When I heard the noise on EaterLA that a new Joan’s on Third-esque café/bakery would be opening on Ocean Park Blvd. just a stone’s throw (or 3-4 minute car ride) from my place of employment, I was pretty ecstatic. While I do brown bag it almost every… single… day, that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the occasional cookie, brownie or cupcake to perk up my lunch hour. Plus, it’s nice to have the option to escape from my Boar’s Head Honey Maple Glazed turkey sandwiches with provolone, leaf lettuce, delicatessen-style mustard on my Oroweat whole wheat bread when I feel the need.
The new lunching/sugar-coma-inducing locale, Thyme Cafe and Market, officially opened for business last Tuesday, October 13th, and earlier this week, I decided to make a drive-by assessment of the premises. Because that’s what I do on my lunch hour – eat food at my desk, and then go look at food I might want to eat at my desk in the future (or right then). What can I say? I’m vigilant about my craft. Of eating. And inducing mid-afternoon sugar comas that make it impossible for me to concentrate on my Excel documents. Sigh.
After maneuvering my car into a metered space down the street, I paused briefly outside the pleasantly bustling cafe, which is located just west of 17th street on Ocean Park Blvd. in Santa Monica, to snap a few establishing shots. I’m a good intrepid food blogger like that – always thinking about the visuals (or at least I am until I get too hungry). Satisfied, I then made my way inside for further surveillance.
The interior of the very Westside eatery (read: uber clean and sanitized) is decidedly Huckleberry and Joan’s on Third in fashion – with slightly better acoustics that will probably worsen as it gets more popular. The piercing SoCal sunlight that blinds me on my drive home, streams through the ceiling to floor windows, filling the space with the sort of light optimistic energy that is decidedly LA in nature. It feels like the type of place that would be featured on “The Hills” – a pristine lunch spot that fits the shiny, undefiled image of LA portrayed on the series.
The crowd is as well-manicured and groomed as the environs of the cafe would suggest. This is clearly the “light lunch” set – ladies who only eat salads, business men who are trying to clean up their diets and image with daintier gourmet sandwiches instead of the behemoth Godmother from Bay Cities, and a mix of folks from the neighborhood who just want a local spot other than the Counter to nosh.
I, investigative food blogger on a mission, stand out amidst the rest of the crowd that is at the cafe/market for a specific purpose. I’m not there to stand in the line by the counter, or hibernate at one of the dozen or so tables that dot the space. I’m there to look, listen, observe. And possibly buy a cupcake or chocolate chip cookie if one strikes my particular fancy.
The glass counter showcases the deli salads available, as well as some of their sweet treats like the currently trendy chocolate pudding, topped with soft snow-capped mountains of whipped cream, and lush rows of lemon bars kissed with powdered sugar. I spy a couple lone chocolate chip cookies in a glass jar outside the refrigerated case, but their standard appearance does not inspire my tongue to moisten. The fudgy, walnut-studded brownies look more appealing, as do the dainty carrot cake cupcakes with their impeccable top hats of cream cheese frosting. The ubiquitous red velvet looks lackluster in comparison, and I ultimately snub all the baked goods – mindful that just because it’s in front of me, doesn’t mean that I have to eat it.
Before heading back to the office to conquer another round of Excel documents, I take a quick glance at the gourmet goods available for purchase. Little jars of pricey substances amuse me, but sadly the collection seems to be an afterthought compared to the main appeal of the cafe – lunch.
I know I’ll be back, but not necessarily for a sugar rush via a cute carrot cake cupcake or tart lemon bar. The real point of intrigue for me is what lies on the menu – the affordable Chinese Chicken Salad, the Classic Chicken Tarragon Salad on Walnut Raisin Bread, or the Grilled Cheese with Tomato, Bacon and Avocado. This is a spot I’d be happy to let pinch hit for my standard turkey sam. Especially if it revives my energy enough to tackle all those Excel grids.
Thyme Cafe and Market
30 Ocean Park Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA