Longtime friends Winston Secrest and Justin Prietto spent many afternoons hanging out at Jones Coffee Roasters together, before ultimately co-founding Lost Parrot Café in their hometown of South Pasadena. Both are also accomplished surfers and have traveled as far away as Costa Rica to find the perfect waves together.
Previously, Secrest worked at a traveling espresso cart before starting his own, while Prietto owns Huntington Catering, which he later relocated to its present location on Huntington Drive. He eventually opened Lost Parrot Café as an extension of the catering company, which he still oversees, while Secrest handles most day-to-day operations for the café.
“The plan was to eventually open a café, which we finally did,” Prietto explained.
“I feel like it was a serendipitous thing where Justin had the idea to do something like this 10 years ago,” Secrest added.
Lost Parrot Café, which opened its doors to the public in the summer of 2018, features a cool, relaxed vibe that reflects the style of both Secrest’s and Prietto’s homes—a comfortable space decorated with lots of books and plants.
“In the last few years, a lot of coffee shops have been going minimalist and making their interiors stark-white,” said Secrest. “What we’re going for is a more traditional setting like in Seattle or Oregon, where you feel comfortable reading a book or talking with your friends. This is more or less what my place looks like, as well as Justin’s. We decided to mimic the same aesthetic in here, since our homes are where we both feel comfortable. It’s very unpretentious—people don’t come in here and feel like they’re going to break things. It doesn’t feel like a museum.”
Many of the decorative items and furniture were sourced locally, including a sign that they salvaged from the former Santa Anita Inn, a fridge that was given to them by Chuck Jones of Jones Coffee Roasters, as well as various plants and books that were donated by the local residents—all contributing to the strong community energy that is felt within the walls of the café.
When thinking of a name for the business, Prietto and Secrest were inspired by the local parrots in the area whose origins remain somewhat of a mystery. While the numerous stories that allude to their origins are all speculation, one thing is for certain—the birds stayed for the trees, of which there is an abundant supply in South Pasadena. As a part of Tree City USA (a program that recognizes cities for their excellence in urban forestry management), South Pasadena is known for its trees that are more than a century old, where flocks of large groups of parrots and other birds roost in.
The menu at Lost Parrot Café features a fun and unique assortment of specialty coffee drinks named after different local areas, including the Cali Gold—which is named after the Huell Howser television series “California Gold.” Ingredients include turmeric, dehydrated coconut and sea algae, which help to counter the negative effects of coffee. Other fun drinks include the Dusty Dena and the Orange Grove, and the coffee beans used in all the drinks are sourced from locally-based Jones Coffee Roasters.
Lost Parrot Café also serves food daily, serving up dishes such as avocado toast and vegan granola, while on Sundays it offers a full brunch menu that includes biscuits and gravy, blueberry pancakes and braised pork, to name a few. Guests walk up and order at the counter, then sit down at a table and wait for their food and drinks to come out—which is always quick and efficient. The café can also host private evening events and birthdays, and interested parties can send an email via the website.
Despite being around less than a year, Lost Parrot Café has already become a popular hangout spot for locals and visitors alike, who flock to the comfortable place to enjoy the relaxing atmosphere and menu offerings.
“It’s great having everyone come in—people with their kids, friends, family—and just catching up,” said Prietto. “You can just hang out in here, have a great conversation and probably run into someone that you haven’t seen in a long time.”
“There was a lot of feedback from the local neighborhood even before we opened because there hasn’t been anything on this part of Huntington Drive in years, so people were super excited,” added Secrest. “We’ve had regulars since day one. One of my favorite things is when I witness two people standing in line that haven’t see each other in a long time and then they end up sitting down at a table and talk for hours.”
Lost Parrot Café is located at 1929 Huntington Dr. in South Pasadena. It is open Monday – Friday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information, call (323) 886-0703 or visit www.lostparrotcafe.com.
Lost Parrot Café Business Spotlight appeared in the print edition of the South Pasadena Review on 3.29.19. Support Local Business.