The cozy interior of Pursue Coffee, the first establishment of its kind on the Aviation Curve. Photos by Richard Foss

The curious cluster of coffee and pastry emporia in North Redondo

For a major traffic artery, Aviation Boulevard has historically had remarkably few dining choices. There are bright spots at the Ocean Diner and the restaurants that share the Big Lots parking lot in Hermosa Beach, but from there north into Redondo Beach, the pickings were slim. Two bars serve a limited selection of sandwiches and burgers, but the only other eateries were the plain but decent Papa Guido’s Pizza and Pursue Coffee, a tiny specialist that served a few toasts and pastries along with their lattes.

It was therefore welcome news to locals last year that two new restaurants would open on the Aviation curve, one in the long-empty shell of Giuliano’s Deli, the other in a former liquor store. At last, there would be more choices in the neighborhood!

What has happened in practice is that there are more places to buy variations on the same theme. Tommy & Atticus offers pastries, sandwiches, toasts, and coffee, as does the recently opened Lavender & Honey. For those who are feeling a need for caffeine and a snack when rolling between Artesia and PCH, we provide this handy guide.

 

The first mover: Pursue Coffee

Pursue Coffee opened in a spot that had previously been a hookah lounge, and at first I was skeptical that they’d survive. Visibility from the street was almost nonexistent, the parking lot is tiny and at the time it was shared with a high-traffic takeout food spot. That eatery failed, but Pursue has become a destination for coffee hounds. The attraction here is not the wide variety of brews, or the novelty of their concoctions — on any given day they’ll have three varieties available, with the standard menu of espressos, lattes, mochas, and the like. The attraction is alluded to in the name — the husband and wife who own the coffeehouse say they pursue perfection in the things they do rather than try to do everything.

Breakfast at Pursue Coffee: on teh left, egg salad toast, on teh right, a breakfast sandwich and a blueberry muffin.

The interior here is bright but homey, with the décor enlivened by a piano and a bar made from a slab of a giant tree. On a recent visit we ordered double espressos made with Guatemalan and Colombian beans, plus egg salad toast, the house breakfast sandwich, and a blueberry muffin. The coffees were made with a medium roast and very smooth, with fruity and caramelized flavors alongside the mild natural bitterness. The muffin was unremarkable, but good and not overly sweet, and the breakfast sandwich of ham, cheese, and apple jam had a nice blend of smoky flavors, tart jelly and cheese. The standout was the egg salad sandwich. That was a surprise because I don’t usually like egg salad.. We had ordered it because my companion likes it, but the mix of mild seasonings with a mustard-based sauce won me over.

Two coffees, two sandwiches, and a muffin ran about $30, which is not out of line for a light but satisfying breakfast with coffee. Pursue is a coffeehouse that serves food, and a limited menu at that, but what they do, they do well.

1503 Aviation Blvd, RB. No online menu.

 

The bakery with coffee: Tommy & Atticus

Tommy & Atticus started at the Hermosa farmers market, and was so successful that they often sold out within an hour of opening. Going from there to the large space near the corner of Artesia was a big jump, but on any given morning there’s a line out the door. People are there not only for the breads, bagels, and pastries, but for sandwiches and toasts served to go or to consume on the premises.

On our visit, we ordered a ”works” bagel sandwich, a classic salmon, capers, and cream cheese bagel, and one of the most ornate avocado toasts I’ve ever experienced. The thick slice of sourdough country bread was topped by an unlikely amount of avocado along with pickled radishes, lemon juice, olive oil, fleur de sel salt, a serpentine ribbon of cream cheese, some chili flakes, and some almond and pistachio dukkah, an Egyptian seasoning mix. It’s a beautiful assemblage of food, and difficult to eat neatly because it includes slippery ingredients on top of other slippery ingredients on top of toast. It was amazing.

