Sqirl: LA Restaurant Review
Recently, we launched one of our most exciting projects of the year: LA’s Must-Visit Restaurants of 2018. What does this mean exactly and why is it so exciting? Well…it means instead of ordering Indian for the fifth week in a row, we are going to try new places! Each week, from this list that you’ll find in the post linked above, we are going to try a highly-rated (from someone or another) restaurant in Los Angeles and then tell you, our beloved readers, about it! Our first stop in this epic adventure was Sqirl, a “contemporary breakfast and lunch” as they word it.
It was rather a chance occasion that we did this; my brother’s girlfriend’s cousin (I know, it’s a mouthful) was in town and they were all going to breakfast at Sqirl. We got an invite and said, why not! Sqirl is just on the border of Silver Lake and East Hollywood and boy do you notice. No parking and plenty of hipsters abound! We parked a few blocks away and hiked down one of Silver Lake’s many mountain-like hills to a little cafe. The cafe is “hip” with plenty of hipsters both in line and cooking, serving, and/or cashiering. If you don’t know the exact address, you’ll find Sqirl by the at-least 15-person wait line (and that’s if you’re lucky and/or smart and go at 8:30am) outside. The format of food-getting is wait in a line to get to the counter, order your food, and hope for a table. Like I said, it’s a little place, so there aren’t many of them. The smartest thing to do is split your party into table-grabbers and food-orderers.
The pricing isn’t outrageous as some LA “contemporary” brunch spots can be. Expect to pay between $12-17 for your meal or a little extra if you want some biscuits and/or a hot tea/coffee. I paid around $42.00 for two main dishes, a smaller dish, and a tea. Not bad for such a popular, hip place. The service was excellent. Though there is a mayhem of the line, it’s well-managed by plenty of staff so that not too many people are crowded by the counter you order at. We got our food at a reasonable if not quick rate (which was almost surprising based on the high-quality food) and were checked upon regularly to meet our needs. Our biggest qualm of this place was that the tables were just too small. With five people, we were scrambling to try to find room for everything to fit on the table.
Sqirl focuses on fresh market food; this means whatever is in season or is good market price. That means ingredients on the menu are apt to change frequently. Everything has a feel of homemade and farm-to-table combined with the hipsterness (if that’s not a word, it should be) you’ll find in LA (they have bacon, but they also have vegan options too), especially East LA. We started off with the Famed Ricotta Toast which I am still dreaming about. It was thick brioche toast with creamy ricotta spread liberally and dabs of strawberry rhubarb and blackberry blueberry jam plopped on top. (Pro tip: ask for two different jams on it and they will happily oblige). This place is known for their jams and for good reason (you can even buy a jar of the seasonal jam at the counter). The crust wasn’t as good as the fluffy inside of the brioche, but if you threw enough ricotta and jam on it, it didn’t really matter (I mean you could throw that ricotta and jam on a piece of cardboard and I’d got after it). It went very well with a cup of their hot Gold Thread tea with milk & honey. I’m not snobby about much, but I certainly am about my tea–the Gold Thread tea certainly passed my test.
For our main dishes, I got the Braised Chickpeas and Hungry got the French Toast. The Braised Chickpeas was a bowl of stewed chickpeas of the Tunisian flavor profile with two beautifully poached eggs on top. It was advertised that it came with “long toast” and–trust me–they aren’t kidding. It came with two pieces of long toast that were over a foot each–no joke! The “stew” was full of well-balanced flavor: plenty of acid and “twang,” good hits of salt and umami, wonderful Tunisian spices, and plenty of creamy goodness from the poached eggs. My mouth is watering thinking of it. Each bite was an explosion of flavor. The French Toast was similar to the Famed Ricotta Toast in that they used the same bread and jam, but the texture of the bread was worse. The inside was heaven and the flavors were on-point, but the outside was a smudge like wet cardboard, thus poor texture. Our friends/family got the The Mosca Breakfast Sandwich, the Long-Cooked Chicken + Rice Porridge, and a side of biscuits. We tried a bit of each and were flavorful.
Sqirl has a line for a reason and it’s not just because you might see a celebrity or a wild pack of hipsters. It’s clear that the owner, chef Jessica Koslow, cares about high-quality ingredients and well-balanced flavors. They source their ingredients as local as they can and they make their jams and preserves in house. Plain and simple: Sqirl serves tasty decent-portion sized food. If you go early, the line shouldn’t be longer than ten to fifteen minutes, and I can say–for at least that amount of time–it’s worth it. Is an hour or two wait worth it? I can’t say. But if you find yourself in Silverlake on the earlier side of the morning (or heck, just plan to be), grab a spot in Sqirl’s line and enjoy some darn tasty food. And as always, stay hungry and fit!