The Lost Parrot Café is surely a gem in the small community of South Pasadena. Taking a load of influences from around the country and creating a creatively diverse, warm, and matchless atmosphere, this lovely café has already found a special spot in my heart.
Co-founders Winston Secrest and Justin Prietto have, in my mind, touched upon that almost intangible quality one would find in a home away from home; books of various genres bookended by potted plants, a beautiful standup player piano, and repurposed items all grace the space. According to Winston, “That’s kind of the idea behind the books and the plants, (they’re) two things that make you feel really comfortable.”
With both founders growing up in South Pasadena, it’s become crucial to them to become a staple in their hometown. “It’s such a community driven space, I actually worked at Marengo ( Elementary ) and get some of the kids coming in. That whole aspect is really important to us,” says Winston.
To describe the location as quirky would be all too clichéd as well as inaccurate. “It’s supposed to feel comfortable. It’s not really pretentious, it’s made so that people don’t feel like they’re going to break anything,” says Winston. The cafe has its own unique charm that definitely strays away from your typical “locals only” hangout. A spot with an inviting ambience and a timeless aesthetic would be a more apt illustration, or as Winston puts it, “Kind of like haphazard, but still put-together.”
With the duo of Winston and Justin both having an eye for design and experience working with their hands, it only comes naturally streamlining the hodgepodge of items into a well-designed space. All of the books, furniture, and miscellaneous items have either been donated by the community or salvaged by Winston and Justin, reiterating the concept of a community driven business.
There also is much more to Winston than meets the eye. A multi-faceted, stylish entrepreneur/ woodworker, his passion shines through in the way he speaks about and creates his art.
Rarely can you talk to someone about a cup of coffee for over 10 minutes, and that’s what truly sets these guys apart – there’s a story behind each beverage.
Needless to say, he knows he craft and knows it well. Even hearing Winston describe my favorite drink is mesmerizing, “The Caligold was created to counter the negative effects of coffee. Espresso naturally dehydrates you and causes inflammation, so the turmeric and dehydrated coconut are in there to counter those effects. The cinnamon and sea algae are slow burners, good fats burn slowly in your body naturally, so the spike of caffeine isn’t as drastic, its more of a longer arc, thus there really isn’t much of a crash.”
Winston has also had a decorated traveling record, having worked at a traveling espresso cart which traversed the nation. This eventually inspired him to start his own cart here in Los Angeles duly dubbed Steamboat Coffee LA. But one city in particular has had a major impact on his sensibilities: New Orleans, Louisiana.
To Winston there is a certain passion in the way everyone crafts their art there, with strong traditional ties and a grand emphasis on camaraderie – all qualities that Winston sees in South Pasadena. “As far as creativity and community being intertwined, I saw a lot of that there. Also celebrating the architecture of the place that you’re in.” Carrying over the ideologies that inspire him, it clearly shows in the café itself, being simultaneously spacious and cozy Winston describes it as “a bunch of little cubbies in a big space,” all of which are in a historical building that was once a generational, family owned market.
There’s also an emphasis in celebrating South Pasadena’s own past as well “You can really feel the history here. We’re not trying to mask it and turn it into something that’s pretentious and over designed. Everything on the menu is named after something local or related to in the area…South Pasadena is such a magical place,” muses Winston, “The story behind the parrots is that there are a lot of myths that surround their origin. South Pasadena is as old as Los Angeles and so the trees have been growing for many years. These trees can roost flocks of like 200- 500 parrots. They’re a migratory bird that doesn’t migrate anymore because they’ve found their own paradise. The Lost Parrot is kind of romanticizing this thing that we have in our city that we don’t really pay attention to.”
Looking towards the immediate future, the cafe looks to open its doors on the weekends, feature a chef-driven lunch menu and weekly musical performances on the gorgeous player piano.
Indeed the collection of various and unique objects at the Lost Parrot Café are a testament to the dedication to preserving and repurposing the history of a town that is dear to it’s owners. From the green marquee sign salvaged from the now defunct Santa Anita Inn to the “frankensteined” barista bar featuring some of Winston’s own woodworking contributions, the Lost Parrot Café is a paradise of its own here in South Pasadena.
The Lost Parrot Cafe is open Monday – Friday, 7AM-3PM, and is located on 1929 Huntington Dr, South Pasadena.