It’s late morning and you’re on the way home from the park. One twin’s napping in the car seat while his brother’s screaming to get out. Big sis is whining that she’s hungry. You haven’t had coffee yet, and the headache is setting in. But you weigh the trouble of three kids in and out of car seats. Into strollers. Maybe you can just make it home. But the traffic… if only, if only someone would just open a window you could pull up beside and hand you caffeine and snacks. Someplace without golden arches. While for some reason, our car culture city hasn’t caught up with many of our sister cities (hello, we practically weep when we hear stories from friends in Portland and Philly who tell tales of getting coffee, dry cleaning, banking and prescriptions filled, all from the comfort of the car!), we do have several spots we like to refer to as “sanity-savers”. Motor into one of these tasty spots next time you’re stuck in the car.
Rocket Fuel to Go
Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf
For a quick pick-me-up or after school snack, CBTL is a easy choice with a diverse menu of iced blended drinks and baked goods made locally. Many a naptime has been saved with a visit to their speedy drive thru, now open in select locations across LA.
Drive thru locations in Palms/West LA, Monrovia and Valencia. See website for locations & hours: coffeebean.com/store/storelocator.aspx
One of the best things about Starbucks is the hours. Brewing at the crack of dawn and open ’til midnight, the lady from Seattle provides a liquid lifeline for parents, of infants in particular – those smiling-at-sunrise wake ups are much easier with a hot Americano in hand. Grab a bistro box for a yummy breakfast too. And why not breeze by with baby in tow? He might just fall asleep on the way.
Drive thru locations in Santa Monica/Venice, Tarzana, Hermosa Beach and East LA. See website for locations & hours: starbucks.com/store-locator
Around the World in Under 15 Minutes
Gaby’s Express Mediterranean
Lebanese food cooked to order, available at arm’s length. With multiple Westside locations – one less than mile to the Venice boardwalk – your beach babes can gobble fresh roasted drumsticks with hummus and pita from the kids’ menu without tracking sand.
Locations in Marina Del Rey, West LA and Culver City. See website for locations & hours: gabysexpress.com
With three LA outposts open 24/7 serving Mexican specialties, Lucy’s is a guilty pleasure. The quesadillas are loaded with gooey melted cheese, just the way they like them. Enchiladas and salsa may be too messy for the car but do it anyway. You’ll know why Lucy’s is a venerable LA institution.
Locations in Mid-City, South LA and near Downtown. See website for locations & hours: facebook.com/pages/Lucys-Drive-In
The corner diner done one better, Sunny Grill has a little bit of everything, from burritos to garden burgers to Greek salads. Easy on the wallet as it is on the taste buds, you’ll find their fast friendly service inviting – welcoming of repeat visits.
12035 Venice Blvd.
The ginger limeade and corn muffins are enough to plan a daily detour to this scrumptious neighborhood larder; lunchtime curbside service seals the deal. Everything’s homemade, fresh and uniquely delicious. Just pull into one of their dedicated pick-up spots and your food will arrive faster than the kiddos can say “snickerdoodle cookie.”
The original Clementine is in Century City, and if you haven’t heard already, Clementine’s opened another café near the revamped Beverly Hills Library. See website for locations & hours: clementineonline.com
Hot pastrami & rye, cole slaw and potato pancakes (better than Bubbe’s), all delivered to your car door. Going downtown? Call or fax on your way and lunch will be waiting. Just like the line outside Langer’s door. You? No waiting at all.
704 So. Alvarado (across from MacArthur Park)
Downtown Los Angeles
Can’t wait for the cupcake? The cupcake now comes to you. Avoid parking nightmares on West 3rd Street with a stop at in the loading zone on Orlando outside the bakery: call in your order and they’ll bring it out. Beware when re-entering traffic though: it’s a narrow street with alleys on both sides.
8389 West 3rd St.
Yes, the ubiquitous convenience store delivers curbside. Dial ahead while driving (hands-free, of course) and they’ll run it out to your car upon arrival (or within 15 minutes of ordering). Hot meals AND cold groceries in one fell swoop. You could even skip the trip to Trader Joe’s.
8495 Sunset Blvd.
Be vegetarian and dine in your car seat too. The eco- and family-friendly local chain offers curbside pick up at its West Hollywood location, so the kiddos can chomp on kale without unbuckling.
8000 W. Sunset Blvd (Park on level P2 for pick up)
Did we miss any drive-thru spots? Where do you go, when you’ve got a napping tot, but you desperately need sustenance or caffeine?
–Kim Orchen Cooper
Photos courtesy of the author, Jolie Loeb, dreamstime.com and Langer’s Deli website.