Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Griddle Cafe [4] and Schulzie's Bread Pudding, Los Angeles/Santa Monica CA

Time to revive a classic – and steal an intro from myself…”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 let’s not forget the great prices, absurd selections, and portions!”

My fourth trip to LA in four years once again brought me to The Griddle during the day of my annual pilgrimage to Staples Center for a Kings game and once again by arriving early we were met with a minimal wait…as a matter of fact, given the crummy weather and early hours this was the first time we arrived at The Griddle Café to find half the restaurant empty – no worries though, by the time we left there was a line. Greeted promptly by our server, a somewhat curt but efficient fellow named Sergio we were given menus and drink orders were taken – water all around, tea for two, and that lovely French Press for mother and I. Browsing the menu while listening to cheesy 80s music overhead I commented that this was the first time I could hear the sounds of the kitchen – again this didn’t last as the place filled up.

Browsing the menu and seeing options both old and new our decisions were easier than usual as we all wanted to try new things. As a new twist, Sergio actually inquired as to whether the persons ordering pancakes wanted one, two, or three – essentially a two dollars off per pancakes short of a full stack. With orders placed service would be swift with coffee and tea being refilled before they were even empty (resulting in two tea pots and two French presses on the large table at once;) busy or half full the service at The Griddle has never been anything less than impressive. Waiting a mere fifteen minutes while chatting and watching Sportscenter it would be no time before our desserts – er, breakfasts – would arrive.

Ordered by my sister and far better than its humble origins would suggest, a stack of two BLUESberry pancakes would arrive fluffy and light, jam packed with fresh blueberries and topped with a puree of blueberry juice and sour cream. Fearing the sour cream would be too tart I was duly impressed by the manner in which the powdered sugar and juice tempered the creamy sour cream and even my sister, a maple syrup fanatic, took it easy with the syrup on this dish allowing its natural flavors to shine.

For my mother, another fruited option – Barry Yellow. Similar in texture to the fluffy yet filling Blueberry option, this selection was loaded with pureed raspberries (complete with seeds) and lemon juice. Topped with merely butter and powdered sugar the buttermilk cakes were slightly more dry than I would have preferred, but with the pockets of jammy raspberry breaking up the dough the key was making sure to get both pancake and raspberry in each bite – then it was quite excellent.

My selection would be a result of my aunt choosing the newest menu option – the “Red Velvet” panCAKE, the dish I’d originally targeted. A single cake, both in title and in texture, this monstrous cake was mildly sweet, bright red, and loaded with subtle cocoa tones. Topped with a thick swirl of cream cheese icing with a slight acidity suggesting a nondescript citrus the cake was quite good, though not as successful as the version at Larchmont Bungalow. Dense and heavy compared to the standard pancakes a single cake was definitely enough for one, or to share.

Having already tried nearly all the pancake options on our multiple trips my selection would once again come from the French Toast section of the menu – this time Crème de la Crème with Griddle Café’s signature egg dipped Griddle Bread subsequently dipped in Graham Cracker crumbs before frying and subsequently loaded with slightly unsettled cheesecake and more graham cracker crumbles. Three thick slices, perfectly custardized inside and golden and buttery on the exterior I found the cheesecake topping particularly pleasant in its mildness. Adding only a drizzle of The Griddle Café’s pure maple syrup was a good, albeit unnecessary, decision as it worked quite nicely with the graham crackers and cream cheese both.

Honestly, there isn’t much more I can say about the Griddle than what has been stated in my previous three visits – the fact that I keep going back, from Ohio, says all you need to know. Obviously I cannot comment on the savories, but if you like sweet breakfasts this is the place for you and will continue to be a place for me on Kings game days (which would clearly be a health hazard if I lived locally.)

Continuing my traditional trajectory on leaving The Griddle it was time for some walking – this time the Hollywood Walk of Fame, then some driving around Beverly Hills, and finally a trip to Venice Beach to stare at the Ocean. Of course given my gluttonous nature the trip wasn’t without a food agenda – I’d heard rumor that there was a Bread Pudding themed restaurant right on the beach – Schulzie’s Bread Pudding – and that they served Blue Bottle Coffee. My favorite dessert style and my favorite coffee producer seemed like a can’t miss.


Having walked up and down the beach for an hour or so in the only sunny weather of our trip the tiny shop was easy to find – tucked in next to a Middle Eastern place called Sabba and close to an empty Muscle Beach. With no bread pudding in site on arrival I asked the young man what time they started serving and he said “whenever ya like” – little did I know the Bread Pudding was pre-made in a tiny refrigerator. With eight total options including Brilliant Blackberry, Celestial Chocolate Chunk, Luba’s Peach Cobbler, and Biggie’s Figgie Pudding I opted for the Fig and Almond option, served with an ice cream scoop and drizzled with a balsamic sauce along with a drip brew cup of Single Origin African Dark roast. Paying the surprisingly modest tab of $5 I made my way back to the family to share.

While I will note that the coffee was superb – as good as all my previous Blue Bottle experiences had etched in my mind, the bread pudding was rather boring. Perhaps due to the storage, perhaps due to the temperature, perhaps due to the ingredients – everything about it was just sort of bland – without the small chunks of fig and balsamic reduction the bread itself was almost flavorless. Sharing around everyone agreed – homogenous and sub-par, especially from a place claiming it as a specialty. Disappointing for sure I’d perhaps consider a repeat visit for other flavors if I lived locally, but I’d not waste the stomach space or calories as a tourist when Los Angeles has so many wonderful bakeries.


zygomycota said...

Glad to see that you're still enjoying life with beautiful people and food, doc! Those large pancakes remind me of the ones at Mickies Dairy Bar here in Madison. Happy 2011 to you too!

uhockey said...

Thanks sir, hope all is well with you!

Jenny Cleary said...

Awww man, I was really stoked thinking the bread pudding was going to be a hit. Thanks for taking the hit in calories for us, so we don't, hah :P