SILVER LAKE — Ben Hantoot’s claim to fame was that he was one of the co-creators of Cards Against Humanity, the popular card game that soared to the top of the best-seller lists on Amazon. Now, Hantoot and his wife, Michelle, have teamed up for a new venture: a Silver Lake coffee house in the building that is home to the Elliott Smith mural. Smith fans should not worry. The swirling red and black “S” – which is actually a sign for Solutions Audio Speaker Repair – will remain. “Fans and locals can rest assured that nothing will happen to this iconic mural,” said Michelle Hantoot. “I wouldn’t want to cause a riot! Figure 8 was a big part of my high school experience, as I think it was for lots of people our age.”
With work just beginning, Hantoot said she does not expect the couple’s shop – Dinosaur Coffee – to open until summer or fall. MASS Architecture & Design of Silver Lake designed the new restaurant, which will operate next to Solutions Audio, which put the excess space up for lease last year. The cafe will be in the storefront immediately next to the mural, with the Hantoots planning to carve a large patio out of the space and build a new a new glass facade. “Since the space has been a speaker-repair shop for the last several decades, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done to turn it into a restaurant,” she said via email.
The new shop will serve Four Barrel coffee in addition to some local pastries and savories from Viva Los Cupcakes, Farm Shop, and other vendors, said Hantoot, who has worked in restaurants as a cook and manager. In addition to coffee and food, Dinosaur Coffee will also be hosting game, play-tests for other game developers in the area.
“We’re both laid-back people who wanted to create a warm, inviting place to hang out, sit back, and have an awesome cup of coffee while enjoying the L.A. sunshine,” she said. “We try not to take ourselves too seriously and always find a way to laugh. We hope to make the coffee shop a reflection of that attitude.”
And where did the prehistoric name for the couple’s cafe come from? Ben Hantoot said they wanted a name that was fun and memorable. “Everyone loves dinosaurs, and dinosaurs would probably love coffee,” he said. ” We wanted a name that that made people feel the way we want the shop itself to make people feel — playful and a bit nostalgic.”