By JASON SAGE GELT
Simple yet zesty options make Hollywood eatery Grub a lunchtime hot spot. The square of Los Angeles sandwiched between Santa Monica, Melrose, La Brea and Highland is an unlikely area for one of the most charming comfort food spots in the city. Amidst a concrete jungle of forbidding post-production facilities, Grub is a surprising gem, like a colorful flower growing in a parking lot. Itís no wonder finding a table can be a challenge during the lunch rush. With few other nearby options, industry types and neighbors alike flock to this culinary oasis.
The restaurant occupies an airy half of a converted duplex on the corner of Seward and Barton Avenue, two blocks South of Santa Monica Blvd. A small side yard contains several tables with umbrellas for outside diners. Colorful pinwheels, succulents and potted plants add an eclectic, homey air to the scene. Walking up the wooden steps to the restaurant, it almost feels like youíre visiting a friendís house for lunch. Inside, the pleasant illusion continues in a comfortable dining room that features wooden floors, a green and yellow paint scheme and picture windows allowing full access to the bright California sun. Mirrors set into old window frames are hung along the South wall, giving the narrow room a greater sense of depth. Artworks from various local artists brighten the space further. Itís almost a shock to sit down and gaze outside past Grubís comfortable trimmings and see a drab film storage facility directly across the street. But that sense of paradox is just part of Grubís appeal. When they started the restaurant, business partners and culinary pros Betty Fraser and Denise DeCarlo already helmed a successful catering business, As You Like it Catering. Initially intended as a base for their catering enterprise, Grub became an actual eatery after Betty and Denise realized that the surrounding environs were in need of their special brand of good cheer and hearty food. Since Grub is only open for breakfast and lunch, the menu is simple, but like the restaurant itself, everything is prepared with a sense of eclectic flair.
A popular appetizer, or Grubette, is the Mt. Olympus ($6.95): not your average pita and hummous spread, this behemoth is a Mediterranean seven-layer dip featuring a mouth-watering mixture of wild mushroom couscous, lemon hummous, marinated artichoke hearts, crumbled feta, sundried tomatoes and parsley. Served with soft rosemary garlic pita wedges, this appetizer is almost a meal by itself. Also recommended are the gingered chicken cakes ($5.95), six tender mini cakes composed of ground chicken breast, scallions and ginger and topped with a creamy cilantro-lime aioli and a sweet mango cube. On the light side, Grub offers two soup selections, caramelized French onion and the Creamy Dreamy tomato soup (both $5.95), reportedly so popular that some patrons call in advance to reserve a serving. Its name is no misnomer and its popularity isnít surprising: itís a thick and chunky delight with a mellow taste and a sharp tomato after-bite, topped with a sprig of fresh dill. A sip of either the understated blueberry lemonade ($2) or the homemade ginger ale ($2.50), served in a glass rimmed with raw cane sugar, perfectly clears the palate for the main course. Divided into salads or sandwiches (all priced at around $8.95), the choices abound with Grubs characteristic eclecticism. The Hot Chicks! salad is a bed of crisp romaine lettuce topped with red onions, celery, shredded carrots and crumbled blue cheese and, best of all, tender sliced chicken breast covered in spicy hot sauce, and tossed in a creamy ranch dressing. Other choices include the spicy Ay Caramba! salad, topped with hot pepitas, tortilla chips and salsa, and the Sweet and Spicy Bird, a spring mix served with honey-pecan crusted chicken breast and spiced pecans. Grubís sandwich selections are as creative as the rest of the menu. Thereís the Mama Mia!, a homemade garden burger topped with garlic tomato sauce, mozzarella and red onions, and the spice-rubbed, slow-roasted Spicy BBQ Beef sandwich for carnivores. Of particular note is the popular After School Special, a mellow grilled cheese extravaganza that features cheddar and Swiss melted between crisp slices of dill butter-grilled sourdough and served with a cup of the signature tomato soup. If you have any room left for dessert, Grubís Big-Ass Ice Cream Sandwich is a decadent way to end your meal, especially if youíre sharing. A generous helping of vanilla ice cream sandwiched between two home made chocolate chip cookies and drizzled with caramel, powdered sugar and chocolate, itís a dessert that earns its name. Have a cup of Grubís rich, aromatic house coffee ($1.95) to wash it all down and end things on just the right note.
911 Seward St., Hollywood. (323) 461-3663.
Vibe: Casual and eclectic.
Service: Friendly and informative.
Price: Breakfast $6 - 9; appetizers $5-7; salads $5-9; sandwiches $8-10.
Recommended dishes: Hummus dip; chicken cakes; creamy tomato soup; Hot chicks! salad; grilled cheese sandwich. Etc:
through Friday, 8 a.m. till 3 p.m.;
breakfast 8 a.m. - 10:30 a.m., lunch 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday Brunch: 9 a.m. till 2 p.m.
Credit Cards- All Major