The renewed growth in local and sustainable businesses has led to a lot of hidden little spots throughout all communities.

We are always on a mission to find hidden gems wherever we are.  This past weekend, we were in the Culver City area of Los Angeles, CA where I lived for the 1st 10 years of my life.  A LOT has changed in this city since then.  Still a very entertainment-centric town, but now modernized and a magnet for digital media, arts and “urban-hip” demographics.

As always, our quest when anywhere, is to find  2 specific things:

  1. a local 3rd Wave coffee house that serves high-quality, organic and single origin coffee, brewed by craftsman Baristas in pure espresso or pour-over method, and
  2. a local establishment that serves high-quality, organic, natural and healthy food that has an inviting environment to illicit a culinary experience without the culinary price tag.

I'm happy to report that we found both in my old stomping grounds!

Coffee, in its simplest form, is an art!

Bar Nine Collective, in the Arts District of Culver City, (3515 Helms Ave, Culver City, CA) is as simple as it gets.  If we didn't notice the metal #9 plate on the fence on the residential street, we would have missed it.

But WOW, what an impact once you pass that gate!

This large, open-air room is so minimal, I asked if they serve espresso because I didn't see the espresso machine.  I didn't see it because it was under the counter!  On top of the low counter was a beautifully polished stainless “espresso heads” where the espresso is pulled through, steam wands for frothing and pour-over modules that can be left to automate the pour-over process once the Barista starts the process.

The design results in a more-opened environment which invites a more communal interaction between Customer and Barista

What sets these guys apart?  Definitely the beautiful, state-of-the-art, futuristic and minimal equipment, including one of the first installations of Modbar Espresso Modules in LA.  Even the pour-overs are done in automated fashion, after having been calibrated daily.  It's quite impressive!

They also roast their organic and single-origin beans there and host a community market in the outdoor area outside the store.  Baristas Mitch and Peter passionately shared their knowledge and passion of the coffee roasting and brewing process.

Bar Nine has only been open for 5 weeks, so it will be very cool to see how they evolve.  Already, during a long city permitting process, they were able to host several events, including some significant Barista Competitions, such as  the Big Western Regional Barista Competition and Brewers Cup.

Be sure to check them out next time you're in Culver City…I know I'll stop by again!

On Sundays, they provide public-participation “cuppings”, in which you get to experience their coffee buying and evaluation process.  And, if you're with kids, it's very family friendly, as there's lots of room for the them to spread out, inside and outside, especially on the weekends when there's less crowds.  Mitch even made our kids Vegan coconut milk Horchatas which were incredible and made them feel part of the experience.

And, in addition to having some outdoor toys (bean toss) for kids, the outdoor area is dog-friendly with water bowls and doggie toys.  Something for everyone in this cool spot!

A return to quaint neighborhood markets is nice!

Jackson Market and Deli
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Just seeing the storefront of Jackson Market and Deli (4065 Jackson Ave, Culver City, CA)  from across the street immediately takes you to any image you may have in your mind of one of those cool, local quiet streets on the Upper Side of NYC that sport a hidden cafe with outdoor tables.  So peaceful and inviting!

Jackson Market has served this quaint Culver City residential street since 1925.  As I said, I grew up in this area, and this place is a total secret from even the older members of my family!

Famous for its delicious custom-built sandwiches, Jackson Market also provides its local neighbors with an eclectic variety of unique bottled sodas, beer and wine, fresh produce and groceries, which saves them all a trip to the supermarket.  

We went there looking for one of our favorite Paleo-friendly organic and natural raw cacao chocolate bars from Nohmad Snack Company.  But we were even more excited to find the high-quality meats from Bohr's Head Provisions, our favorite Kambocha drinks from Health-Ade and some amazingly-delicious root vegetable chips from Rowe Cuisine, not to mention gluten-free bread for our meat-packed sandwich.  Do look around the shelves for your favorite healthy items – some are hidden amongst other products on the shelves.

We sat with our kids outside and feasted on all this good, healthy nutritious food in what seemed a different world.


Explore outside the box!

As much as this article highlights some really cool healthy local places in Los Angeles, it's really intended more as a suggestion to get out of your regular routine and explore the local community around you, whether its yours, or somewhere you're traveling to.  Ask Locals.  Rely on Yelp.  Either way, get to know the sorroundings, you might get really surprised to find something completely unexpected!

Even better, explore with your kids.  Culture them with a taste of traveling without the need and expense of airfare!  Someday, hopefully, they'll thank you for it!  🙂

Join in the discussion

This blog has reached 47 states – please forward this article to anyone you know in South Dakota, Nebraska and Vermont 🙂 – and 55 countries since its inception.  That makes for a LOT of local communities with hidden spots.  What's your favorite spot in your community?  Or perhaps you have a favorite that you discovered while on a trip that only SOME locals knew about.  Come back and share in the comments below.  Also, please share how you uncovered the secret.

Have you gone back to where you grew up and noticed significant changes?

For me, growing up Cuban in Culver City, everyday my Grandmother made me amazing Cafe Con Leche.  I attribute my love for coffee back to those days.  It was rather surreal to experience the full circle of life now, many years later, back in the Hood, still drinking amazing coffee, but more importantly, enjoying the experience like I did back in the day with my Grandmother!

Go and explore and relive your treasured experiences!…and make some new ones for your kids!

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Michael Ortiz

Business Consultant | Amen Method Professional | Lifestyle Entrepreneur at Family For Health
I am passionate about real food, health, wellness, fitness, business and my wonderful family!

I am fueled by "Paying It Forward in Health" on this site.My main driver in creating this website, alongside my family, is to share our ongoing family health journey in hopes of encouraging others to have the health epiphany that we have been blessed to experience.

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