Tavern, Wurstküche & Gastronomico

If you’re writing your doctoral thesis on The Amateur Gourmet, you’ve probably discovered, at this point, the methodology behind my madness. Or, if you haven’t, it works like this: in a given week I take a bunch of pictures. Some of the pictures I take on my iPhone, the others I take with my fancy camera. On Monday morning, I process all of the pictures and put them up on Flickr and then I sort through them: which ones are good enough for the blog? Which would do better in my newsletter? It’s not always based on the quality of the pictures–sometimes, even if the pictures are bad, I know something will make a great blog post; inversely, sometimes even if the pictures are great, there’s just not enough there there to blog about. Usually, restaurant pictures are relegated to my newsletter; but sometimes if a restaurant experience is notable enough, I save it for the blog. And thus this is a post about three restaurant meals that I consider blog-worthy.

The first experience happened last week in Brentwood. Being new to L.A., I don’t have a great sense yet of where things are or how far away they are. So when Brooke from Foodwolf and Gaby of What’s Gaby Cooking asked where I’d like to meet them for lunch, I said “Tavern” not really understanding that it would be a big schlep to get there. Still, I went a dumb way (a rookie mistake, I suppose) taking Santa Monica Blvd. which is the same mistake I made when I went to the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market.

Still, it was worth it to see both Brooke and Gaby, who I hadn’t seen since New Orleans. Here they are at our very sunny table:


Tavern, I should mention here, is another Suzanne Goin restaurant which is why I wanted to go there. I loved Lucques so much, I’ll eat anywhere that has Chef Goin’s name attached.

I decided to do the dineLA lunch which was three courses for 20-something dollars. The first course was this delightful salad of farmer’s market greens, each green distinct and flavorful in its own way (bitter, grassy, etc):


It was a truly great salad; though, as with all salads, I had to excuse myself to the bathroom after I ate it. Salad gets caught in my teeth.

For my entree, I started the Thanksgiving party a month early and ate a THANKSGIVING SANDWICH:


That’s turkey, cranberry sauce, and stuffing (yes, stuffing!) on a sandwich with lettuce and a homemade mayo. You’d think such a sandwich would overwhelm, but actually it was really quite balanced; the stuffing just gave an extra layer of heft to things, while the cranberry sauce cut things with its acidity.

Brooke, who’d worked at Tavern when it opened, pointed out that the bread itself was made in-house by a passionate bread baker who made his own sourdough starter. It was indeed mighty good bread (I even bought a loaf of their date walnut bread which I turned into French Toast the next morning).

For dessert (which came with my meal) it was impossible not to order the homemade Snickers bar (which you also see at the top of this post). Here it is before we cut in:


It’s a mystery to me what exactly is inside–some kind of mousse, yes, but what’s the white layer? On top, I spy nuts, honeycomb and ice cream. Which is all to say, no matter how it’s made, this is one outrageously, perversely wonderful dessert. One of the more memorable desserts I’ve enjoyed in the past few months.

Now, let’s flash back a week or two or three and join Craig’s co-worker Tripper and his wife Maggie (who you can find on Twitter as @TheTVShowGirl) for dinner at one of their favorite places and now one of ours: Wurstküche.


First of all, it has an umlaut. It scores major points for that.

Second of all, it’s located in downtown L.A. in a hip area that wasn’t so hip when I worked there 7 1/2 years ago. The place itself is like a cross between an authentic sausage and beer hall and…umm…a nightclub? Or a really cool bar?

See, there’s the front half where you wait in line and order your food. There’s a whole case of sausages for you to choose from:


They even have vegetarian sausages which makes the place popular among the non-meat-eating crowd:


When it’s your turn to order, you tell them which sausages you’d like and what you want on top (caramelized onions, sauerkraut, sweet peppers or spicy peppers).

The beer menu is equally impressive. And when you order your beer it comes in a glass made specifically for the beer that you ordered. See?


Now, in terms of it also being a nightclub/cool bar, you then walk along a corridor into the back and you’re in this room:


Yes that’s a D.J. spinning records (do they still spin records? Well, she’s spinning something.)

Luckily for those of us who like to hear ourselves think, you can also sit outside. And that’s where we went. That’s Maggie, Tripper and Craig and all of our food:


Sitting outside eating sausages and drinking beer is always a happy equation, and that’s why, I imagine, Wurstküche is so popular. (The line to order food, I should mention, is very, very long. We were lucky in that Maggie and Tripper got there before us; otherwise, it may have been 30 minutes or more).

But it’s a well oiled machine. Somehow, the person delivering the food found us outside and plopped down our sausages.

I ordered a Bratwurst, which isn’t so brave, but for my second sausage I ordered RATTLESNAKE RABBIT SAUSAGE:


Look at that char on the outside of that meat—I can see why my roasted hamburger post has some dissenters.

As for the taste, the bratwurst was meaty and satisfying; and the rattlesnake/rabbit was just a little funkier, but not by much. They both hit the spot.

There were also all of these gourmet mustards to choose from:


And really good French fries too:


So, my advice: go to Wurstküche, order sausages, fries and beer, and take it outside. I don’t mean to sound like the old man from “Up,” but leave that hip hoppity music to the youngsters.

Finally, with my newest L.A. food blogging friend Andy Windak (of the blog The Wind Attack) we checked out a place in Los Feliz called Gastronomico:


This is the new brick-and-mortar place from the people who created the Gastrobus. Being new here, I hadn’t heard of the Gastrobus or bricks or mortar, but I was game to try anything that’s supposed to be good.

And good this was!

Here’s Andy with purple glasses, purple shirt and purple drink (I made him order it so it matched):


I’m pretty sure that was a dragonfruit drink, but I forget.

But what I won’t forget is this pork sandwich:


Pulled pork, pickled red onions, and other goodies on well-toasted bread… what was remarkable here was how light it all was. Rarely can you eat a pulled pork sandwich and not feel heavy afterwards, but this sandwich is the exception.

We shared this heirloom tomato salad with an herby dressing poured on top:


And this well-cooked salmon on a bed of charred spicy peppers:


But the very best thing we ate there I save for last. These corn flapjacks:


Made with the freshest, sweetest, summery corn, these were unlike anything I’ve ever experienced; they resembled pancakes only in texture. In terms of flavor, they exploded with sweet, savory goodness. I loved them and I’m sad I’m not eating them right now.

So I hope you enjoyed this post of three restaurant meals too good to shove into a newsletter (not to disparage my newsletter, though; sign up here!). Now it’s off to another lunch where I’ll take lots of pictures. Who knows where they’ll end up.

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