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As if we didn’t have enough reasons to love Highland Park’s Good Girl Dinette, now there’s this: The Vietnamese comfort food haven has teamed up with Cognoscenti Coffee. The match made is foodie heaven combines Good Girl owner Diep Tran’s out-of-hand pastries—mini seasonal pies, slices of buttery pound cake, and even savory biscuits made with shrimp and lap xuong (Chinese sausage)—with Cognoscenti barista Jack Benchakul’s perfect brew.
The coffee is served from a very cool looking pop-up cart called a Modbar. You can check it out for yourself from 8-3 weekdays, when they’ll just be serving pastries and coffee, and on weekends from 9-2, when the full breakfast menu is in effect. Seriously, if you haven’t tried Good Girl’s breakfast, you are missing out, and the same goes for Cognoscenti’s super smooth espresso. I wrote about the former a while back, and I’m still in love with the Coconut Oatmeal with Ginger Syrup, that freaking Lady Boy, and (oh my god) the Tumeric Dill Hash—the Maggi Steak and Eggs has also had its way with me.
Here are some photos to get you all worked up, courtesy of Good Girl Dinette and Cognoscenti Coffee–photographer Amparo Rios of R.E. Photography took the fantastic Modbar shots.
Good Girl Dinette
110 N Ave 56,
I first tried EggSlut a year ago when it was serving out of a humble truck parked in front of Handsome Roasters in the downtown arts district. The gourmet egg sandwiches and imaginative potato concoctions (crowds fall over themselves for the often sold out pureed potato cooked and served in a dainty glass jar) coming out of its mobile kitchen were impressive. Recently, EggSlut upgraded just slightly to a permanent food stall as part of the changes to the Grand Central Market downtown. There was such clamor over a brick-and-mortar EggSlut that, on their opening day, they sold out of breakfast before 11am.
We stopped in for a late weekend brunch, and the hearty egg sandwiches left us feeling as happy and bright as the sunny-side-ups we just devoured. The egg, sausage and cheddar served on a biscuit was a triumph of baking chemistry and flakiness. To borrow from the recent craze over Cronuts, Cro-doughs and the like, this biscuit should be deemed a Cro-scuit for its combination of light, flaky layers and dense, hearty biscuit dough. I also give them an extra special gold star for heaping their sandwiches thick with ooey, gooey Tillamook cheddar cheese. Every bite left me going back for more, if only because the springy, melted cheese strands acted like boomerangs that returned me happily to the home base of my biscuit-wich.
We went big that morning and also ordered the EggSlut burger, topped with avocado, caramelized onions, over-easy egg, cheddar and served on a fluffy brioche bun. The beef patty was thick and juicy, with the full, buttery taste of quality meat. The melted cheddar and the runny yolk mingled beautifully together, and, with the smooth avocado, caused each bite to be creamy and indulgent.
The potato dish on offer that day was a Pavé—imagine a precisely layered au gratin, cut into individual bricks and toasted to a golden brown. It was a refined and delicate counterpoint to our messy runny sandwiches. Our meal ended with lots of discarded napkins as we wiped the yolk off our hands and from the corners of the huge smiles on our faces.
at Grand Central Market
317 S. Broadway
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Jennifer is a staff writer for Eastside Food Bites. Learn more about her on our Contributor’s page.
Since their opening last October, I find myself at SQIRL once a week, mostly because their food tastes like home cooking ratcheted up to a notch that I myself would never bother with, but am happy paying $5-12 dollars to enjoy. SQIRL summons a steady cult following that consistently crowds its small Silver Lake space for their simple, farm-fresh fare (focusing on homemade jams and ingredients sourced within 350 miles) and adventurous daily specials. Their changing chalkboard menu lists such basics as brioche toast slathered with nut butters and house-made jams, pesto rice bowls, pies and quiches as well as unusual seasonal specials, like squid ink cavatelli, lobster rolls and duck confit.
My usual meal at SQIRL is some variation on their brioche toast—they make it savory or sweet, buttered and browned with any combination of spreads, house-made ricotta, jam, and nut butter, or heaped with sautéed kale, tomatillo jam, a subtle lacto-fermented hot sauce and a fried egg. This week I settled on the brioche topped with a silken ricotta and Black Mission Fig & La Clarine Mourvedre jam. Basically that is a fancy, hifalutin way of saying fig and red wine jam, but SQIRL, with their tiny kitchen and mismatched serving plates and silverware, does not come off as pretentious in their execution or follow the farm-to-table fad blindly. There is an earnestness and sincerity to all that they do.
My brioche toast, as usual, was optimally crisped on the outside while remaining soft and buttery in the center. The warm toasted bread paired well with the slight chill of the smooth ricotta, and the fresh fig jam added just the right note of sweetness, with satisfying chunks of chewy, marinated figs.
If there’s one thing Figueroa Boulevard needs it’s breakfast. There are some notable staples—Antigua Bread, Metro Balderas, La Fuente—but there’s no denying that some new blood is in order. That’s why I was intrigued when I heard that Good Girl Dinette is now serving breakfast! Owner Diep Tran says she labored over the new morning menu, and it shows. The meticulously edited “American diner meets Vietnamese comfort food” menu hits all the necessary sweet and savory notes while offering something novel to the complacent breakfast goer.
Ordering oatmeal at a restaurant is usually a mea culpa for eating three chili dogs the night before. Inspired by chè, a Vietnamese pudding, Tran’s Coconut Oatmeal isn’t useful for such self-flagellation. Steel-cut oats are made creamy and decadent with coconut milk and topped with sweet ginger maple syrup and crushed sesame seeds. The oats are soaked overnight, so they’re only minimally cooked, giving the dish a lightly grainy texture.
