What it’s like to go to the first cannabis cafe in the United States

Lifestyle

Just when you thought Los Angeles was a completely smoke-free city, think again! The first of its kind in the United States, the Original Cannabis Café opened its doors in West Hollywood in October 2019, serving up an array of cannabis offerings, along with accompanying culinary creations.

Since its opening, the cafe has been causing quite the buzz. Because marijuana has been outlawed in the USA for years, it may be difficult for potential guests to initially wrap their minds around an upscale restaurant with patrons openly getting high.

Marijuana has been legalized for recreational use in the state of California since late 2016, and this pioneering cafe can be considered a sign of the times. (Since its initial launch, the cafe changed its name from the Lowell Café in December 2019).

And once you step inside, your preconceptions are bound to evaporate into, well, a puff of smoke.

Top-notch patio at Original Cannabis CafeTop-notch patio at Original Cannabis Cafe — Photo courtesy of Original Cannabis Cafe

An entirely unique concept, the 6,000-square-foot indoor/outdoor cafe offers a friendly environment to dine in a modern, yet rustic setting while enjoying a variety of cannabis options at your table (or the bar).

It also features a spacious, picturesque 45-seat patio with tables and chairs that surround a 70-year-old olive tree, an organic “living wall,” an inviting bar area and plenty of cozy booths inside the dining room.

At first glance, it appears to be similar to the many other lively, upbeat restaurants in West Hollywood with a cool vibe. Guests are chatting over raucous 1980’s rock ‘n roll tunes and snacking on nachos and other gourmet-style comfort-foods.

But there’s one major difference: Instead of cocktails being shaken and stirred, the main feature of this cafe is cannabis – in a variety of forms including joints, edibles and beverages.

Andrea Drummer, a leader in the cannabis community who is known for her expertise in cooking with marijuana serves as executive chef and co-owner. She explained, “We’re so unique. We are essentially creating a new industry. This space is so perfect for our cafe and we were smiling from ear-to-ear when we finally found this building. It’s been fun and exciting to open this cafe – for me as well as our innovative team.”

And what about the smoke? There’s no haze here – the cafe is airy, open and uses a powerful air filtration system that is “casino-grade” and renders the smoke (almost) unnoticeable. Anyone strolling by on the sidewalk would never know the patio beyond the tall hedges is filled with smokers a few feet away.

Drummer noted, “We were thinking of the community at large and there is still a stigma attached and we wanted to be incredibly conscientious of the smoke.”

Chef Andrea DrummerChef Andrea Drummer — Photo courtesy of Original Cannabis Cafe

Due to legal regulations in the state, the food items and the cannabis sold here are kept separate, which means although you order both from the same “flower server,” you will receive a different bill for each. This also means that the food menu does not offer cannabis-infused food.

A world-class professional, chef Drummer developed the cafe’s menu to complement (not contain) the cannabis offerings. A graduate of Le Cordon Bleu in Los Angeles, Drummer worked as a chef at the Ritz-Carlton, and has been a private chef for several years, known across the world for cooking with cannabis.

She’s also the co-founder of Elevation VIP Cooperative, and author of the cookbook “Cannabis Cuisine: Bud Pairings of a Born Again Chef.”

The food menu

Table with cannabis and food — Photo courtesy of Original Cannabis Cafe

She describes her culinary style at the cafe as “eclectic comfort food.” Drummer explained, “Originally, I wanted to start with a farm-to-table concept, so a lot of our produce comes from local growers and smaller farms in the area. But ultimately, I wanted to offer some comfort foods that support the cannabis consumption experience. So, I added some traditional and homey items with a bit of a spin on them. Not necessarily complex – just a concentration on the fresh ingredients and delicious taste.”

Drummer mentioned that she plans to play around with new recipe ideas and food concepts. “We’ll see what sticks and what people like and we will build upon that,” she said.

The food menu’s offerings are all personally created by chef Drummer, with plates that are generously-portioned (not a bad approach, considering the potential for increased appetite).

Smash burgerSmash burger — Photo courtesy of Original Cannabis Cafe

Several best-sellers include: vegan nachos (with housemade chips topped with cauliflower, red onion, guacamole and Follow Your Heart “cheese”), signature cobb salad (a delectable oversized bowl with grilled chicken, garbanzo beans, roasted broccoli, avocado, soft boiled egg and more) and crispy Brussels sprouts and turnips.

For brunch, favorites include the cheese griddled breakfast burrito (with scrambled egg, fries, avocado and chips); French toast, and the signature “smash” burger, among other offerings.

