Thursday, April 28, 2016

Where to Eat: The Weekend Brunch @ Republique

The Eats: Decadent pastries, buttery breads and impeccable desserts

The Location: Mid-City

The Vibes: Airy, open, charming

Good for: Alone, dates, large groups

When-To-Go: Weekend brunch, 11 a.m. – 3 p.m., Saturdays & Sundays

The $ Factor: Foods $4 - $17; Drinks $4 - $16

The Names behind the scenes: Owners Walter Manzke and Margarita Manzke

The 4-1-1: Charlie Chaplin built the location, in the 1920s

Parking Situation: Free + metered street parking, slightly hard to find in the area

I’ll Be Back…: For the cinnamon dusted beignets!

Apparently, I’m late to the food game at Republique.

This widely popular restaurant on La Brea Ave. debuted back in December 2013, but it was only after a chance restroom stop here earlier this year, that I discovered it. During my dash to the ladies’ room, Republique's immaculate layout — the vibrantly rich colors, the warm ambiance and soaring ceilings — caught my eye and sparked my curiosity. So, I vowed to return soon and stay longer than 10 minutes next time.

Fast forward to a couple months later, and good to my word, I came back. This time, with friends, an appetite and a plan to check out the weekend brunch.

Like most brunch hangouts on any given Sunday in the city, Republique looked packed. Driving by the front of the restaurant, I noticed the line to enter stretched long and far down the street. Fortunately, it actually moves (fairly) quickly.

The line that starts outside eventually takes you inside, past an amazing display of pastries and desserts (pictured below), before you order at the cashier. You're then given a number and must find seating in one of the multiple dining areas available. There’s plenty of options: sitting at a bar, next to large windows, in cozy enclaves towards the back…at communal tables, at individual tables…upstairs. It’s really rather impressive how many different options there are and surprising how it doesn't feel crowded inside, especially after seeing just how many people are trying to get in.

One detail that's almost impossible to describe is just how fantastic Republique smells inside. There’s an on-site bakery (pictured below), and the subtle scent of baking breads and fresh croissants wafts through the entire space. It’s fun to watch the bakers in action, but it’s even better to inhale that delightfully intoxicating aroma. I’d literally come back here for the smell alone.

Because the breads and pastries looked and smelled so good, there was no doubt we'd be ordering copious amounts of them. We started off with a large baguette, pictured below. It comes with regular butter, jam or honey, but you can also order a special type of French butter for $7, called "Normandy Butter." Apparently, it’s supposed to be smoother, creamier and richer. We tried it, and I honestly don’t think it’s worth it; the baguette alone is satisfying enough and literally melts in your mouth.

Next up were entrees. While standard brunch selections like French Toast, omelettes and salads are available, our host recommended trying options exclusive to Republique. Following his suggestion, I opted for the Smoked Salmon Tartine, pictured below. It’s thick cuts of smoked salmon piled high onto a slice of multigrain toast, with avocado, capers and onions. Filling and flavorful, I would definitely order this again!

We ended our brunch excursion with an assortment of pastries, including this fantastic little chocolate puff, pictured below. Aside from the desserts in the display in the front, there are also daily specials, such as our cinnamon croissants with hot chocolate.

I would definitely stop by Republique again for brunch. It's a great place for groups of friends, tantalizing pastries and breads, and the gorgeous decor provides the perfect backdrop to pass a few hours.

See you there soon!

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Monday, April 11, 2016

Where to Eat: “Not Your Average Fried Chicken Wings” @ Comfort LA

The Eats: Fried chicken wings splashed with “that sauce,” plus an assortment of soul food sides

The Location: Downtown

The Vibes: Casual, laid-back, hella chill

Good for: Alone, Dates, Groups

When-To-Go: Closed Mondays & Tuesdays, open late until 3 a.m. on Fridays & Saturdays

The $ Factor: The Dinner Special $12, a la carte items $6 - $20

The Names behind the scenes: Owners Mark Walker and Jeremy McBryde

The 4-1-1: No thighs, breasts, legs or backs...just wings here!

Parking Situation: Free street parking

I’ll Be Back…: For The $12 Dinner Special - six wings, two sides and cornbread!

Over the weekend, I checked out Comfort LA for the very first time. 

Originally launching as a pop up shop, Comfort LA has been at its new 7th Street location only for a couple of months. D├ęcor is low key, with long wooden tables and benches taking up the majority of the space in the one-room eatery. Ornamentation is minimum — just a couple of black-and-white photos of L.A. landmarks hanging on an exposed brick wall, an old-school boom box, a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf filled with books and vintage records, and a few portraits of characters from The Simpsons — painted black.

Like the physical space, the actual ambiance is mad chill and all good vibes. When we were there, Chef Jeremy warmly greeted guests all night long, often dishing out hugs and complimentary chicken wing tastings. The soundtrack was an amazing blend of laid-back hip hop, R&B, rap — think J. Dilla, James Blake, Bryson Tiller. And, board games, cards and dominoes were available, to anyone up for a friendly game.

But, most importantly, the food!

The highlight on the menu are the Not Your Average Fried Chicken Wings, splashed with a special concoction known as “that sauce” and fresh chives and spices. The wings come in individual portions, or in a platter option that’s big enough to share with a large group (or to eat all by yourself, if you’re greedy). You can also order sides, such as cornbread, yams, greens, mac’n’cheese and red beans & rice. My favorite side were the greens, which have a sweet, tangy kick to them. 

While Comfort LA doesn’t serve alcoholic beverages, you can BYOB — at no additional charge (!).They also have a selection of beverages, including their very own Ginger-Aid pictured below, a blend of Kool-Aid, ginger, lemon and lime. And, speaking from experience, the Ginger-Aid tastes great when you add a dash of champagne.

Not to be missed is the signature dessert, the Sweet Goodness. Served warm, it’s an intoxicatingly sugary slice of cornbread, topped with strawberries. The perfect way to end a meal.

So, the next time you’re in the downtown area and craving wings, perhaps after a late night out, I recommend stopping by Comfort LA.

See you there soon!

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