San Fernando, CA

My Favorite Cafes/Drink Spots in Northridge, CA

James Shih

Having lived in the Northridge area of the San Fernando Valley for over five years, I've been able to explore and patronize the various shops around the area. As a writer, I enjoy writing in different environments and settings and am a huge fan of cafes, despite the fact I don't drink coffee.

Below are some of my favorite go-to spots in Northridge having lived here as a graduate student and now a hardly working professional.

Photo by James Shih

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Barclay's Coffee & Tea

Established in 1973, as far as creative vibes and working space, this coffee shop is my favorite cafe in Northridge. Located near Tampa and Nordhoff, it's a relatively small shop that, before the pandemic, could seat 14-16 people inside with extra seating outdoors. Now that outdoor seating is back, I've returned with my laptop to drink tea and productively procrastinate outside it's doors. The owner of the shop is Diego, a fun-loving guy who has impeccable taste in music. One of our first conversations was:

Me (indicating the speakers): Is this your playlist?

Diego: Yup, you like it?

Me: I love it.

Here I've met other creatives and students that really inspire me. My go to drinks are the chamomile tea, hot chocolate, and hibiscus iced refreshers. They also have a chocolate babka (kinda like pastry cake) that is delicious and filling. Got a lot of memories here: before appearing on American Idol, I had the chance to watch Alejandro Aranda (aka scarypoolparty) perform at Barclay's for an open mic. Pretty amazing.

Photos from Cafe Aficionado's Yelp and Facebook.

Cafe Aficionado

Run by Reggie and Abby, Cafe Aficionado is a quaint coffee shop on Reseda Blvd near the Lum Ka Naad Thai restaurant at the cross street of Reseda and Rayen St. Reggie and Abby are incredibly friendly and welcoming people. The atmosphere of the place is nice and has a very valley feel with artwork from local artists adorning the walls.

They also have a collection of bills from around the world decorating the space near the register. If you see a red $100 New Taiwan Dollar bill, that's from yours truly. They have a selection of herbal tea for caffeine-avoidant folks like me, and are known for their ube latte and nutella latte.

There's outdoor seating and they got cute tables out front for those looking to hang out. If you check out the back building, there's an awesome Bruce Lee mural on their wall. The next store over, Collective Lifestyle, has a painting of Kobe Bryant, it's amazing seeing them side by side.

Photos from their Yelp.

Sugar Fix Cafe

Taiwanese owned, Sugar Fix Cafe is one of those rare spots in the valley that bring authentic Taiwanese style food and drink to the area. Walking distance from CSUN and a few blocks north of Nordhoff and Reseda, this is one of my favorite spots to get a boba milk tea and have an affordable Taiwanese style meal such as fried chicken leg over rice.

Run by Webster and his wife Tiffany, they're a young couple that are super nice and have been able to run the shop effectively through the pandemic. Whenever I want to chat about politics, food, relationships, and keep up with my Mandarin, Webster is my go to guy. He's got a wealth of experience as a young first generation Taiwanese moving here and setting up shop.

Some of my favorite drinks are the strawberry matcha latte and jasmine green tea with grass jelly.

Photos from Yelp.

Donut Time Cafe

This is one of my favorite spots for donuts (for my cheat days which have become more frequent as of late) and sandwiches. For donuts, my go to is the apple fritter and maple old fashions. They also make an awesome tuna sandwich which goes great with a pickle on the side. They also have freshly squeezed juice that taste delicious, my personal favorite being the purple one with beets, orange juice, and some other good stuff. They have a stamp card you can use for the juices say that after the tenth one, you get $5 bucks off.

Thao helps run the business and is very inviting and giving: during the pandemic they donated food and water to areas around the valley that were hard hit by the pandemic.

They have two tables for outdoor seating and inside, there's lucky red Buddha in the corner that just brings a smile to my face. The store has become a community staple on the corner of Roscoe and Reseda, with nurses and doctors from the nearby hospital who have become regulars as well as other local businesses coming in for a drink or a snack.

From their Yelp.

Dunkin' Donuts

As you can see from the places mentioned above, I'm all about supporting smaller businesses. But I have to admit, for a franchise, Dunkin' Donuts is one of my favorites. The people here are super friendly, and there's plenty of seating in the patio area with a few outlets for power. Also the wifi is solid, which is always a plus.

Near Plummer and Reseda, this spot was where I'd often come after most of the other cafes closed. Many hours of writing and video editing was spent here, I even thanked Dunkin' Donuts in the credits of my short film. On Sundays there was a weekly Japanese and English language exchange Meetup held there where I made a lot of good friends and learned some Japanese.

The employees are also well trained. During the pandemic, I had an unfortunate incident of running into a racist customer sitting outdoors telling me to go back to China. After informing one of the employees, he came out and said that if she said anything like that again, she wouldn't be allowed back. She shut up after that.

Photos from Yelp.

Bon Bon Tea House

Not the best place for writing, but one of the go to spots in Northridge for getting drinks with friends and hanging outside to chat. They have a check-in special that let's you upgrade the drink for free and the drinks are HUGE.

Many a late night, I would call up a friend and we'd meet up at Bon Bon to grab boba or snowy milk and then maybe head up further north to Reseda Point to watch the night scenery (though I think the area is closed at night now due to the danger of potentially falling off a cliff).

The Bon Bon crowd is generally in the young, college age range and the place can get super busy and noisy weekends, so keep that in mind when visiting.

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I enjoy writing about film/TV, travel, slice of life, language, Asian American issues, and other interests. Thanks for reading! Please leave a comment or message if you have any thoughts to share =).

Los Angeles, CA

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