Tag Archives: West Hollywood restaurants

Gracias Madre West Hollywood

Gracias Madre in West Hollywood

Gracias Madre in West Hollywood

I know I recently stated in a previous post that I was unable to find great Mexican cuisine in Southern California, but I guess the food gods were smiling down on me. They led me to Gracias Madre which is tucked away on LA’s tony Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood. I was in the neighborhood with friends on business, and on a recent weekday we decided to stop in for a bite to eat.  And I’m glad we did.

Fresh Pineapple, Celery, Cilantro Juice & Ice Tea at Gracias Madre

Fresh Pineapple, Celery, Cilantro Juice & Ice Tea at Gracias Madre

Their menu is vegan and 100% organic. But don’t let the word vegan scare you. It doesn’t mean less flavor or weird textures. On the contrary, Chef Chandra Gilbert created a great array of dishes packed with fresh Mexican flavors using locally sourced organic ingredients with nary a meat product in sight.

As it was a typically warm Southern California afternoon, we started the meal off with their fresh pressed juice. I can highly recommend the fresh pineapple, celery and cilantro juice ($6).  It’s a light refreshing blend, not overly sweet and definitely thirst-quenching.

The menu is small, but I kinda’ like that. My feeling is do a few things but do them right, and so they do. We started off with the Brussels Sprouts with lemon, cilantro and almond ($10) and the Cauliflower with cashew nacho cheese ($10).  It seems everyone’s serving brussels sprouts now, but these guys nailed it. With veggies this good, you won’t give meat a second thought.

Flash-fried Cauliflower with Cashew Nacho Cheese

Flash-fried Cauliflower with Cashew Nacho Cheese

Flash-fried Brussel Sprouts with Lemon, Cilantro and Almond

Flash-fried Brussels Sprouts with Lemon, Cilantro and Almond

We liked the dishes we saw on the table of the young hipsters sitting next to us, so we ordered the Flautas with sweet potatoes and caramelized onions ($10), the Potato and Chorizo Quesadilla ($10) and the Avocado and Coconut Bacon Torta ($11).  Everything was extremely fresh and showed a respect for the ingredients.  They’re not heavy-handed on the spices, yet all the dishes had a nice little kick to it. Shame on me for thinking El Torito was Mexican food.

Flautas with Sweet Potatoes and Caramelized Onions

Flautas with Sweet Potatoes and Caramelized Onions

Potato and Chorizo Quesadillas

Potato and Chorizo Quesadillas

Torta with Avocado, Coconut Bacon, Beans and Chipotle Aioli

Torta with Avocado, Coconut Bacon, Beans and Chipotle Aioli

Okay I thought, you nailed it with the veggies, but the real test would be show me a great vegan dessert.  We tried two of their six desserts. They’ve got a Strawberry Cheesecake with fresh strawberry sauce and orange cream ($9) which unfortunately fell into that strange texture category , but none-the-less we had no problem finishing, and a Gluten-free Brownie with Salted Caramel Sauce and Coconut Bacon ($9).  Vegan, schmegan, the brownie was great, and we literally licked the sauce off the plate. Yeah, I did that.

Gluten-free Brownie

Gluten-free Brownie with Salted Caramel Sauce and Coconut Bacon

Strawberry Cheesecake with Orange Cream

Strawberry Cheesecake with Orange Cream

The restaurant itself is warm and welcoming.  The space, during the day, is flooded with lots of natural light, rough-hewn wood floors and artisanal Mexican tiles.  It’s actually a perfect complement to the food in keeping with that organic theme.  Since the weather here is good 364 days a year, they have a stunning brick patio with a fireplace, trees and white umbrellas, making the meal feel like a mini vacation.

Executive Chef Chandra Gilbert

Executive Chef Chandra Gilbert, Gracias Madre West Hollywood

Gracias Madre, West Hollywood

Gracias Madre, West Hollywood

Gracias Madre, West Hollywood

Gracias Madre, West Hollywood

The beautiful outdoor garden at Gracias Madre

The beautiful outdoor garden at Gracias Madre

The service was friendly, but coulda’ been a teeny bit more efficient, but I still felt like they appreciated our business. We didn’t have a problem with parking either, there seemed to be plenty of metered parking on the streets.

Gracias Madre succeeds in paying homage to the fruits of Mother Earth, and to all the mothers who nurtured and fed us.

