With new bars, restaurants and sandwich shops sprouting up across Highland Park, Highland Café owner Arnie Miller has a simple business plan to set his establishment apart.
"We want to be the friendliest cafe in the Highland Park," Miller said on Tuesday afternoon.
Opened since Friday, the Highland Cafe has been offering a limited menu and focusing on service, Miller said.
Among the breakfast items featured on the menu as of Tuesday were vegetarian omelettes, chilaquiles rojo and waffles, as well as variety of coffee drinks including Americanos, Cappuccinos, lattes, Macchiatos, Mochas and Espressos. The drinks are all priced in the $2 to $4 range.
Miller said though he had hoped to retain the former El Chapin chef, who was responsible for the restaurant's Guatemalan fare, he had to bring on new staff.
"I've got a new baker and new chef who are doing all the cooking," Miller said.
The coffee beans are being provided by independent Downtown roasters Damn Handsome.
Miller said he hopes to begin offering lunch items by the end of the week, as the Highland Café will be open from 7 a.m. until 6:30 p.m.
"We're just trying to get better every day," Miller said. "A month from now you'll really see us operating like a well oiled coffee shop. The main thing I'm focusing on right now is making sure we're consistent."
A New Look
First opened by the Palacios family on York Boulevard in 2001, and operating at its current location since 2004, the Former El Chapin location has undergone a complete makeover at the hands of Miller and co-owners Alfonso Arellano and Miriam Albundis.
"We wanted to go for an industrial style," explained Miller.
Included in the new look are an exposed brick wall, hand-made tables and counters and fixtures reclaimed from neighborhood yard sales.
"People seem to really like the look," Miller said.
The Highland Café also has a brand new copper leaf signed made by one of Miller's artist friends.
It reads: Highland Café: Los Angeles.
"I definitely wanted to make sure we got that 'Los Angeles' in there," said Miller, who grew up in Glassell Park and attended
The café will also offer outdoor seating and free wi-fi; Miller hopes it will be a place where folks will feel comfortable sipping a coffee and paging through a book.
Occidential College students will be offered a 10-percent discount.
Arellano said the Highland Café's owners are trying to make the location as welcoming as possible, and so far, the the neighborhood has responded well.
"So far, the community has been really supportive," he said.