Strada: DTLA’s Warm Respite on 5th Street

Sand-brewed Turkish coffee. Locally-sourced charcuterie. Peruvian Ceviche. Hand-squeezed basil lemonade. If it sounds like we’re describing four different restaurants, you’re in for a surprise! All of these delights can be found inside the welcoming exposed-reclaimed wooden interiors of Strada Etaeria & Coffee, one of downtown’s newest and most delightful cafés, located inside the historic King Edward Hotel.

Strada means “street” in Italian and Romanian, and indeed the eateria itself reflects the character and energy of the 5th Street, where Strada is located. Businesspeople interact with local residents, alongside artists and surfers as the eateria’s walls serve as a gallery to a rotating cache of local artists. 

Owner Julian Andrei said his goal in opening Strada was to offer a welcoming environment for people from all walks of life to enjoy a pleasurable dining experience.

“To me, food and drinks are part of most cultures, if not all of them,” says Andrei. “If it’s a happy event, people gather, eat and drink. If it’s a sad event, people gather, eat and drink. It’s also something we need to do on a daily basis and I think it’s something we’ve kind of lost the enjoyment of… when people step in here they are kind of separated from the street and the hectic environment that we all have to be a part of.”

Andrei says dining experience at Strada evolves based on each guest’s individual preference.

“I am a people person so I enjoy being around people and I enjoy being a good host,” says Andrei. “I look at this like it’s my home… listening to (guests), seeing what they like, what they didn’t like, and having that honest relationship with them.”

According to Andrei, Strada’s menu is intentionally diverse to include offerings for all tastes and diets. Inspired vegan and vegetarian options live alongside an impressive charcuterie spread.

Says Andrei: “If there are a group of two or three people, we are all so different. You are vegetarian, for instance, someone might be vegan and someone might be a carnivore. So there’s no judging, but also everyone being able to enjoy a meal, being together… It’s the concept of coming to my home. It’s a party. We should be able to provide all of the guests with a great experience and a great product. I should not be pretentious.”

Even the service style is flexible.

“We are not a counter top service, we are not a table service, we are both,” says Andrei. “I know sometimes people are finding it confusing but if you come to my home, I wouldn’t make signs telling you want you should do. Feel comfortable. Sit in the best seat, if it’s available.”

The food is reasonably priced to encourage locals to pop in and quality lunch on a budget. The $7 “bus stop special,” inspired by the near-constant stream of buses running down 5th Street, includes an artisanal sandwich and fresh-made drink, at a price that rivals popular chain restaurants. “We pretty much sell it at cost,” says Andrei, “Because I want everybody to be able to eat well.”

Assimilating into the street culture was not just a culinary choice, but a design choice as well. Strada’s interior is reflective of the local history, and it was designed to invite passerby in.

“That’s why we opened the window so you can see in the lobby,” said Andrei. “We’re opening up, rather than separating the street from you.”

Andrei and his team spent months refinishing the interior of the building, by hand, to exposed reclaimed wood previously left unattended. The windows along the south wall of the eateria offer a glimpse into the lobby of the King Edward, which itself boasts a beautiful double staircase and marble interiors.

While Strada’s environs harken back to the past, the menu is decidedly current. With fresh, organic and locally sourced ingredients, Andrei and his skilled team have curated a menu of culinary favorites from around the world – a menu that Andrei says is as diverse as Los Angeles itself.

“It kind of has a world flair, but with local ingredients,” says Andrei, who himself is from Romania. “Even the Peruvian ceviche, we had to have California attached to it, which is avocado, which everybody loves and I love too.”

As for the eateria’s style, Andrei says, “I would call it LA cuisine but there’s no category for it yet. Because is LA is like that. LA is a cosmopolitan city…. Everybody comes from different places, for the most part, and they bring that luggage with them and it changes over time.”

An exhibition of select pieces by Jayme “MOD DIETCH’ will be showcased at Strada from Sept. 15 through Oct 15.

‘IN THE MINDS EYE,” selected pieces by Jayme ‘ MOD DIETCH” will be displayed at Strada Eateria & Coffee. The opening night reception, “Off ArtWalk” takes place Sept. 15 from 7-10 p.m.

Strada Eateria & Coffee is located at 119 E. 5th St., Los Angeles, CA 90013.

www.stradadtla.com