Gracias Madre,    8905 Melrose Avenue West Hollywood, CA 90069    (323) 978-2170

 

Connie & Ted’s

Lobster Roll Sandwich at Connie & Ted's

Lobster Roll Sandwich at Connie & Ted’s

Connie & Ted’s is not your mama’s crab shack, but a wicked awesome experience that combines fresh, high quality seafood expertly prepared, efficient and friendly service and stunning architecture. Everything is so well thought out, even right down to the little sugar containers. My friend Gail and I had been assisting a friend on a catering job and hadn’t had a chance to eat that day. As we were heading home down Santa Monica Boulevard in the heart of West Hollywood we could feel Connie and Ted just calling out to us. The facade of the restaurant resembles the hull of a ship (at least that what it looks like to me) and there’s creative nautical touches everywhere. Yet the space is open, modern and very inviting.

Nancy's Peeky Toe Crabcake at Connie & Ted's

Nancy’s Peeky Toe Crabcake at Connie & Ted’s

When we were presented with the menu, we literally couldn’t make a choice because everything looked so darn good. We could see the servers whizzing by with large plates of fresh oysters, clams and uni. They serve three kinds of chowda’, crispy fish & chips, steamers, and, if you really don’t like fish (shame on you) they have the Hook Burger, with or without bacon.

Cornmeal & Molasses Pudding at Connie & Ted's

Cornmeal & Molasses Pudding at Connie & Ted’s

This is the perfect place to go with a group, that way everyone can order something different and you can share. However, it was just me and Gail so the pressure was on to pick something. The Lobster Roll ($24) seemed like the obvious choice. It’s served hot or cold, with butter or mayo. Pure and simple, just sweet, fresh lobster, a little mayo and the perfectly toasted bun. The massive side of fries were pretty amazing too. We also split Nancy’s Peeky Toe Crab Cake ($14).  For sheer perfection, one must get the correct proportions of crab cake, tartar sauce and coleslaw all on the fork at once.

Outdoor Patio at Connie & Ted's

Outdoor Patio at Connie & Ted’s

They offered a great selection of desserts, but we were struck by the Cornmeal & Molasses Indian Pudding. Because we had never heard of it before, we decided to order that. I can only liken it to sitting in front of a fire with big, fuzzy slippers on, on a cold winter’s day. It’s warm and cozy, and yes, just downright wicked awesome. That dessert, and Lamills coffee sealed the deal. I’m going back.

Open Concept Kitchen at Connie & Ted's

Open Concept Kitchen at Connie & Ted’s

They’ve got a very lively bar scene there, and a large outdoor patio.  I imagine it’s perfect for weekend brunches with a group of friends, or for just watching the traffic go by on Santa Monica Boulevard. Connie & Ted’s has their own valet parking lot on the premises. It is $7.00 but then inner city parking does come at a price.

Connie & Ted's, West Hollywood

Connie & Ted’s, West Hollywood

Connie & Ted’s   8171 Santa Monica Boulevard, West Hollywood, CA 90046  (323) 848-2722

Monsieur Marcel – Ooh La La in La La Land

French Onion Soup from Monsieur Marcel

French Onion Soup from Monsieur Marcel

I hope to get to Paris some day because I like many things about the French. Their “joie de vivre”, their art, music, clothing and especially their food. I often picture myself strolling up and down Parisian boulevards dining in one French bistro after another. Oh, and not getting fat. That would be very un-French. Since I was not getting out of the country today, I settled for getting out of the San Fernando Valley. I went with my friend Gail to The Original Farmers Market at Third & Fairfax, a Los Angeles institution since 1934. That’s where we stumbled upon Monsieur Marcel.

Monsieur Marcel is both a bistro and a marketplace, and very, very French. Before we could shop, we had to eat. There’s no indoor dining, it’s all outside. But as luck would have it, it was an eighty-degree February day…perfect for eating al fresco. To start with, what would be more French than French Onion Soup ($7.50). This one is perfectly done, with a rich, flavorful broth, tons of caramelized onions, and a gooey layer of Gruyère cheese. I’m not just saying it, but this is my new favorite onion soup. It was perfect.

sautéed leeks & artichoke hearts with St. Loup goat cheese

Quiche was very popular back in the eighties (for those of us who remember the eighties). It was served a lot at wedding showers and women’s luncheons. So, when I saw Quiche on the menu I was feeling a little nostalgic and thought I would give it a try.  This Quiche of sautéed leeks and artichoke hearts ($10.99) was the definition of French comfort food. It’s rich and decadent with chunky vegetables and goat cheese atop a lovely, crispy crust. This dish is definitely for splitting.