When Ba Restaurant opened on York Boulevard almost a year ago, it gave a decided yank to Highland Park’s gentrification tightrope. Part of the new wave of restaurants and shops on the neighborhood’s trendiest street, the French restaurant came on the scene with a teeny menu of 20-something dollar entrees and without the populist bent of fellow newcomer Maximiliano.
Despite some detractors who view the relatively fancy restaurant as a foreshadowing to a Silver Lake-like future, Ba seems to have found an audience. And now, they’re even serving weekend brunch, which is a good option if you, like me, have been weary of the nighttime price points.
By all rights, Garvanza’s should be wildly popular, but its tucked-away location keeps it undercover. The neighborhood restaurant focuses on pan-Latin flavors with an emphasis on high quality local ingredients. The produce is fresh and seasonal, and the service is super friendly. A lot of people, including me, are rooting for it.
The bulk of Garvanza’s menu is burritos and tacos, including tender barbacoa with pickled onions, pork shoulder slow cooked in garlic and peppercorns, and flaky mango-salsa-topped fish tacos. Plates, comprised of those same meat choices and some of the most flavorful rice and beans in a 10 mile radius, are also served.
The one must of the appetizers is the Garbanzo Bean Salad, a simple mix of fried garbanzos, tomatoes, onions and cilantro. The cool veggies and a drenching of lime juice really brighten up this highly addictive dish. The chips and salsa are also notable for the same reason—the chips are thick and greasy, making them the perfect match for the tangy salsa their served with.
This bread. It’s the reason I never miss Atwater Village Farmers’ Market on Sundays. To me, it’s the main draw. And that’s saying a lot because that little market, though compact, is full of all the stuff I love to eat—top notch fruits and vegetables, fresh meat, fruit pies, artisanal cheeses, and this bread from Mission Viejo’s Old Village Bakery.
There must be fifty Kalamata olives in every loaf. The outer texture is golden and crusty, the inside soft and chewy. It’s a fantastic (extravagantly fanciful; marvelous) addition/focal point to a Sunday morning breakfast:
Though not exactly necessary, adding a thick schmear of unsalted butter or some goat cheese from Soledad Farm’s (also available at the market) is pure bliss. But whether you doctor it up or not, this bread is ideal for sopping up yolky eggs. I imagine it would also be pretty spectacular as part of a chicken salad sandwich or dipped into some soup.
If I could ever make it past breakfast before tearing into it, I’d find out.
I’m glad I live in a city where the mention of “vegan brunch” actually brings to mind more than a few delicious possibilities. Echo Park and Silver Lake, alone, have more full-on vegan restaurants (that are actually good) than most states in this country. It’s pretty exciting that, once sneered and rolled eyes at, vegetarian food’s hard-core sibling is becoming a cuisine like any other in L.A.
One of the best vegan menus in town, doing tons to make the cuisine more accessible, is at Sage Organic Vegan Bistro. Open for a little over a year—replacing their not-so-successful predecessor Mooi—Sage has evolved into a comfort food haven of non-meaty goodness. Think: bacon chili cheese burgers, eggplant parmesan, clam chowder, and bowls stuffed with everything from kale and quinoa to fried macaroni and cheese.
The speed at which York Boulevard’s food scene is developing has hit break-neck status recently. There’s that new French place Ba, a little place called Fusion Burgers has quietly opened across the street from Maximiliano, and now there seems to be enough room for two cafes.
That’s right. Highland Cafe has opened a few doors down from mainstay Cafe de Leche. The new place, housed in what was the Guatemalan restaurant El Chapin just a few months ago, stakes its claim with a small, Mexican-tinged breakfast and lunch menu along with a full coffee bar fueled by Downtown’s Handsome Coffee Roasters.
The new restaurant/coffee house courts a college crowd, offering a 10 percent discount to Oxy students and plenty of room (plus a few easy chairs) to hash out the deets of a class project. Even so, the crowd is mixed enough that older-than-22 patrons won’t feel out of place and probably won’t mind paying full price for above average egg dishes, pastries, sandwiches and salads.
I’m currently sitting on a stockpile of cinnamon rolls.
It’s true. They’re hanging out in a bag in the bottom drawer of my freezer, and every third morning or so, I break into it and enjoy one with some butter and tea. It’s quite the treat.
The best part is that I made them myself. That’s right—I made the dough, rolled it out, sprinkled it with cinnamon and sugar and lived to tell about it. The result is super wholesome, relatively nutritious (75% whole wheat) pillowy cinnamon rolls that freeze well and can be reheated in a toaster oven…because you deserve a nice breakfast even on a weekday.
You can do it, too. Just beware that yeast is involved, so you’ll need a few hours of prep time. Here’s how (see full ingredients list at the end of post):
Prepare the dough: To start, heat butter and milk in a saucepan and set aside. Next, mix white flour and 1 cup of whole wheat flour, water, yeast, sugar and eggs together at low speed using your paddle attachment. Now add the milk and butter mixture, salt, and the rest of the whole wheat flour. Don’t stop until it’s well blended.
If you have a kneading hook, now’s the time to use it. Start kneading, adding more flour (verrrrry slowly and in tiny amounts) if needed. The goal is to get a big ball of dough that doesn’t stick to the sides of the mixing bowl. Same goes if you’re kneading by hand. You want it to be moist but not sloppy. It should take about 10 minutes.
Once you get it right, transfer the ball into a large, oiled metal bowl. Cover with a towel, and put it in a warmish place.