Storefront Report: Pioneering Echo Park coffee house changes ownership

The Downbeat Cafe opened more than a decade ago in an Alvarado Street storefront as the first of many coffeehouses that popped up across Echo Park.  As new competitors opened across the neighborhood, The Downbeat  continued to brew coffee but began to look a bit tattered and started closing on Sundays.  But in February, new owners,  brothers Cesar and Sergio Diaz, took over the cafe and are in the process of changing the menu – expect more organic items, baked goods from Homeboy Bakery and coffees from different roasters – and updating the interior with new lighting, counters and paint.

“We are going to bring back  more of the character  … that had gone away,” said Cesar Diaz.

This is the first cafe that Cesar Diaz, a former public and community affairs worker,  and Sergio Diaz, a teacher, have owned. But the brothers have longed to work together in the restaurant business as their father and uncle did years ago. “We had it in our blood,” Cesar Diaz of the restaurant business.

The Diaz brothers had checked into opening a coffee house in Boyle Heights or Highland Park before they heard The Downbeat was for sale in Echo Park, which Cesar Diaz had become familiar with when he worked for the Dodgers a few years ago.

In addition to introducing Homeboy Baked goods, Cesar Diaz, who runs the cafe full-time, plans to serve coffee  roasted by several companies, including Caffé Calabria from San Diego’s North Park neighborhood.

Echo Park’s coffee house scene has undergone a shake up this year, with new owners taking over Chango on Echo Park Avenue and the Coffee Pot on Sunset Boulevard.


  1. Hopefully they can introduce some stability to it. I stopped going after innumerable dizzying menu changes, drastic price hikes & portion reductions, unpredictable hours, and the scrapping of those delicious warm baguettes in favor of spongy packaged wheat bread on their sandwiches. You could tell the owner cared but was probably in over his head. Just bring back the sandwiches, keep those peanut butter cookies, and play the jazz!

  2. the last owner was a nice guy, he had 3 young kids he would watch while he was working. I often wondered how long it would last for him. must have been really tough; I remember having a conversation with him about how hard it was when the kids were sick or off school.

  3. As landlords jack up rents into the cosmos, the casual, laid back business can’t continue. One laid back place after another disappearing. They go hard core or the go away.

    Money, money, money, money.

  4. Good to hear that it’s getting cleaned up over there.

    Now, let’s get the other businesses in that strip to follow this lead.

    Being a small, funky business doesn’t mean you have to look trashy or dirty; take care of your businesses and the customers will come.

    • Zmoney, I don’t understand why you feel that block looks “trashy or dirty”. The library, Lemon Frog Shop, Machine Project, EP Film Center, and Fretted Frog all look fairly tidy to me, as far as urban businesses subject to graffiti, exhaust, and city dust go.

  5. hope they can make use of the square footage that comes with that property and the basement.

    great, free jazz every wednesday night!

  6. Yay for the Homeboy baked goods!

  7. Homeboy goods are great! Nice to see that place getting a much-needed facelift.

  8. Glad to hear it. Positive vibes and good luck to them.

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