Seeking My West Coast Hummus Place: The Hummus Bar & Grill

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When I lived in New York, my body was composed of 90% hummus. That’s because I lived close to Hummus Place on 7th Ave. and I’d go there a few times a week for lunch (see this post). And though I’ve attempted to recreate a Hummus Place meal for dinner here in California, it never hits the spot in quite the same way. Which is why, last week, I found myself seeking out a west coast alternative. First place to check out: The Hummus Bar & Grill in Burbank.

Jonathan Gold does these lunchtime chats on the LA Times website (which has the weirdest firewall ever; sometimes you can read the content for free, other times you can’t) and I like to browse them to pick through his picks. Someone in Burbank asked where to lunch and he mentioned The Hummus Bar & Grill at which point I opened a sticky note and put that on a list of places to try.

So last Monday, I hopped on the 101 and rejoiced because Alec Baldwin’s podcast that week featured Rosie O’Donnell. Man, I love Alec Baldwin’s podcast (his guests are the best, at least in my opinion: Debbie Reynolds, Patti Lupone, etc.) so this whole homophobic Tweet brouhaha is disappointing, especially since most of his guests are gay icons. And then there’s Rosie who’s such a spunky, charismatic character, it was so great to hear her life story–how she went from Star Search to turning down $150 million when she quit her talk show–even if the interview ended with her crackpot 9/11 theories.

Ok, ok, you’re here for the hummus. How was it?

The place had an authentic feel to it, even if it was in a strip mall (most good L.A. places are). There was meat cooking on a spit (for schwarma) and guys kneading dough for what I thought was house-made pita only they had packages of pita, so maybe they were rolling dough for the large crackery thing they gave me for free after this plate of pickles?

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The pickles were just ok…they tasted like they came from an old jar. Dock ’em one point.

And here’s that cracker thing I was talking about.

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I really liked this: the outer layer was crisp and crackly, the inner layer was soft. This was a perfect vehicle for scooping up hummus which is exactly what I ordered. I tried to recreate my typical Hummus Place order: Hummus Tahini and Israeli salad. Here’s what came out.

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Frankly, I should’ve led the post with this picture because it’s so pretty (maybe more people would be reading this instead of just YOU). On food styling alone, my new West Coast Hummus place is ahead. Instead of a big wide bowl of hummus with a puddle of tahini in the middle, here the hummus is mounded like Saturn’s ring (how do they do that?) with a puddle of olive oil in the middle. And the Israeli salad was a real marvel: did they chop it in a food processor? Or did some poor soul chop all of those onions, cucumbers and tomatoes by hand?

Actually, that food processor theory is probably pretty legit (unlike Rosie’s 9/11 theory). And now I know why the Israeli salad tasted a bit like gazpacho: it basically was gazpacho with less liquid.

Which puts Hummus Place (East Coast) back in the lead; I like the texture of their salad better. Also, East Coast Hummus Place gives you what they call “hot sauce,” known in Israel as skhug. I love that stuff–cilantro and jalapenos all blended together. It gives the hummus some edge.

The hummus here was very good: airy and rich with tahini. In fact, it tasted more of tahini than it did of anything else, which may be a good thing. The jury’s still out.

All-in-all, I dig this west coast alternative. Can it replace the original? Maybe nothing can. But maybe that’s less about the quality of hummus and more about a way of life that’s impossible to replicate here on the west coast. Or maybe I just need to BMOS: bring my own skhug.

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