Cora’s Coffee Shoppe (1802 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica, 310/451-9562, Tues.–Fri. 6:30 a.m.–3 p.m., Sat.–Sun. 7 a.m.–3 p.m., $10) doesn’t look like much; it’s a tiny building with a smallish sign. But don’t be fooled by the unpretentious exterior. The small, exquisite restaurant inside is something of a locals’ secret hiding in plain sight, serving breakfast and lunch to diners who are more than willing to pack into the tiny spaces that Cora’s calls dining rooms.
In addition to the two tiny, marble-topped tables and miniature marble counter inside, a small patio area off to one side, screened by latticework and venerable bougainvillea vines, offers a warm and pleasant atmosphere.
What’s best about Cora’s is simply the food. The chefs crammed into the eensie kitchen use high-end and sometimes organic ingredients to create breakfast and lunch dishes that don’t seem like anything fancy on the menu, but will make you rethink your opinion of humble scrambled eggs or lowly oatmeal when they get to your table.
The espresso drinks are reminiscent of European coffees—dark, bitter, and served in cups the size of bowls. Perhaps it’s the coffee that keeps the staff moving so fast, endlessly serving and busing and serving some more to keep up with the steady flow of diners, many of whom the waiters seem to know quite well.
© Liz Hamill Scott from Moon California, 2nd Edition