It'd be hard to pick my single favorite place to eat in Los Angeles, but if you twisted my arm, I'd have to say John O'Groats.
My reasons for saying so are myriad and complex, and take into account every detail of the experience offered there - the food, the ambience, the service, the extremely warm and welcoming attitude of the chef/owner and staff. It's comfort food in a comfortable setting, and that makes all the difference.
First, you are made to feel completely at home here. If you dine at this restaurant more than twice, Paul Tyler (the maitre'd/manager/executive chef) will ask your name, will remember it every time you come in and will greet you personally. I can't name another single place in the city (that's still around, at least) where I get treated like this.
John O'Groats opens early for breakfast, and it's for this that they're famous. The homemade biscuits are to die for, arriving fresh and hot before you even get a chance to ask for them. Pancakes, eggs with cilantro potato cakes, the fabulous asparagus omelette with Hollandaise ... you'll find something wonderful for breakfast without a doubt. One caveat, though -- they're so beloved for their breakfasts that if you go early in the day, you can expect a wait. I solve this problem by sleeping late and not bothering with going early. Besides, you can get breakfast anytime up through lunch.
For lunch, try the fish and chips, which are just about the best in town. Huevos O'Groats are wonderful too, with poached eggs, black beans, salsa, and avocado served atop a homemade tortilla (made from the biscuit dough) and topped with sour cream. What I always end up ordering for lunch, though, is the club sandwich.
Don't think, "Pfft, club sandwich, big deal." This sandwich is perfection, an absolute work of art, a Platonic dish. Thick slices of sourdough bread are cut by hand from the loaf, toasted and filled with thick slices of turkey carved off the bone, thick slices of Swiss cheese, crisp smoky bacon of the finest quality, lettuce and tomato and slathered with mayonnaise. It's not the standard triple-decker, because you wouldn't be able to fit it into your mouth. Get it with the crisp, homemade fries (made from potatoes, not from frozen things that come out of a bag) and you've got one of the most mind-spinningly great sandwich lunches you'll have in this city. (Paul's recently added a lobster club to the menu. It's a little expensive at $14.95, and I have yet to try it, but it looks and sounds deliriously good.)
What distinguishes this sandwich, as with everything else at this restaurant, is the supremely high quality of the ingredients. This runs the gamut from the bacon to the 100% real maple syrup served with breakfast, to the steel-cut Irish oats for the oatmeal (you'll never eat that instant slop from the envelope ever again). There's nothing cheap or second-rate here.
Not long ago, O'Groats began serving dinner four nights a week (Wednesday through Saturday), with a different menu that never fails to completely satisfy and delight. They make the best meat loaf I've ever had (sorry, Mom). They make a fantastic smoked pork chop with apple-pecan sauce, superb Southern-style fried chicken, an incredibly filling and tasty Peruvian dish consisting of salmon, shrimp and scallops stir-fried with vegetables and French-fried potatoes, and interesting daily specials as well.
John O'Groats has everything -- breakfast, lunch, dinner, homey ambience, supremely friendly staff, and fantastic food. If you go for lunch after 1:30 or for dinner, you'll likely be able to skip the wait. But even still, any meal at John O'Groats is more than worth the wait.
Yep, it's definite. My favorite place to eat in L.A.
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