Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Griddle Cafe: My Forever Favorite

I'll never forget that first bite. It was Sunday, March 18th, 2007, and my good friend and I had impetuously decided to grab brunch that morning. He had been raving about the Griddle Cafe for months, but whenever I planned to go, there was always something that seemed to get in the way. A quick text message exchange that morning sealed the deal, and minutes later we drove off in his BMW with visions of French toast and unnecessary white sugar carbs dancing in our heads.

As we pulled into the parking lot behind the Rite Aid at the intersection of Sunset and Fairfax Blvd., my friend instantly regaled me with his enthusiasm for the "find-a-parking-spot" game. He sped around the lot, zooming in and out of the aisles, his eyes peeled for tell-tale red headlights. I laughed at his exhuberance, but I secretly thought he was crazy. Who actually enjoys searching for a parking spot?

Once we won "the game," we trooped through the back door of the Griddle, my senses immediately awakening with the intoxicating smells of savory scrambled eggs, crispy bacon and fluffy buttermilk pancakes. I grinned in delight as we passed by the closely packed tables covered with plates of gargantuan portioned food. Cheesecake Factory has nothing on this place -- a full stack of three pancakes easily weighs 2-lbs. My friend leaned in conspiratorially. "You can actually order just one." He whispered. I nodded, glad to be popping my Griddle cherry with someone so "in the know."

My friend put our name in with the affable host Alex whose ability to keep the crazy hordes of waiting customers at bay is truly remarkable. He called me pretty, and with that single phrase, I was at his mercy -- completely unconcerned about how long I might have to wait until he called our name for a table. Fortunately, the morning was slower than usual, and twenty minutes later, we were seated.

Multiple-paged menus were dropped by our table for two, and my eyes bulged as I read over the descriptions. "The Golden Ticket" with golden brown sugar-baked bananas, caramel, walnuts and streusal, topped with real whipped cream, caramel and streusal ($10.95) beckoned me with the promise of a food coma. The "Tis the Season" with pumpkin pie filling and whipped cream and powdered sugar ($9.95) promised to make me nostalgic for Thanksgiving. And the "Saturday Morning Fever" with Bailey's and Kahlua ($9.95) assured me that this would be no ordinary brunch experience. I looked up at my friend with perplexed eyes.

"Get the French toast." He said, immediately understanding my pain.

I nodded, too hungry and confused to question his suggestion and ordered the original "Mom's French Toast" described in the menu as "egg-dipped bread griddle cooked to perfection, Mom's old fashioned way!" ($9.95) I added on sides of fresh strawberries and scrambled eggs and my requisite order of a pot of green tea, and then the waiting/anticipation began.

When my French toast arrived at the table, my heart was beating so fast I could hardly breathe. It was love at first sight. And then... love at first bite. It really was griddle cooked to perfection. Soft but not too soft, moist but not gooey, sweet but not cloying -- it was like I was Goldilocks and the French toast was my "just right" bed. The sweet strawberries and real maple syrup only enhanced my pleasure, and I was equally smitten with my buttery scrambled eggs. As I moaned with ecstasy, forking thick pieces of the French toast into my mouth at rapid-fire pace, my friend looked on in amusement.

"See?" He said.

"We have to come back. Like every weekend. We have to come back!" I enthused, syrup dribbling down my chin.

While I have not been able to frequent the Griddle as often as I would like, over the course of my half-dozen+ visits to the perpetually bustling Hollywood cafe, I have only discovered more reasons to love the purveyor of my all-time favorite French toast. Like the "Peanut Bubba" Crunchy French Toast ($10.95), the thick slabs of meaty bacon ($4.50), the "Gone Shrimping" egg scramble ($11.95), the real whipped cream that tops many of the pancake dishes, and Sergio, the adorable waiter who keeps my pot of Stir Fried Green Tea ($2.95) always brimming with hot water.

The Griddle Cafe is what dreams are made of. And my dreams are made of sugar and spice and everything nice. They look kind of like this... (except in my head, they are not half-eaten)

"Hear Me Roar" Pancakes - Frosted Flakes and Strawberries

"Peanut Bubba" Crunchy French Toast

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