There are a number of desserts on the menu too, including an especially decadent and creamy version of baked Alaska. According to Drummer, both the food and flower menus will be changing on a regular basis, featuring new items throughout the year.

She noted, “The audience in our cafe is very different than expected. At first we thought that West Hollywood customers prefer healthy, light dishes, so we started out with six different salads – but they were not all a hit, so we wound up taking some of them off the menu,” she laughed.

The cannabis (“flower”) menu

Curated by the cafe’s renowned cannabis expert (and vendor relations director), Red Rodriguez, the “flower” menu is robust, straightforward and descriptive. It clearly states the THC potency of each item and categorizes them into easy-to-understand sections.

Guests can purchase plenty of options, including flowers and buds, pre-rolled joints and vapes. If you’re a frequent smoker and prefer a higher potency, there’s also hash, oils or waxes, and for a lower octane choice (containing a fair amount of CBD), you can select beverages and edibles. Bongs are available for rent, and rolling papers, lighters and ashtrays are abundant.

Fruity Pebbles dunkersFruity Pebbles dunkers — Photo courtesy of Original Cannabis Cafe

Rodriguez explained, “I curate the cannabis menu to ensure it’s diverse, clean and creative as possible. All of our flower is fresh – and most of our product has been harvested in the last few months – sometimes even a week ago. I have indoor, outdoor, hydroponic…everything is sustainable.”

He added, “I’m very passionate about cannabis and I really want the café to truly represent our industry and community as well. We want to make sure we are here for everyone.”

A few of their most popular offerings on the “flower” menu include:

  • Cann beverages – A local California company creates infused beverages that contain a low-dose of THC. It’s served in cans and offered in several flavors, including lemon lavender.
  • OG by Loaded Co. pre-roll – This pre-roll is unique and includes a patented glass crutch (also known as a filter or tip).
  • Top-Shelf Cultivation Flower – Featured in the “experts only” section, the “whoa-si-whoa” cannabis strain is described as exotic and balanced. (At 31% THC, this is recommended for cannabis connoisseurs only).
  • Hot chocolate by Kiva Confections – (A special for winter) contains 5 mg of THC

As the cafe ramps up, there’s a lot of room for new items on the menu. Rodriguez said, “We will be rolling out special offerings in the near future. We’re considering happy hours, tea times, seasonal items similar to our exquisite hot chocolate and a variety of holiday items as well. We’re in line to get our alcohol permit, so in the future, we hope to be able to sell drinks in a designated area as well.”

The flower servers are experts and with a great deal of experience in bud-tending. They patiently help customers choose the best options and are trained to keep a careful watch for over-consumption. (And yes, the staff does get to partake while working…it’s their job, after all).

What to know before you go

The Original Cannabis Cafe has a light and airy ambianceThe Original Cannabis Cafe has a light and airy ambiance — Photo courtesy of Original Cannabis Cafe

Of course, the cafe has its quirks, too. Due to strict adherence to state laws, the kitchen must remain separate from where the cannabis is sold. This affects the location of the restrooms, which are situated behind the venue. (So guests need to exit through the front door and walk around to the back in order to access them).

Not surprisingly, the Original Cannabis Café is leading the way for other, similar ventures to open in Los Angeles in the near future.

Rodriguez says, “Cannabis in general is inclusive to everyone. The other cafes will all be a little different and they will all have amazing visions of what consumption really is. I really feel there is no competition among businesses. This is their home, too. We all win. I’m excited to see the new versions of cafes that will be opening.”

A few tips for visiting the Original Cannabis Cafe:

  • Make reservations – Although the cafe is open to walk-ins, it’s a hot spot and always best to have a reservation.
  • Bring your ID – All guests must have legal identification or they won’t be admitted, period. Customers are vetted by a security representative who checks IDs and bags as well. If all goes well, you will be permitted to walk down a pathway to the front entrance.
  • No doggie bags – Guests must consume the cannabis while on the premises; you can’t leave the cafe with any extra.
  • You can’t bring your own – Guests are not allowed to bring their own pipes, bongs or tobacco. However, there is a $30 dollar cost per person “tokeage” fee to bring outside cannabis into the cafe.
  • No alcohol allowed – Alcohol is not sold in the café. Customers are not permitted to bring in outside food or beverages.
  • Hours – The café is open daily from 10 am to 10 pm. (The café offers free Wi-Fi and guests are encouraged to bring their laptop and work from there, too). Brunch is offered on weekends.
  • Parking – The Original Cannabis Café has a parking lot, valet is $10 dollars.

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