Blog | Cafe Vida: Best All-Around Family Restaurant with Most Eclectic, Healthy Menu in the Palisades

Victorian Chick's view of Cafe Vida, the best breakfast and best overall family restaurant in the Palisades, with observations about Pacific Palisades, Brentwood and SM versus Beverly Hills.

Since it is a gorgeous Friday in West LA and to many who don't eat out regularly during the week, the weekend is about food, I wanted to plug a restaurant I love and eat regularly for breakfast. 

Cafe Vida serves three meals a day but I mostly go for breakfast, where my standard meal is the eggwhite omelet with vegges and cheese and a large, green juice (number two, the one with the apple). The breakfast quesadilla is excellent and I did once try the breakfast BLT though I do not understand the current American obsession with this form of pork and only like bacon in a Cobb or a BLT. (It's not a religious objection: I just dont get bacon.) 

All through college I loved the blue corn banana and yellow corn blueberry pancakes at A Votre Sante but I stopped going there years ago for no particular reason so I love that you can get a side of two yellow corn cakes for 6.95 and two poached eggs a la carte for 3.95 rather than getting a huge omelet or full stack. With green juice, this is another regular meal of mine.

I confess that like practically every restaurant in SB, NYC and LA, the coffee is subpar. I find that unless you go to a really expensive French or Italian or Continental restaurant ("New American") like Wilshire or Napa Grille, you can't get a decent cup of coffee unless you order espresso. Happily, Starbucks is just down the street and they don't care if you bring your own coffee which I do when I remember. 

It's a bright, pleasant place to read the paper (for those of us who don't have iPads and no plans to procure them anytime in the future) or type on your laptop. Cafe Vida has no WiFi but with an iPhone, you can make any place into a hotspot (one of my main motivations for relinquishing my Pantech Breeze 3, a 9-button flip phone with real buttons and no internet).

Apart from the food and decor, I think it's a fun place to go and chat with people. I've made a few acquaintances as this place which caters not to working people (at least not during the week) commuting to downtown for Biglaw jobs or to Santa Monica for their medical practices or hospital work but stay-at-home moms or other people who work from home as writers or artists of some sort.

It's not a heavy art crowd but everyone seems to have something going on and occasionally you will hear a New Age type with a life coaching or other "healing" business (as opposed to someone with a legitimate degree from a reputable institution who works in the mental health field). Some retirees come in and there are some regulars I see literally every time I come in who must eat there daily.

Finance is a relatively minor part of WLA professional life and takes place in small boutique firms rather than large banking houses but certainly, a stockbroker has to be up when the market opens at 8AM in New York, so you tend not to see those people milling about until dinner.

Cafe Vida doesn't open until 8AM which is far too late for anyone to have an early or power breakfast and still get to Century City or Downtown for work so during the week, it's mainly mommies with pre-K kids having a relaxed breakfast after the school-aged children have been deposited at one of the many elementary schools in the Palisades, mostly private. 

It's a friendly, smart, fun crowd I always enjoy. I've often said--and wrote a blog about this topic over a year ago about the "anthropology of real estate in West LA" (not for my LA readers but for those who have no connection to LA, whether they're in the Midwest or on the right coast)--that matrons in Brentwood, (north of Montana) Santa Monica and Pacific Palisades are quite different from their Beverly Hills counterparts. 

Full disclosure: I'm not a fan of Beverly Hills except the Burton Way or Charleville area which inches toward West Hollywood (a part of town that vies with the Palisades/Brentwood area as my favorite place in the city and the part most like NYC though of course nothing is truly like Manhattan proper or the nice, close parts of the boroughs like Park Slope or Brooklyn Heights or the affluent suburbs in Jersey like Montclair).  

North of Sunset manses on Rexford or Canon, say, are of course gorgeous and impressive but I just am not into eating or drinking in Beverly Hills (hotels are the exception) because most of my friends don't live in LA and I go out alone if not with my parents or a dining buddy of mine near LAX. I enjoy mingling but find Beverly Hills women unlikely and poor sources of conversation. It's the worst of the nouveau riche in my view and even the moms don't seem down-to-earth (not a phrase I often use or like but here it applies). 

The Bravo franchise about housewives of course started in New York but Beverly Hills was not far behind and with the exception of the British lady (I saw it on Jetblue before I had a Mac and could watch whatever I wanted), they're all dumb as a box of rocks.

I'm not saying the New York women, with the exception of the truly mean-spirited, callous Akiva Drescher, who attended Fieldston, Vassar, NYU and Cardozo Law, are scholars or artists but they're mostly professional women and they just don't sound as vapid and dumb as their Southern California counterparts. Women who go to Vida, whether they ever worked or not after college, seem readerly. 

Of course the Beverly Hills housewives sound like Rhodes Scholars and Nobel Laureates compared to the OC women, which I watched twice just to confirm everything I already felt about that county south of Los Angeles, so close and yet so far (in many ways) from the world of WLA.  

