Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Griddle Cafe [3], Los Angeles CA

When I travel I make it a point to eat at different places every single time. I scour Zagats, Gayot, Frommers, Chowhound, and Yelp for opinions and eventually glean my list down to a few great choices for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks - I am rarely disappointed, despite never going back to the same place twice. Never, that is, aside from places that are simply too amazing, affordable, or unique to pass up. For me, Hollywood's Griddle Cafe is one of those places. No glitz, no glam - just amazing food in a super casual setting with some of the most down to earth and friendly servers out there....and lets not forget the great prices and absurd selections and portions!

My third trip to LA in three years once again brought me to The Griddle before a Kings game and once again by arriving early we were met with a minimal wait. Seated at a cozy booth (the same one my mother and I sat at during our first trip) myself and my two companions quickly took in the bustling scene and smiled that many of the same faces from a year ago were still there slinging enormous pancakes, coffee, omelets, and French toast.

Having already tried 6 options from the pancake side of the menu I was intrigued to see some new choices on the menu, but this time felt obligated to give the French Toast its day in the sun - seriously, it wasn't like either of my companions were going to finish their orders and as such I'd have plenty of pancake anyhow. Orders were placed with our hilarious server, Trotter, who ironically had just visited Ohio and that wonderful French Press of bold Coffee was brought moments later.

15-20 minutes passed and I noticed the all-new plasma screen on the wall in the back while watching the busy servers weave through the chaos and chucked at the amused look on the patron's faces as their enormous breakfasts were delivered. Another French Press later, the food arrived.

For my mother, pancakes were once again the choice and given her past tastes of 'Tis the Season and The Golden Ticket, she this time opted for "Scotch on the Rocks." Steaming hot and enormous as always, these three tire-sized cakes arrived absolutely jam packed with coconut, pecans, toasted oats, and gooey butterscotch chips heavily topped with real whipped cream and powdered sugar. While my personal taste still leans toward Black Magic or Saturday Morning Fever, this cake was delicious and reminded me a bit of an Almond Joy, but vastly better. Lots of unique textures from the chewy oats to the melted chips to the crunchy pecans and gritty coconut - wonderful.

For my Aunt, disappointed previously by Boysenberry Rain pancakes she opted to this time experience the french toast - specifically the Apple Cobbler French Toast featuring thick Sliced Apple Bread dunked in cinnamon crunch batter and baked cinnamon Apples. Unlike previous flops at Over Easy in Chicago and Breakfast House in Detroit there were no canned apples here - just freshly baked cinnamon apples absolutely dumped over apple laden bread and a crispy cinnamon crust. Almost Bread-Pudding-esque in a way, yet crispy and crunchy, this was probably the second best apple dish of the trip (behind the Apples Carlotta at Bazaar.)

Wanting something savory to temper the sweets, my mother and aunt also opted to split an order of the Thick Cut Bacon. Well cooked to crispy, the bacon was good, though certainly not as mind-blowing in flavor or portion as the gluttony surrounding.

Finally, for myself, the choice was made to truly indulge my waistline with Chocolate Chip Cookie Crusted French Toast. Literally, three humongous slices of hearty chocolate chip bread were dunked in eggs and milk, then dunked in Chips Ahoy and griddle fried with more cookies and chips strewn between the slices and then all topped with a mass of real whipped Cream and a dusting of powdered sugar. Simply reading the description now makes me chuckle given the healthfulness of my home diet, but vacation is MADE for dishes like this. Like the giant birthday cookies at the mall yet better, like chocolate bread pudding but more textural - probably my favorite dish yet at the Griddle.

After chatting with our server a bit more (and listening to him jeer my mother for barely making a dent in her pancakes - I ate nearly a whole one and there was still 1/3 left) we paid the modest tab and waddled to the door. Knowing that I'd be plenty full throughout the afternoon hockey game and fueled with enough coffee to last the day we made our way out for some walking (only 200 more miles to go to burn off breakfast!) and wandering at the Grove and the Farmer's Market.

Dear Griddle, I have another interview in Los Angeles in late March - to quote the Governator, "I'll be back."

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