Eating at Sqirl is like eating in someone’s kitchen. OK, someone’s very traditional kitchen—we don’t all have a copper vat for making jam—but the scant trappings that exist aren’t exactly restaurant-like. A few stools constitute the dining room. Someone has already had a square of that persimmon pudding in a baking pan. Yet down to the last ground-to-order cup of coffee, the Silver Lake storefront is suffused with rigorous professional standards. As fine dining sheds formality (stemmed glasses will soon go the way of the tablecloth), casual-eating places like Sqirl, as well as Milo & Olive in Santa Monica and The Sycamore Kitchen on La Brea, are opening with definite views about how to distinguish themselves. Theirs is the tradition of the lunch counter, but they are run with a precision that trumps far plusher joints. Refusing to be pigeonholed (the operations double as bakeries, coffee shops, and gathering spots), they laugh off the established hierarchy of meals that dictates dinner is where chefs show their stuff. As traffic races by, a breakfast crowd at Milo & Olive delights in Anson Mills grits with pork belly sausage and braised greens. In the former print shop that has become the Sycamore Kitchen, the lunch crowd rediscovers classics like the chicken salad sandwich, but one that’s made with freshly roasted chicken and green olive tapenade and Meyer lemon confit and a dab of mayo playing off hearth-baked bread. How subtly grand.
Illustration by Clint Hansen