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Paramount Coffee Project

PHOTOS: Holly Liss

It’s safe to say that the true center of Friends wasn’t the whole Ross and Rachel thing, or Monica and Chandler, or even all those times that Joey ate things. The real thing at the heart of the sitcom we watched throughout childhood (and again on DVD in college dorms, and again in late-night Netflix binges) was Central Perk. Like clockwork, the whole gang would show up to hang out on that big couch, sip giant cappuccinos, and probably listen to Phoebe sing “Smelly Cat”.

Walk into a coffee shop in LA and this is not the scene you’ll be greeted with. Instead, you’ll find an army of laptops and humans wearing headphones, putting together the business plan for their wellness app or working on a script they swear Scorsese told them was “a great idea." There might be a few people actually speaking to other people, but they’re probably there for a meeting anyway. The coffee shop as hangout spot - not second office - is virtually extinct in this town. But Paramount Coffee Project on Fairfax is one of the few exceptions.

Holly Liss

Paramount is the second cafe from a bunch of Australians who know their way around caffeinated beverages (the first is in Sydney). They’ve brought a very Aussie version of the coffee shop - a daytime place for great coffee, great food, great hangs, and no work - to LA. So instead of lining up to place your order before hanging around awkwardly to wait for your coffee, they do full table service, as well as a full menu of breakfast and lunch offerings that are available all day. Sure, there’s no massive couch (just a bunch of small-ish tables and a cute patio out the back), but you’d also feel kind of weird pulling out your laptop here.

So if you can’t work, what should you be doing? Eating. There are standard breakfast things - avocado toast, shakshuka, soft scrambled eggs - but also some more creative options, like burrata on toast and, in a nod to their roots, a vegemite butterscotch milkshake. Whatever you choose, everything looks and tastes like it comes from a much fancier restaurant. Make sure you order a coffee too - the flat whites here are some of the best in the city.

Don’t show up to Paramount Coffee Project with your laptop in hand and expect to be there all day writing that pitch you just know Bravo is going to love. That’s not their style. Go for a hang and to eat some excellent food and maybe, if you’re lucky, Joey will be there too.

Food Rundown

The Paramount

This breakfast sandwich served on an English muffin used to be called the McParamount, which basically sums it up. Get it and wonder why you’d ever use the drive through ever again.

Avocado On Toast

You could paint a very nice picture of this avocado toast - all those cute radishes and micro herbs and that perfectly dripping egg. Except it tastes good and you ate it in about two seconds. Who wants a painting of a piece of toast anyway?

Burrata On Toast

There’s burrata on the menu, so you're probably going to order it. This one comes on toast with poached eggs, spinach, and dukkah. You can add bacon, but it actually doesn't need it.

Shakshuka

Not otherworldly, but also not boring, though it could be a bit spicier.

PCP Grain Bowl

The thing to get when you’re not “doing” meat right now. It’s light and kind of refreshing, but also makes us miss bacon. Surgeon-General's note: does not contain the drug known as PCP.

Crispy Chicken Sandwich

A fried chicken sandwich that somehow feels light. It’s breaded, not battered, and the wasabi mayo is potentially the best thing about it. If you don’t want that light feeling, add an egg and a ‘slab’ of bacon. It’s the power move.

Vegemite and Butterscotch Milkshake

This is not in the slightest bit authentic - most Australians would throw a drink made with vegemite back in your face. Vegemite belongs on toast. But the salty-sweet thing going on here is way better than we thought it would be.

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