The two new stores, both of which opened last month, share a lot in common: Both were former drive-thru burger restaurants; both were the first free-standing Starbucks in their respective neighborhoods; and both stirred up debate about neighborhood gentrification. But when it comes to the comfy albeit homogenized Starbucks experience customers have come to expect, the two stores could not be more different.
The Highland Park Starbucks on York Boulevard has been derided for a dank and depressing outdoor ordering area – there’s no interior dining room – equipped with metal stools and a narrow bar. Meanwhile, in Boyle Heights, across the street from the landmark Sears store at Olympic and Soto, the spacious Starbucks dining room is decorated in earth tones and is furnished with numerous seating areas, an upholstered banquette and a pair of sleek lamps that hang over a communal table. On Sunday afternoon, students pecked away at their laptops and families sipped ice drinks as French Pop, Latin alternative and English-language tunes flowed over the speakers.
Is this Boyle Heights Starbucks the best on the Eastside? So far there’s no competition.