A local quality coffee shop in Gayle’s Perks

As a foodie and admitted food snob, I’m a hard egg to crack.

Gayle’s Perks coffee shop is tucked away next door to a CVS; located just blocks away from CSUN, near Balboa and Nordhoff.

At first glance, the location can be a bit off-putting, as it is a challenge to find it in the endless strip-mall schlep. However, the charm of Gayle’s Perks won me over. A bumper sticker greets you at the cash register: “May all beings be filled with kindness and compassion for one another.” Bookshelves line the walls, and there are comfortable armchairs to lounge in. Toward the back, there’s a patio complete with a fire pit and flowers decorating the fence.

Marci Parsons, a regular, explained that she frequents Gayle’s Perks because it’s not  “institutional,” and the staff pays attention to “personal touches.”

Gayle’s Perks serves paninis, crepes, pastries, an extensive selection of teas and standard coffee menu items. The menu wasn’t overwhelming, but it still offers a decent selection whether you’re in the mood for a salad or a quick sandwich. There are a few vegetarian options, always a plus in my book. I took note that there weren’t too many vegan menu options.

I went all out; chai tea latte, panini and crepe.

As a chai connoisseur, I appreciate that they use Oregon Chai, a liquid-based mix, instead of the typical powdery blasphemy found at most coffee shops. But it wasn’t an original, fresh blend as I’ve found at a handful of other places, which I vastly prefer, but it was decent nonetheless. I liked that they served it in glass rather than waste a paper cup. Points for eco-friendliness. Four stars for the chai—I would rate it at 3.5, but the attention to a reusable mug won me over.

The ratatouille panini (daily special) was lovely. I’ve never seen ratatouille as an ingredient used for paninis, and with the addition of the feta cheese, the result was a savory, flavorful twist on a coffee-shop staple. Five stars for tastiness and creativity.

Now for the blueberry crepe, which was filled with cream cheese and sprinkled with blueberries and whipped cream. The critic in me says 2 stars. It definitely satisfied my sweet tooth, but the crepe was a bit soggy, and Gayle’s was conservative with both the cream cheese filling and the blueberries. My standards are high when it comes to crepes. They should be stuffed full of yummy decadence, and honestly, it didn’t deliver. Good, but not great.

All in all, I give Gayle’s Perks 3 stars. The atmosphere is delightful, the staff is friendly, there’s free Wi-Fi and the food is decent. A big drawback is their limited hours. I’m a writer; sleep eludes me, so it’s always nice to find a comfortable joint to settle into to hammer out projects. Gayle’s Perks closes at 6 p.m. weekdays, 4 p.m. Saturdays and is closed Sundays.