthly live model drawing classes. If it can transform itself into a lively community hub and amp up its coffee offerings, the shop might just spread its wings.
With its diverse menu and prime location, Rockpaper Coffee is off to a promising start. But if it wants to stand out against the multitude of other coffee offerings, it needs to kick things up a notch.