Give me an S. "S!" Give me an A. "A!" Give me an N. "N!" Give me a D. "D!" Give me an … you get the picture.
Who wouldn’t cheer for a sandwich? Nearly every country and cuisine has its
own version of this good old-fashioned comfort food, and L.A. is just the place
to explore its many faces (and you thought there were just two). France has the
crepe and the croque monsieur. Cuba has the, you guessed it, Cuban. EvenVietnam
has the banh mi. The great thing about sandwiches is that there are endless ways
to construct them, and therefore limitless opportunities to eat!
Usually, thoughts of a sandwich conjure two measly pieces of bread and some sort
of meat layered in between. That description just does not suffice for France’s
version: the crepe. Eaten as a sugary dessert or a savory repast, a crepe is one
of the most satisfying and popular snacks in France.
Café Crepe on the Third Street Promenade is a relaxing setting for the
French "sandwich." Vintage posters are framed on the wall, and soothing
music plays in the background. If the shops are calling your name, you can get
a crepe to go and watch the chef behind the counter as the thin batter sets into
a wonderfully buttery and soft exterior for some tasty ingredients.
Savory crepes include egg, emmenthal cheese (sounds like a cough syrup but tastes
like a smooth Swiss), ham, spinach and feta, or chicken. Snack time in France
means sweet crepes such as Cafe Crepe’s sugar and butter, applesauce, nutella,
or hazelnut chocolate cream with almonds. Just because you are stuck in the smog
does not mean you cannot live the French life and savor a crepe on a lazy afternoon
at the Promenade.
We continue the journey in France (can’t a LA eater dream?) to Café
Tartine on Beverly Blvd. Lunch here is decadent. Outdoor tables flank the casual,
modern café with large windows facing the bustling street. Wicker chairs
under white awnings make people-watching comfortable while you wait for France’s
take on the open-faced sandwich: the tartine.
Tomato and mozzarella, grilled Toulouse sausage with Dijon mustard, or a croque
monsieur are all enjoyed on bread flown in daily from Lionel Poilane bakery in
France. All sandwiches ($7-12.50) are accompanied by fries or a light salad. A
cheese plate, quiche, and moule frites (tres French) are on the menu as well.
Yet the best tartine was the smoked salmon. One bite will transport you to the
Seine in Paris, as the creamy salmon atop cream cheese infused with chives brings
music to your mouth. The Poilane bread imbues each bite with a chewy essence that
tastily contrasts the indulgent salmon and cheese. Paris, here I come! Fine, fine,
I’ll settle for Café Tartine in a heartbeat.
Cross a couple of borders (the beauty of a culinary passport) and settle down
in Yemen. Well, Magic Carpet on W. Pico will have to suffice for now. This authentic
Yemenite and Middle Eastern restaurant is kosher (a yarmulke is damn sexy here),
intimate, and the food will enlighten your palate.
The falafel pita bread sandwich is exceptional. Biting into this thick pita, you
cannot help but close your eyes and make one of those "Mmm, best-sandwich-ever"
faces. You know what I’m talking about.
Many consider falafel to be doughy and greasy, yet that of Magic Carpet is fresh
and crisp. Nutty chickpea and lemon undercurrents accentuate the rich tahini,
tomatoes, cucumber, scallions, and lettuce pocketed within. A side of red beets
is vinegary and flavorful.
Appetizers such as margaz, kibbeh, and Syrian grape leaves are wonderful options
as well. The lemony grape leaves are small, packed with spiced rice, and taste
of herbal tea. The allusions to "flying over to the Magic Carpet" have
already been made, so just make sure you get there and try the delicious cuisine.
Off to the islands! A little Bob Marley, picnic tables, and flashing Christmas
lights (all year round) set the vibe at Cha Cha Chicken, a shack-like Caribbean
joint blocks away from the beach in Santa Monica. Chill out and order the house
specialty, the cubano mulatto sandwich ($7.50). Shredded jerk chicken so tender
it must have been braised for days is the main ingredient, along with cheese,
lettuce and pickles on a toasted baguette.
The accompanying jerk sauce, composed of more than 20 spices, gives the sandwich
a tasty kick. $1 will get you some sweet, caramelized plantains. Yea mon!
Choosing from more than thirty specialty sandwiches at the adorable Malibu Kitchen
in the Malibu Country Mart can give you an anxiety attack. In the mood for meat
loaf? Try "Better Than Mom’s" with Kitchen’s secret sauce,
lettuce, tomato, and coleslaw.
Still hankering for a Thanksgiving feast (sometimes the tryptophan just doesn’t
hit hard enough)? Go for roast turkey and warm brie with cranberry relish and
baby greens. The "New York, New York" with Eastern Nova lox, cream cheese,
onion, tomato, comes on a famous H & H Bagel straight from Gotham.
All of the sandwiches are served on bread from La Brea Bakery, including a rosemary
roll, Italian focaccia, and honey whole wheat. Drop $7.50 and you’ve got
yourself a sandwich of mozzarella, turkey, tangy mustard, all on a salty pretzel
roll. Of course the delightful employees at the Kitchen make you walk by the tempting
dessert case to pay, but why resist? Enormous s’mores bars, gigantic frosted
cupcakes, and oversized cookies beckon. Picnic tables provide a respite before
some shopping at the great shops right next door. Aren’t you a little jet
Just one more country and a scrumptious sandwich: Vietnam’s banh mi. Go east
to Alhambra to Ba Le Sandwich and Bakery on S. Atlantic Blvd. This area is the
epicenter of Asian cuisine, and a baguette from Ba Le has of all of the fixins:
pickle, daikon, jalapeno, cilantro, cucumber and soy sauce.
There is no better deal in town than the $2 Number 2: a huge sub of ham, head
cheese, white meat, and pate. Do not be swayed by this zealous, meaty meal. It
sounds a bit heavy, but the generous amount of vegetables makes for a fresh, crunchy
bite each time. Be sure to order one of the banh gio, a rice cake bursting with
ground pork. The sandwich constructors have mastered the mingling of sweet and
A satisfying meal under $5 in LA sounds like a mean joke, but it can be experienced
at Ba Le. Trust me, you know you’re getting the real deal when the servers
behind the counter speak Vietnamese.and only Vietnamese.
Café Crepe, Café Tartine, Magic Carpet, Cha Cha Chicken, Malibu
Kitchen, and Ba Le will have you tasting the world with their many versions of
the sandwich. Hungry yet?
Locations and Information:
Café Crepe -1460 Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica (310) 576-0499
Café Tartine -7385 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles (323) 938-1300
Magic Carpet - 8566 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles (310) 652-8507
Cha Cha Chicken - 1906 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica (310) 561-1684
Malibu Kitchen - 3900 Cross Creek Road, Malibu (310) 456-7845
Ba Le Sandwich and Bakery - 1426 S. Atlantic Blvd., Alhambra (626) 308-3003
Food: Special Features Dining [Global Sandwiches]
Sandwiches From Around the World: Explore the Many Options L.A. Has to Offer
By Camilla Warner
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Article posted on 1/30/2006
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