Boyle Heights vs. Highland Park: A tale of two Starbucks


Highland Park Starbucks (left) and Boyle Heights Starbucks

BOYLE HEIGHTS —  If the new Highland Park Starbucks is a depressing letdown, then perhaps the disappointed latte-lovers in search of more ambiance should visit the equally new Boyle Heights Starbucks.

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.

Boyle Heights Starbucks 8-17-2014 3-06-38 PM

Boyle Heights Starbucks 8-17-2014 3-05-31 PM

Boyle Heights Starbucks 8-17-2014 4-14-56 PM



  1. No comparison. Highland Park got shafted. I’m not buying a thing from Starbucks anymore. They shafted us big time!

  2. I guess they didn’t get the message on which neighborhood is gentrified and cool and which one is still a huge mess.

      • Starbucks has achieved what I thought not possible. The Highland Park Homeowners Gentrification Committee is demanding & commanding Starbucks to open a modern, full service, state of the corporate art retail operation to compete with the local mom & pop shops. As a bonus, the hypocritical gentrifuckators have deemed the poor souls of Boyle Heights to be less entitled to a modern Starbucks then the newly landed gentry to their west.
        Meanwhile, people driving hoopties have access to a decent cup of coffee at the substandard but soon to be upgraded experimental market research drive-thru.
        Highland Park, you’re too smart by half.

        • I have owned an old Mixed Used Building in Boyle Heights since 1986. Will it finally pay off??

          I hope so. LA wants to keep it low income. Shame.

  3. They should have kept the drive-thru’s. Who doesn’t like a drive-thru Starbuck’s? Personally, I think it’s sad that all the burger stands are disappearing, even the ones in outer areas are going away. Everyone loves a burger and we don’t all want fancy overpriced gourmet burgers.

    • Those Starbucks coffee milkshakes cost about the same as a burger and fries and probably provide more calories/$ – fret not!

  4. What a surprise. Here I thought Boyle heights was more ghetto than Highland Park?

  5. What I see here is a space at least twice as big as the Highland Park Location. The Highland Park Starbucks is a Drive-thru with a walk up window and courtesy tables. PERIOD. There is a sit down Starbucks a mile up the road. This a such a non-issue It futrher proves how stupid most people are. As if we needed any!

    • I don’t think they get it. Maybe a drawing on how a drive through coffee shop works?

      How about some important journalism, like a little investigation into the bird in Eagle Rock, why is it there? What does it eat? Is it a nice view up on the piling?

  6. non-issue indeed. Whiners should just buy a bag of Peets dark roast and make a big cuppa joe at home and sit at your lap top with your choice of music and quiet…buy some pastries or make your own…stop being snivelly little bitches.

  7. there’s been a starbucks on the corner of york and eagle rock blvd for years. why is this a big deal.

  8. “If the new Highland Park Starbucks is a depressing letdown, then perhaps the disappointed latte-lovers in search of more ambiance should visit the equally new Boyle Heights Starbucks.” – OR, maybe they should just ditch Starbucks and support local business…

    • antigua leaves a lot to be desired as far as coffee, service and ambience go.
      there are no true alternatives other than 7-11

      • Antigua coffee is good! And the paintings are nice too (talking Figueroa Antigua near Ave 53). I’ve always thought their service was fine. Although they used to have good empanadas and now they don’t…

  9. I’m sorry but I just don’t see eye to eye with the Highland Park complainers. I think they need to have a close look at their own neighborhood. When they do they will see run down businesses, trashy yards, graffiti, graffiti, and more graffiti. Why should the Starbucks people from outside the area be expected to see roses when the reality is weeds at best?

    Clean up your own neighborhood and make it something to be proud of and then Starbucks and others from elsewhere will see that it is a proud neighborhood with high standards. You will also be able to more legitimately hold them to your expectations. As it is now people seem to be holding Starbucks to higher standards than they hold for themselves.

    • I don’t think you understand HP. It’s a neighborhood in transition. Yes, there’s still run down stores and graffiti…that stuff doesn’t get cleaned up overnight. There’s also a huge wave of hip new businesses, restaurants and cafes, that are turning HP into a destination for the entire city. That’s something everyone who lives in the area should be proud of. I don’t think it’s unreasonable for HP residents to demand better from a new business moving in, especially one with nearly limitless resources to built pretty much whatever they want.

    • I’m “curious” doesn’t Boyle Heights have graffiti, rundown homes, trashy yards, illegal additions to homes, people living out of garages and sheds, crime, and I forgot graffiti and more graffiti? Highland Park is far from perfect! But, it’s our home and Highland Park is demanding the BEST-LOOKING Starbucks in the country! Si se PUEDE! We do not need to be a community in transition! We are community deserving of RESPECT!

  10. Bicurious, you obviously are not curious enough to actually walk/drive around Highland Park or you would see the great changes occurring. Just today I spotted 6 store fronts on Figueroa being worked on, rehabbing them, bringing them back to their historic origins. They look gorgeous. That was just THIS week. Every week there are changes happening to the neighborhood. Of course it is a neighborhood in transition, but many of us are involved, volunteering, working in the neighborhood improving it on a weekly basis. You just are not bring open minded to the changes and really looking at the movement afoot.

  11. It was the best of Starbucks, it was the worst of Starbucks. It was the age of tasteful earth tones and horizontal rustic wood paneling, it was the age of stucco jails. It was the epoch of caramel Frappuccinos, it was the epoch of pumpkin spice latte, it was the season of homies, it was the season of hipsters, it was the spring of earnest bicyclists, it was the winter of ironic beards, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Boyle Heights, we were all going direct to Silver Lake – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

    • blame it on cain

      I agree with Pretty. So much comparison obsession. Highland Park is not Silver Lake or Boyle Heights. and its clearly a neighborhood undergoing a significant transformation in residential and business investment. The Starbucks location on York and Figueroa is a disappointment, but if you object don’t frequent the store. Poor sales speak very loudly to businesses. Also, I would suggest that that location is a little more important in that its at a critical juncture in the neighborhood, sort of a central area of intersection of HP’s main streets. It deserved a better design approach for that reason alone.

