Wolfgang Puck’s Cafe Hammer Raises Prices… Still One of the Better Lunch Deals in Westwood
I don’t know what “Museum Dining” evokes in your mind, but for me two things immediately pop into my head: “overpriced” and “mediocre”. Having a captive audience is never a good thing when it comes to eating (I’m looking at you theme parks and airports), and cafes inside museums tend to fall into that category. So when I heard that Cafe Hammer, the Wolfgang Puck run cafe inside the Hammer Museum in Westwood had a grilled cheese lunch special with a soup and salad for $8.75 (!?!) I was kind of shocked. (As was the person who recommended it to me.) Add to that a rare roast beef sandwich with horseradish aoli for $8.50, kobe beef sliders for $7.25 (!?), and the hammer joe (ham-turkey-swiss-coleslaw-russian-dressing) for $8.50, all in an open to the public, beautiful atrium setting, and you have all the makings of a great midtown lunch.
Sadly when I went to check it out for myself last week they had introduced a new “Spring Menu”, which involved getting rid of half of the sandwiches, and raising the prices on everything else. A classic case of “that’s how they getcha!” Rare roast beef sandwich? Turned into a $14 entree. (Boooo!) Hammer Joe? Gone. And worst of all, grilled cheese sandwich + soup + salad combo? Now $11, and outside the Midtown Lunch price range. So sad.
We contemplated walking across the street to Sak’s Teriyaki, before the lady behind the register informed us that they do offer a grilled cheese plus soup *or* salad combo for $8.50. That seemed reasonable enough, so we stuck around to check it out.
The coolest part about Cafe Hammer is that it has all the trappings of a nice sit down restaurant (beautiful courtyard seating, nice plates, real silverware) but you order from a register and take a number to your table. This way they can keep the prices lower (all the sandwiches and salads are under $10- even post price hike), and you don’t have to tip a waiter or waitress- keeping your lunch even cheaper still.
The $8.50 grilled cheese combo (which is not printed on the menu, you have to ask for it) is not the bargain of the century that the original combo was, but for Westwood it’s still a good deal. The sandwich featured four different kinds of cheese, pressed on sourdough country bread, with tomatoes. Not as fancy as the GCI winner I had at Locali last week, but completely satisfying. And yet as good as it was, the real star was the soup- a sweet pea soup, that was clearly house-made from fresh peas. The soups are seasonal, but based on this one alone, I’m guessing they’ll all be winners.
We also couldn’t resist trying the kobe beef sliders, even though they had raised the price from $7.25 to $9.75 (bastards!) Anybody who knows anything about beef will tell you that burgerfying kobe is a complete waste of quality meat, and these sliders didn’t do much to prove otherwise. The best part by far was the sweet hawaiian rolls, which made me wish that they had made the sliders a bit thicker (or just charged $7.25 for them!)
They also have a few tasty looking entrees available from $12.50 to $14.50 if you’re looking for a splurge. All in all, Cafe Hammer isn’t as exciting as it was two weeks ago, when the prices were downright silly and the options were better. But the new “Spring Menu” is still relatively cheap for the area, and the courtyard is quite possibly the nicest most relaxing place to eat in the area. In fact, part of it isn’t even reserved for the cafe… so, if you must eat food from Daphne’s or Subway, you might as well take it to go and eat it in the Hammer Courtyard. It’s kind of an undiscovered gem of the Westwood lunching scene.
THE + (What somebody who likes this place would say)
- Wolfgang Puck food, on real plates with silverware for under $10? Sign me up!
- The grilled cheese with soup for $8.50 is a pretty good deal
- You order from a register, so there’s no tipping
- The courtyard is such an awesome place to eat lunch, and you don’t have to enter the museum to partake
THE – (What somebody who likes this place would say)
- Wolfgang Puck slapped his name on a museum cafe? Big freakin’ deal. It’s not like he’s making your grilled cheese back there.
- There’s nothing special about this sandwich and salad place.
- I used to go there all the time, and can’t believe they raised the prices so much!
- What happened to all the awesome sandwiches they used to serve? Spring menu sucks.
Cafe Hammer by Wolfgang Puck, 10899 Wilshire Blvd. (enter on Lindbrook btw. Glendon & Wilshire)