LA Independent

Co-owners Denise DeCarlo and Betty Fraser

Grub Becomes Hollywood's New 'In' Place

By Rosanna Mah,
The Los Angeles Independent Staff Writer

Two former waitresses have turned 'Grub' from start-up cafe into one of the hottest lunch spots in Hollywood

Watching Betty Fraser and Denise DeCarlo constantly interrupt and finish each other's sentences, you might think these two women are a couple.

"Nobody was asking her out at all and all these guys would come in here," remembers the 39 year old DeCarlo.

"They thought I didn't like boys," interjects Fraser, with a laugh.

"They thought we were lesbians," says DeCarlo, nonplussed. "They thought we were a couple."

Although further from the truth, it is not an uncommon belief among customers who have seen these two entrepreneurs invest all their life savings and time into turning "The Grub," from a start-up cafe into one of the hottest lunch joints in Hollywood.

Run by two former California Pizza Kitchen waitresses who said to hell with strict corporate rules, "Grub" was conceived in the heart of a Hollywood post-production house jungle.

"We had no idea that we were walking into an area that was so populated by creative people," said Fraser, 42, a resident of Hollywood Hills," and it just happened to be a perfect fit."

Nowadays, many Hollywood-types frequent the homey lunch joint located at 911 Seward Street, which has received accolades from LA Weekly and was selected by Los Angeles City Search as its choice for "Best Lunch Spot" and "Best Brunch Spot" in 2004.

Found east of Highland Avenue, it is not difficult to fall in love with this hidden oasis decorated with quaint wooden furnishings, and its charming outdoor patio covered with rattan patio furniture and colorful windmill fans.

The simplicity of the menu items — a variety of egg omelets, salads to sandwiches — keep their customers coming back for more, but what makes "Grub" unusual in Tinseltown is its attention to detail, quality of food and quirky menu titles.

One "grubette" or appetizer, known as "Love you long time" Vietnamese spring rolls (served over banana leaves together with coconut peanut sauce), is adopted from a line used in Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket, when a Vietnamese prostitute approaches a sailor and says "Me love you long time."

Another top-selling item is their "After School Special" a cheddar and swiss cheese sandwich grilled with tangy slice sourdough and dill butter, served together with freshly grind tomato soup it is a dream come true.

Their signature dessert is a six-inch wide "Big Ass Ice Cream Sandwich," which, based on its high calorie concoction of chocolate chip cookies and vanilla ice cream topped with caramel, chocolate sauce and powdered sugar, should be avoided at all costs by weight-conscious individuals.

Located right in the midst of unsightly concrete buildings, it is not unusual for film and television directors, producers and celebrities to be drawn to the cottage-like restaurant, which is filled to its 60-seater capacity during breakfast and lunch hours.

Notable thespians include Charlize Theron, David Arquette, Courtney Cox, Tom Sizemore, and James Caviezel, whom the owners jokingly refer to as "Jesus" for his role in the controversial Mel Gibson film Passion of the Christ.

Even if you are the Pope or movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, do not expect to be given the royal treatment or treated any differently from the nameless runners, camera men, or production crew who work in Hollywood.

"That's the beauty of it," explains Fraser. "We don't acknowledge their work because we want people to be comfortable here, just like everybody else.

Occasionally, to throw in a dash of fun -- Southern style -- DeCarlo runs around with a red wild hog hat, a symbol of her Little Rock, Ark. roots as Fraser dons a headscarf and sings and dance with staff and customers alike.

The casual "Make yourself at home" policy sometimes lead patrons to take it literally.

"Customers come in and get their own coffee," says DeCarlo laughing. "They will also answer the phone because I never answer the phone when I am busy.

Patron Josh Bagoge, who works in Karma Bank, a nearby post production house, says that he occasionally answers phones and serves other customers.

"I try to help out," says Bagoge, who has gone in every morning for a cup of coffee since the restaurant's opening in July 2001. "It's like an extended family for me."

Before venturing into the restaurant business, Fraser was an aspiring theater actress from San Francisco while DeCarlo dreamed of becoming an architect. The former CPK waitresses had little in common, except for a love of cooking that led them to start a catering company "As You Like It" nine years ago. After enjoying the success of their catering business, they said good-bye to waitressing and have devoted 16 hours a day and seven days a week to run the Grub.

So what keeps them going every day?

"Lots of coffee," quips Fraser, before adding: "We've been fortunate to find something that we really love to do. And because we have a crew here that also enjoys what they do, we just really have fun. I think that is what makes us a success."