Sarkis Vartanian is the owner of the Daily Dose Café a local favorite serving only organic fares in Downtown’s most reserved region known as the Arts District.
Sarkis, who is greeted by his gratified customers with a smile, hug or a handshake, when speaking of the cafe’s success toggles between humility and the brazen with a confidence in knowing that he indeed may have one of the best breakfast/lunch spots in Downtown if not all of Los Angeles.
Yet at the same time shows the utmost gratitude for the blessings he’s received which led him away from an unhealthy obese past and life-threatening illness that could have stopped him from ever becoming so well loved here.
When Sarkis first arrived at the Arts District in 2008, there was little in the realm of cafes in the area although it was shining with potential with others already doing amazing works there.
Back then, Sarkis and his brother Chant owned an architecture firm and occupied the office spaces above the cafe. Originally, they didn’t really have intentions of opening a café but knew they wanted to open up some type of eatery, toying regularly with ideas of what would fit best in the neighborhood. A pizza joint? Already in the works. A bar?
Church and State, Pour Haus and Little Bear would soon be in existence and with Sarkis’s past health experience, whatever they created had to be very nutritious, delicious and provide a space inviting to the community. A coffee shop! Yes, of course, but where?
After months of searching, Sarkis took to the advice from his mentor, landlord and fellow visionary Yuval Bar-Zemer who gave him his first tour of the tiny space below. “Yuval, one of the principal developers of The Toy Factory Lofts and Biscuit Company Lofts had a vision for the Arts District; he knew what the community needed and what would fit best in the alley” says Sarkis.
History – that’s the key.
Long abandoned, one hundred years ago a train ran through the two buildings lending to the alley its curvature appeal, something not found in too many places here in the states but more common in Europe.
Before the café, the alley, laden with loose dirt and overgrown weeds, stretched far back from its opening at Industrial Street, curving beyond one’s vantage point to even more unsightly stubs.
In recent years, the alley café has become one of Arts District’s most relevant landmarks. “Yuval, paved the way for us. He had already leveled The Alley and laid all the bricks which were recycled from the biscuit company loft development. We designed and built the café, planted flowers, and small trees. We knew we had something very special here and wanted to make sure it was well preserved. Now wall-covered vines have grown to the buildings peak, flower pots, singing birds and the well-mannered chatter of many a returning coffee enthusiast. There is a natural feel with everything from the façade to the metals and the woods all reflecting each other making them look and feel as though they had been here for 100 years.
“Since train ran through the alley for many years we wanted to give it that feel again. We wanted to give our guests an experience they can never get anywhere else: dining on old rail lines.”
Ole’ Good Things
It wasn’t until a trip to Toronto just before they opened that Sarkis fully realized the alleys potential borrowing the outdoor seating arrangement from a similar set up while on vacation. Yet, the making of the alley’s outdoor eating space as delightful as it is today proved almost as difficult as carving the bricks to fit the metal that holds in the cafes rounded antique door.
“This door is the most expensive item in the place.” Sarkis grins “Do you see the stained glass at the top? Original handwork over a hundred years old I was told.”
Today, the tranquil alleyway dining is inviting enough to entice any passerby with the urge to satisfy their curiosity, but the menu and the friendly team are what keep the customers coming back time and time again.
Daily Dose means your daily dose of everything good.
Sarkis may possibly just have the best veggie and grilled cheese sandwiches on earth. He subscribes to a seasonal rotating menu, mostly farmers market driven, all organic with no need to advertise attitude.
“Why do we need to talk about being organic, or seasonal” He says “It’s a lifestyle… it’s what I eat and what I would feed my family…”
A way of life that allowed Sarkis himself, to lose over 120lbs, and fight off cancer.
“We’re a cross between modern eatery, meets urban sprawl, meets hippie if there is such a thing” he calls it. “When I make a menu item, I think about how you would feel after you eat my food. Not just how it would taste.”
Feeling full yet energetic and light, after you eat, it is what it should be called. Take, the Farmer’s sandwich, a most amazing sandwich, it’s vegan, huge, pure healthy stacked with beets, yams, squash, guacamole, tomatoes, and just an overall combination yummy goodness.
Nothing is fried at Daily Dose. Once you come here and eat the food you’re hooked… Breakfast and lunch is served all day, “We keep to our version very clear and try to make the classics with alternative clean proteins such as duck and rabbit. All of our deli meats are made by Fra Mani in northern California and 100% nitrate free.
One of Daily Dose’s best patrons is Durian Songbird who mentions on his way out after breakfast”, Daily Dose reminds me of the coming to one of the cafes in the French Riviera.”
Before we ended the interview, we asked Sarkis: with a future bar and a “real big kitchen” with seated restaurant soon to be called “The ALLEY” in your vision, what do you hope to gain from all of this?
“At this point, I have gained everything a man needs to be happy and successful… I have been blessed with the best possible venue, with the best possible clientele base ever, and the support and guidance of the most progressive visionary developer imaginable. At this point, I just hope I don’t let anyone down.”
The Daily Dose Cafe is in The Alley at 1820 Industrial St #260, Los Angeles, CA 90021.