Endive salad with apples, walnuts & Roquefort cheese with a walnut vinaigrette

To counter-balance the richness of the previous two dishes, we ordered their endive salad ($13.99) with apples, walnuts and Roquefort cheese with a walnut vinaigrette.  The ingredients in the salad were crisp and fresh and the resulting salad was very flavorful. Three different dishes, with three different cheeses.

And speaking of cheese…After a most enjoyable lunch, it was time to wander into the marketplace. If you’re a lover of artisanal ingredients like I am, this place will give you goosebumps. They offer an extensive selection of high end wines, cheeses, charcuterie, chocolate and any other delicacy your heart could imagine.

Monsieur Marcel, Los Angeles Farmers Market, Third & Fairfax, Los Angeles, CA 90036  (323) 939-7792

Fig & Olive – Melrose Place, West Hollywood

“Foodie” is kind of a silly word and an overused word, but I don’t know how else to describe myself. I am someone who definitely enjoys and appreciates good food, and loves to talk about it. Or in my case photograph it and write about it. Having  gone to culinary and pastry school, and having a son who is a chef; food is to my family what the Green Bay Packers are to a family in Wisconsin. It’s a passion and an obsession. So, when I find a restaurant that pays homage to good food, I feel compelled to share the experience with anyone reading this, hoping that they can share in my experience as well.

Fig & Olive is every foodie’s dream. They have three locations in New York and this West Hollywood location has been opened about 10 months. I’ll start off by telling you I liked everything about it. Naturally the first thing I noticed was the space itself.  It’s extremely open and airy with soaring ceilings and warm Mediterranean colors. There are olive trees and rosemary plants throughout the space, and the decor is simple, contemporary and casual. It’s very tasteful.

A trio of olive oils from Spain, Australia and Tunisia

As soon as my friend Gail and I were seated, we were brought a dish of fresh rustic bread and a trio of olive oils. The olive oils were from Spain, Australia and Tunisia and each one had it’s own distinct and unique flavor. When I opened the menu, quite honestly I found it hard to contain myself. Sometimes I’ll go to a restaurant and have trouble finding something I like on the menu. My problem was that I wanted everything on the menu. Check out the menu here, and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

Fig Gorgonzola Tartlet

Branzino Lemon Ceviche

We started off with their Fig Gorgonzola Tartlet ($15) with prosciutto, walnut and arugula over a perfectly crispy puff pastry. Visually it was like art, with beautifully layered flavors of salty, sweet and cheesy. We also ordered the Branzino Ceviche ($8).  Personally I’ve never been to a restaurant that served a ceviche with Branzino, (a member of the sea bass family found in northern Italy). The flavors were fresh and simple and let the Branzino shine through.

Romaine & Endive Baby Beet Salad

Gail and I split the Romaine and Endive Baby Beet Salad ($16) with apple, maple pecans and topped with a dollop of warm goat cheese and pistachios. The salad is dressed with raspberry sherry and Manzanillo olive oil. The beets were so sweet and the perfect compliment to the warm cheese and nut topping.

Marzipan Cake

You guys know me now, so you know that I love dessert. All their desserts are made in-house and we had a tough time choosing which to pick. So I will say this to you. If you ever go in there, start with dessert. We ordered the Marzipan Cake with Olive Oil Gelato, Candied Olive Oil and Toasted Almonds ($9). Each component by itself was incredibly delicious, but as a composed dish, it should be illegal. The Caramelized Apple Tart with Vanilla Ice Cream ($9) was also well worth the extra calories.

Caramelized Apple Tart

I love when a restaurant nails it. It doesn’t happen very often, and that’s probably why restaurants come and go. But Fig & Olive scored high on food, ambiance and service. That’s what the customer is paying for, and that’s what I got.

Olive trees and rosemary plants

Terra cotta tones and a wall of olive oils

a 50' tasting bar

Fig & Olive, 8490 Melrose Place, West Hollywood, CA 90069  (310) 360-9100