The Bookmark Café at the main Santa Monica Library, located on Sixth Street and Santa Monica Boulevard, is a unique gathering place, a quiet oasis away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Located in the spacious inner courtyard of the library’s ground floor, the café attracts library patrons, high school and college students, tourists, business executives, writers, researchers, and a wide range of regular customers who seek out its quality food and gourmet coffee.
“I’m proud to serve high quality food,” said Gary Wallack, the café’s owner. “I like to make people happy.”
Santa Monica Library Director Greg Mullen said more than 30 restaurant proposals were submitted for consideration to the library’s management and Wallack’s was chosen. Wallack also owns Bud’s Deli and Ocean Park Pizza on Ocean Park Boulevard and has many years of history in the restaurant business.
Mullen said library patrons made up the majority of his customers.
The café is “an outdoor reading room, a true indoor-outdoor experience that makes the library work,” remarked Mullen. The café is a secure space which opens at 8 a.m., two hours before the library opens at 10 a.m. The library’s central landscaped courtyard provides the café outdoor seating, with tables and umbrellas, in a relaxing atmosphere.
The Bookmark Café menu offers a wide variety of gourmet coffees, “un-coffee” drinks, specialty smoothies, frozen yogurt, and sorbets. Wallack said he was “especially proud of the café’s fresh food, freshly baked desserts, and baked goods.” Café manager Hector Lopez, who has worked with Wallack for 15 years, makes sure all customers receive excellent service.
A daily breakfast special and six different omelette combinations are featured. The café’s menu includes a large selection of sandwiches, gourmet wraps, salad plates, kosher hotdogs, a pizza special, and burgers —including a “fillet salmon” burger.
Ever since the café opened more than five years ago it has attracted a wide variety of “regulars” who come daily to read, write, have informal business meetings, and enjoy the space.
Tom Brennan, a regular at the café, is a Santa Monica-based media placement and public relations expert. Brennan reflects on the unique attraction of the Bookmark Café.
“You can rub elbows with all manner of interesting people,” said Brennan. “From former Broadway stars, movie directors, and TV producers, published novelists and those working on their first novel, dancers, star athletes, a political expert for every side of every issue, poets, attorneys, and émigrés from everywhere in the world as though this is the literary center of the world. And maybe it is.”
A. Martin Zweiback has been a regular at the café since it opened. A Writer’s Guild nominated screenwriter — writer of “Kung Fu” TV episodes and author of “The Ultimate Solution of Grace Quigley,” the 1985 film starring Katherine Hepburn and Nick Nolte, Zweiback said he found the café a special place to work on his projects. “I find it one of the few places in town where you can quietly enjoy culture, computer, cookies and a good cup of coffee (the four important C’s of Life) though I wish I could do without the cookies.”
Zweiback is just beginning a book that chronicles his decades-long battle to release his critically acclaimed “Writer’s Cut” version of “The Ultimate Solution of Grace Quigley”. The book is entitled “The Ultimate Disillusion of Grace Quigley starring Katharine Hepburn.”
The Bookmark Café provides a positive experience for regulars and those who have discovered it for the first time because of its unique location. City Librarian Greg Mullen said the café contributed to key goals of the library: read, connect, relax, and learn. Mullen also said the café received the most positive comments in the library’s suggestion box.
The café is an important asset of the library, which is designated as a “Gold LEED Certificate Building.” LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is an internationally-recognized green building certification system. The library has a solar power installation at a 200,000 gallon cistern located below the parking levels which provides re-usable water for library plants.
The Bookmark Café is an inviting and relaxing place where one can enjoy healthy food and appreciate the welcoming ambiance. The opportunity to meet and talk with strangers at the café is quite different from many coffee shops filled with solitary customers typing on their laptops, oblivious to those around them. Quite the contrary, this writer was pleasantly surprised one afternoon to hear an actor sing a few bars from the Broadway play, “Man Of La Mancha.”
The Bookmark Café. 601 Santa Monica Blvd, located in the Courtyard of the Santa Monica Library.
Mon.-Thurs. 8 a.m.– 9 p.m.
Friday 8 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Saturday 9 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Sunday 12:30 p.m. – 5 p.m.
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