Tommy & Atticus’s avocado toasts is topped by an unlikely amount of avocado along with pickled radishes, lemon juice, olive oil, fleur de sel salt, a serpentine ribbon of cream cheese, some chili flakes, and some almond and pistachio dukkah, an Egyptian seasoning mix.

The “works” bagel was piled improbably high with house-cured salmon, tomato, Persian cucumber, shaved red onion, cream cheese, olive oil, dill, and flaky salt. We had ordered a half bagel so it was served open face, but getting your mouth around this was still a challenge. Certain snakes can unhinge their jaw in order to swallow something larger than their head, and we thought we might have to learn how to do the same. We managed without that herpetological skill, and were rewarded with a delightful mélange of flavors. As with the avocado toast, it was a delightful mess that was hard to eat neatly, but rewarded with new combinations in every bite. The classic bagel showed that the attraction here isn’t just novelty, because a bagel with cream cheese, salmon, and capers is wonderful when made with quality ingredients. I don’t think the olive oil was essential, and might ask them to leave it out next time, but it was very good just as it was.

The coffee at Tommy & Atticus covers the bases and is made with quality beans, and they appear to have underestimated how popular it would be. The staff are working as fast as they can and manage to serve a fair variety of coffees, teas, and other beverages, but there is a delay at peak times.

Breakfast or lunch at Tommy & Atticus will set you back about twenty bucks each, but you should allow room in your budget for the next day’s breakfast pastries, because you will buy some, and maybe a loaf of bread too. They’re irresistible, and will bring a touch of class to your home table.

1700 Aviation, RB. Menu at tommyandatticus.com

 

The modern newcomer: Lavender & Honey

When Lavender & Honey announced that they would open, some people wondered about the name — who puts those two things in their coffee? This place does, and many other things besides. If you’ve ever wondered what a blueberry latte tastes like, this is where you come to find out. Some of the only flashes of color in this otherwise stark white environment are in their small gourmet grocery, tea, and coffee section, and the folks who like boutique tomato jam and chocolates presumably are attracted to these concoctions.

I considered a blueberry latte because coffee beans can be roasted to bring out berry-ish flavors, but ordered a cinnamon and creamed honey latte while she chose one with salted caramel. I don’t usually take sweetener in my coffee but enjoy Mexican-style coffee with cinnamon, and this was a refined and surprisingly well balanced version of it. The salted caramel hit the spot too, and made me want to try more of their coffee drinks. I stopped in again and had a lavender-honey coffee, which was a novelty but an interesting one,

The pastries here are made by the Bread Lounge in Downtown LA, which is one of the finer commercial bakeries in the city, but we were more interested in trying the house-made items. On one visit my companion and I had honey-pistachio toast and the ham and jam sandwich, and on another visit I tried a seasonal special of Spanish chorizo with Manchego cheese and jam.

Food at Lavender & Honey: top, the ham & jam sandwich, bottom, honey-pistachio toast.

The honey-pistachio toast with cream cheese was a simple thing well done, while the ham and jam sandwich had a more interesting balance of flavors. It’s made with ham, Manchego, hot honey mustard, and peach jam served on a baguette, a nice mix of textures and flavors. The bitterness of arugula, smokiness of ham, and the mix of peach flavor with spicy honey is inspired. The chorizo sandwich was a bit less impressive and could have been improved with a bit of greenery, as well as raising its temperature. It is usually served cold but is much better hot, so the bread has some crispness and the cheese becomes more aromatic — I know because I took half home and performed the experiment.

A sandwich and coffee each ran us about twenty dollars, in line with their competitors. Lavender & Honey is new, and a staff member said they plan to expand their offerings, so even more interesting ideas may be in the works.

1328 Aviation, RB. No online menu.

As for which one I liked best, I’d be most likely to return to Tommy & Atticus for their bagel sandwiches and that baroque avocado toast, but I’d happily patronize any of them. And who knows — if a fourth coffeehouse opens in this stretch of road, I may have still more choices. ER   

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