But on an average day at Cafe Vida, one hears stay-at-home moms chatting about things other than children's lessons, shoppping, fillers and plastic surgery who gave up law, medicine or business to raise children. These women strike one as regular readers of the LA Times, New York Times, or Wall Street Journal , at least the parts which cover culture. This is not the case in Beverly Hills. 

My favorite couple with three boys under 2 (a boy about 2 and then twins about 1) came in on Halloween one year with the boys dressed up like the Scarecrow, Lion and Tin Men. The wife is taking a break from medicine and studied with a student of C.S. Lewis at Oxford pre-med and post-undergrad. They're probably late 30s or early 40s and such fun.

The women who range (other than the retirees) from 35 to early 50s are all fit and youthful looking, generally dressed in yoga attire or jeans with enviable jewelry so a side benefit is getting a chance to admire beautiful jewelry worn tastefully by women with adorable munchkins almost always well-behaved. 

When I tell my father of 88, for whom I am a part-time caretaker, that I'm going to Vida for breakfast he says, "Oh do tell me about all the children when you come back." This is of course facetious. Dad is not immune to the charms of a gorgeous toddler and two little girls came into Beech this week after church in velvet dresses to die for and he melted before uttering his habitual line about children: "They are cute. That's how come they survive."

Interesting conversation, spectacular and healthy food, pleasant decor, friendly service, the best munchkin watching in the Palisades and extraordinary jewelry: no wonder it's my favorite place to eat breakfast on the Westside. (I must admit, I've been going to Literati Cafe on Wilshire and Bundy because they have the best huevos rancheros I've had in WLA and it's a nice brunch spot because they have wine, which Vida does not.)

The salads, sandwiches and burgers all look terrific but I haven't tried them.  The menu offers quite a few Mexican dishes but it's really American food with a healthy and Mexican twist. 

Beech is a wonderful addition to the stable of Palisades restaurants and I've always been a fan (20 years) of Kay 'n Dave's but options are limited and Cafe Vida is a great-all around option where you can take your kids but still have quality, grown-up food.  

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Victoria Ordin March 02, 2013 at 02:32 PM
Haha. I'm a Yelper among other things. The reason I am going to be Elite is that people like social commentary. I call 'em like I see 'em and I'm not hostile but also don't like the OC and I can't bear Woo Woo. New Age uncredentialed healers and life coaches--my most popular Victorian Chick blog almost was the Larry Loik event at the LAX Sheraton. EATING is not just about food. It's about the social life and culture around food. If you go to the Mondrian Hotel, for instance, you will enter a beautiful smoking-friendly European environment. This is quite different from the SLS or the Pen. Of course I'm a Palisades girl, Yale Phi Beta Kappa, Humanities Predoctoral Fellow (i.e. MA/PhD program free at UCSB) and a Westside girl who thinks if you're going to pay someone to fix your messed up life, a) they should have degrees from respectable institutions of higher learning if for no other reason than that it shows gumption and the ability to jump through hoops, and b) "healers" and "life coaches" tend to go into the field, just as psychoanalysts do, to heal themselves. That's fine, but I'll take a healer with a Ph.D, MFCC (if the problems are very basic and don't require a theoretical framework or foundation), M.D. or Psy.D. I'm a proud therapy snob. Cf: New York Times takedown of Naomi Wolf on "journeys."
Victoria Ordin March 02, 2013 at 02:37 PM
Obviously I wouldn't write this for the OC patch. I'm a Palisades native and I don't pretend to be "egalitarian" about things in life that matter: therapy, high culture, the Western Canon, pop culture. On a deeper level, America suffers from lack of rigor, the "everyone gets a trophy mentality," "the artist within is always there." Californication uproariously indicted this New Age thinking. NO, not everyone is an artist. Not everyone has talent. But I have provided all of the pertinent food data: green juice, Mexican-inspired cuisine, egg white frittata with cheese, corn cakes with fruit and made a note about the great service. I'm not under any obligation--nor did Matt bring me on--because I provide milquetoast comfort to those who don't have strong opinions about life , reality, people or society. I am opinionated and I provide either textual or extensive anecdotal evidence to back my opinions as an ex-debater not to mention daughter of litigators or jurists. I LOVE Cafe Vida because the crowd is cool. I retract nothing either about the OC or uncredentialed healers. P.S. Some life coaches are from other states and HAVE credentials but the bureaucratic nonsense in CA, extreme red tape, makes some high end therapists like my Bostonian buddy, consider hanging a shingle as a life coach. IF you are in CA, there is no excuse for "University of Santa Monica" degree in "healing and consciousness." Shopping at Cottage would be better!
helen petticrew March 07, 2013 at 12:54 PM
The reason she is going to be elite is because people like social commentary. She is a legend in her own mind.....
helen petticrew March 07, 2013 at 01:00 PM
She is an ex-debater not to mention the daughter of litigators and jurists. Well then! Watch out Gloria Allred! She will be arguing the merits of egg white frittatas with cheese at a courthouse near you soon.....
helen petticrew March 07, 2013 at 01:15 PM
You have strong opinions about life, reality people and society? Where? All I see is milquetoast pedestrian froth.


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