      • You know, this started out as just a riff on the famous first sentence of A Tale of Two Cities, inspired by the headline, but it turned out that there is a genuine parallel: we tend to take a small neighborhood development and project great significance upon it, either hopeful or dire. It ain’t the French Revolution, but sometimes that’s how it sounds.

    • You win the eastsider.

  12. The discrepancy is laughable. The one we got in Highland Park looks like a coffee prison. They need to fix that awful thing. And quick!

  13. how can we drink cofee without A/C and Nora jones? shut the fuck up

  14. Why complain about the Starbucks? We should be glad it’s crap – neighborhoods like HP are great because of the local businesses. Local coffee shops with character are much preferable over cold corporate SBs any day.

    We should celebrate that his place will not drive out more deserving cafés that actually have a real community connection.

    • Great! Then will someone please open a local coffee shop with character somewhere within a mile and a half of this Starbucks? Until then, you’re looking at the reason why folks are let down by the opening of the only coffee shop in the neighborhood, which happens to be called Starbucks.

      • Cafe de Leche on York
        Kitchen Mouse on Fig (for pour overs and drip)
        Cognoscenti @ Good Girl Dinette off Fig

      • Cafe de Leche is the coffee shop that’s a mile and a half away, which I’m using as a guidepost here. Although Good Girl Dinette has good coffee, it’s still a restaurant and not a coffee shop. I have yet to try Kitchen Mouse, though I understand that would fall in the same boat.

      • +

        – Antigua Bread on Fig,
        – Manifesto Cafe on Monterey
        – Fresco Cafe on Ave 60
        – Charlies Coffee House on Monterey

      • Mt. Angelus resident

        I heard there is an intelligentsia opening up in the space next to La Cuevita as well.

  15. We have one single city service that actually works and that is our graffiti clean up service but it only works if people in a neighborhood put in the small amount of effort it takes to report the graffiti for clean up either by calling 311 or using the on line anti-graffiti reporting system: http://anti-graffiti.lacity.org/

    I’m all for Highland Park and what is happening there but until people who live in Highland Park start putting some effort into taking care of their neighborhood I’m not going to shy away from saying the neighborhood still looks like crap.

    • I went to that anti-graffitti site. Very good site and I agree that service does a great job. BUT, since there are many Spanish speaking citizens in places like Highland Park, Boyle Heights, and Echo Park, is there a Spanish language website to report graffiti? Please don’t be an asshole and bring up the “They should learn English.” BS.

      • If a Spanish-speaking person calls 311, s/he can report graffiti to a Spanish-speaking operator, and it’s just as effective as using the anti-graffiti website.

        • But, these questions remain; Are the Spanish speaking citizens getting the message about that graffiti clean up service? Do they know that they can talk to a Spanish speaking person when they do report graffiti in their neighborhood?

          Instead of being an asshole, not you metroman, just speaking in general, educating the public, AND being able to communicate in their language, about the city services, is a very important step to cleaning up any neighborhood!

          • Do people know, Spanish speaking or otherwise, that the garbage collectors won’t pick up their old mattresses and discarded furniture off the side of the road? They’ll just leave them there week after week. You need to call the city for a special bulky item pickup. It’s free, but it does take a tiny bit of proactivity which sometimes appears to be sorely lacking in some of our neighborhoods.

          • rockineagle- This is a sore point, one that the city should take blame for too. The city service that picks up the bulky items are on the road every weekday. They can clearly see bulky items on the sidewalk. But, instead of picking them up, they only go to the address that called for a pickup. If they are already on the street to pick up a bulky item, they can see other bulky items on that street! Why don’t they pick it up? Yes, they do have a route and need to pick up the bulky items for people who called, but they could pick up bulky items on that block too.

            But, the main thing is EDUCATION. Is the city educating the public about their services? Is the city communicating in the same language as it’s citizens to educate the citizens about the city’s services? Clearly the answer is no, but all the bulky items on sidewalks!

          • If you don’t clean up your own area, you are a dog! Just like the dogs who piss (graffiti) on their neighbors’ homes and property. Round them up and send them to Syria (where they belong) or cut off their wieners so they can’t piss on other folks stuff..

  16. I echo bicurious’ point: If you call 311 and report graffiti, the city will remove it quickly and for free. This is absolutely something more people should do.

    • Mt. Angelus resident

      I have done this and they have removed graffiti with a couple days. They even came out within a day one time. Also, if you report it to the NE police station, they will document the tag which can help them in identifying certain gangs in the area.

  17. You have to love NELA’s hipster snobbery. All those who can’t stand the York Starbucks desperately need a vacation in the new Australia, from where this just came in: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-08-24/napper-snobs-and-whingers-the-new-australia/2853464

  18. You guys gotta chill out about this thing. It might not be the best but it’s just a DRIVE THRU. It’s better than nothing; it’s a start. Give them some time. Would rather have “mobile home windows” than nothing at all. You guys are a tough crowd! Imagine if Nordstroms showed up. You’d massacre them. Just buy your Pike Place and be happy.

  19. What is the big deal? Stop whining and walk/drive a little further.

    And Eastsider, shame on you for starting this discussion without critical context. You make it seem like gentrification is a good thing. What I got from your article is that you’re giving importance to a bunch of people who think “Geesh, we thought HP was gentrified, so why’s it got a shitty Starbucks?”

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