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Wake Up LA: Auntie Em's Kitchen
If You don't actually live in Eagle Rock or Highland park, getting out here for a nice weekend breakfast probably feels like joining the Donner party, especially if you're hungry and your belly is screaming "NOW NOW NOW" at you as loudly as a belly can. Which it probably is.
"Why should I drive all the way out there?" I can almost hear you saying as you surrender to the despotism of your appetite. "There's plenty to eat right down the street from my overpriced Los Feliz (adjascent, cough cough) efficiency, and I'm hungry NOW!"
I'll concede that point to you. Sure, there is plenty to eat. And sure, you're hungry now. But you'd be doing yourself, and your demanding belly, a serious disservice by staying home. Unlike your 'hood, Eagle Rock has Auntie Em's Kitchen, a tasteful greasy spoon without all that grease, hidden from the rest of the city behind the hills that dot Los Angeles' east side.
Housed in a cottage shaped building (which I'm betting actually used to be a cottage,) they serve up delicious breakfast and lunch entrees that, (as stated on their menu,) are made from scratch and use only seasonally available produce, meats, poultry and fish. There's also a cheese shop with many delicious options. Take your concept of a breakfast diner and add a hefty dose of healthful epicurianism - good for both Vegetarians and Meat eaters who like a hearty breakfast but also like distinct flavor and the joy of cooking thrown in for good measure. It's as delicious as it sounds. But better still, unlike eateries with similarly seasonal cuisine in other parts of the city, their menu is as affordable as it is diverse.
33 is a Crowd
Now the first thing you should know is that despite Auntie Em's unique perks and menu offerings, it does share something in common with every other Eagle Rock eatery with a reputation for delicious food (I'm looking at you, Casa Bianca!) - The locals flipping love it there, and they all want to go at the same time. Expect to wait at least a half hour to 45 minutes before you're seated. Case in point, me and my eating companion arrived just barely in time for breakfast, but ended up eating lunch.
These people aren't waiting to pay. Don't believe me? Here's the second section of the line:
Luckily, the wait isn't so bad. They have serve-yourself bottomless cups of coffee, which helped me cope with my lingering hangover, and the fellow patrons were all nice people - Families with kids, SGV teenagers, local artsy hipsters, Occidental Students, Eagle Rock Old Timers and yours truly (that's me!), all crammed together, united in the shared goal of getting our grubby mitts on some of that cookin'.
Plus, once you're seated, you receive lightening fast service. My eating companion and I hadn't been at our table 5 minutes when the waitress swung by to take our orders. That's especially impressive when you consider how packed the place was: during the hour we spent there, tables tended to be filled within seconds of the previous party's departure.
But What About The Food?
SPOILER ALERT: The food was delicious.
My companion and I decided to go with a breakfast sandwich theme, a decision mandated by the menu description:
"All open faced sandwiches are served on grilled ciabatta bread with Gruyere cheese and scrambled eggs, served with a side of our housemade Harissa Sauce."
How the hell could anyone say no to that? Answer: You can't.
She ordered the Open Faced Grilled Tomato and Avocado:
I ordered the Open Faced mixed vegetable:
To be honest, while my sandwich tasted great, (and I'm going to order it again, mark my words) the mountain of scrambled eggs dominated the grilled vegetables and cheese flavors. The eggs were great; fluffy, thick, flavorful but not too salty, and they weren't greasy at all, which is important. Still, I kind of wish the pepper and other veggies were equally prominent. My Companion didn't share my opinion. "I disagree with you," she said, just before chomping into her sandwich. Then again, she was going all in for avocado and as you can see from the photo, the sandwich delivered it with interest.
Fortunately, all was forgiven when we tasted the Mustard Seed Gouda cheese. Remember that cheese shop I mentioned? Yeah, they sell the good stuff. And we ordered it:
Words cannot express how delicious this cheese is (except, of course, for these words.) It's Gouda, so, obviously, it doesn't suck, but the Mustard Seed. Damn. You bite and taste Gouda, then the aftertaste is a slight, then increasing hint of mustard. I'm sure many people reading this have probably eaten Mustard Seed Gouda before. Not me, and let me tell you, if you have, I urge you to hit yourself, really hard, in your forehead. With a hammer. Do whatever it takes to give yourself Anterograde Amnesia. Then go to Auntie Em's. The experience of tasting this cheese for the first time is so awesome it's worth permanent brain damage to do it again and again and again.
Leaving With Your Dignity Intact
So now you're done and it's time to pay. Fear not. It's not dirt cheap but it's definitely affordable for the bon vivant on a budget. We ordered coffee, Oj, our sandwiches, and the cheese, for a total cost of $25 and change. When you factor in the lightening fast service and the deliciousness, you almost feel like you've gotten away with something seedy. So, way to go Auntie Em's. You made me feel like the Bad Boy. Edgy. Dangerous. Aw yeah.
One last thing. On your way out the door, don't forget to buy some take home dessert. One of the greatest things about Auntie Em's is the massive array of cupcakes, from tiny, to ginormous, and they're perfect for that moment when you're just getting nostalgic about your dining experience, but can't justify eating breakfast twice in the same day. You know, like methadone for food.
There's several flavors (collect 'em all!) but I highly recommend the Red Velvet.
So here's the facts:
Where: Auntie Em's Kitchen, 4616 Eagle Rock Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90041
When: restaurant hours are mon-fri 8am to 7pm, and sat-sun 8am to 4pm; marketplace hours are wed-sun 11am to 5pm.
What's it cost: Very Reasonable.
WWW: Here's the website.
Vegetarian Friendly: Definitely, but less friendly for vegans.
Atmosphere: Home kitchen meets artsy diner, populated by a cross-section of friendly locals.
All photos by Heather Shaughnessy.
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