I've been challenging myself as a student at UCLA to explore the non-Starbucks/CoffeBean/Peet's cafes in the West LA/Santa Monica area and have been to quite a number of local cafes in the area.\r
18th Street Coffee House is the BEST one I've found so far. There is plenty of indoor/outdoor seating, an extensive menu of teas and coffees and food (I've had the toasted pita and hummus and it was delicious) and the prices are very reasonable. The parking is limited to a small lot in the back, but is generally half-empty after the busy morning hours. \r
There is no wi-fi access (except a small signal in the parking lot), but this draws different clientele than the busy Starbucks-exec types who bring their laptops and type away...it's quieter and more relaxed.\r
The most alluring aspect of this cafe is the service - obviously regular customers are greeted by name by the baristas and they are friendly, patient, and willing to answer any questions you have. They play the Beatles and oldies and have plenty of comfortable booths, tables, and patio furniture.\r
There is also a ""no-cell-phone"" rule: the staff will kindly and politely ask you to refrain from use if you don't see the sign...but no worries, you can talk outside all you like.
Pros: Ambience, service, ample seating, great food/drinks, affordable
Cons: Busier and harder to find parking in the mornings, early closing hours