PROFILE: Midtown Lunch’er “Lilly”
As is customary on Midtown Lunch, every Tuesday we’ll profile a random reader to get their recommendations for the best spots to lunch near their work. This week it’s Lilly, a writer who would prefer to be lunching in Paris.
Age: I don’t know. I’m not a numbers person.
Where in L.A. do you Work?: I live and work in Venice.
Favorite Kind of Food: Deep fried
Least Favorite Kind of Food: It’s a tie between chicken and green salad.
Favorite Place(s) to Eat Lunch:
Abbot’s Habit (1401 Abbot Kinney Blvd.) is a great neighborhood spot for dine in or takeout. Service is quick and friendly. Their sandwiches are enormous and they change their soup list daily. I’m in love with their BLT. And their zucchini rosemary soup is tops. If I want a sandwich fast, I order an everything bagel toasted with lox, cream cheese and capers. They prepackage all the toppings, which means it takes no more than 2 minutes to get my lunch. It also means I have to assemble the sandwich once the bagel is ready (the cream cheese and capers come in plastic ramekins, and the lox is also on the side), but I don’t mind. Abbot’s Habit wins the prize for fastest service.
The deli counter at Rose Café and Market (220 Rose Ave.) has several lunch combos that allow you to mix and match a soup with a half sandwich, or a half sandwich with 2 salads, or a soup with 1 salad, or . . . you get the picture. The room is airy and bright, with plenty of seating. The food tastes so fresh that I feel as though I’m eating gourmet California cuisine, not a $9.95 special. Even better: the servings are generous, so if I order the 3-item lunch combo, I’ll have enough food for lunch today and tomorrow. Favorite items: the lentil salad with fresh basil and the beet salad with oranges and macadamia nuts.
If I’m in the mood to visit France, but not to deal with LAX and the questionable joys of air travel, I’ll hop in my car and go to the French Market Café (2321 Abbot Kinney). They have an indoor dining area, but I always eat on their patio, which has sun umbrellas, heat lamps, and a bountiful supply of dark green fleece blankets to keep diners warm when the wind kicks up. (I imagine the blankets were custom-made for diehard smokers who wanted to lounge outside with their coffee and Gauloises on freezing cold days.) The people who work here are French, many of the customers are French — or have interesting accents, and being here makes me feel like I’m in Paris, or the café at an upmarket youth hostel for people who travel with designer luggage. The Mediterranean panini has the perfect ratio of mozzarella to bread, and is what I order most often. The Croque-Monsieur is an indulgent choice for lunch; the last time I ordered it, the waiter brought it out with a flourish and said, “Excellent choice, Madame.” Where else in Venice is someone going to call me as “Madame?” It’s not a fussy French place. It’s accessible. I feel comfortable bringing my work here and sitting on the patio all afternoon. J’adore.
When I have errands in Santa Monica, I’ll head over there at lunchtime and pick up an Albacore Tuna Melt at Santa Monica Seafood (1000 Wilshire Blvd.). This is one of the most decadent sandwiches that I eat on a regular basis. It’s so rich, I don’t even need french fries or a side of anything except extra napkins. While SMS has a dining area and an oyster bar, I always prefer takeout. Once I have my food in hand, I race from the shop to Ocean Boulevard, where I nab a parking spot with an unobstructed view of the Pacific. If I’m going to eat seafood, I want to eat it with a view of the water.
“Go-To” Lunch Place You and Your Coworkers Eat at Too Often? Abbot’s Habit.
The farthest place you’ll drive for lunch on a normal day? M Café on Melrose (7119 Melrose). 11 miles. Yes, driving that far for lunch is insane, and yes, I could go to the M Café in Culver City or Beverly Hills if I’m really desperate for kale and quinoa. But you know what? Sometimes it’s not just about the food. I used to live 3 blocks away from M Café on Melrose, and went there several times a week. I ate there so often that I feel like the fine folks at M on Melrose are responsible for keeping me alive in 2008 and 2009. No joke. The food is healthy and delicious, and the people who work there are friendly. Even now — 9 months after I left the neighborhood — when I go in they remember my name. It feels like a second home to me. They’re super busy during the lunch rush, so it’s best to call in your order before picking it up, or — for dining in — go for a late lunch. I either get the spicy shrimp rolls and shiitake inari, or a 2-salad combo; the kale with peanuts, scarlet quinoa with beets, chickpeas with dandelion greens, and kabocha with raisins are all worth an 11 mile drive at lunchtime.
If you could work anywhere (just because of the lunch) where would it be and why? Paris. I’d eat éclairs every day.
Is there anything you’d like to ask the Midtown Lunch readers in L.A.? Where in LA can I get an authentic éclair?
Got an eclair recommendation for Lilly? Put it in the comments, and as always if you would like to be next week’s Profiled: L.A. Lunch’er (or know somebody you’d like to nominate), email me- firstname.lastname@example.org.