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Los Angeles' Hottest New Lunch Spot Is In Vernon (No, Really!)
The place to be at lunchtime these days is Vernon. Yes, Vernon. The industrial center, a few minutes south of Downtown L.A., has never really been known for great food, but brothers Konstantin and Alex Sotirhos, just 21 and 22 respectively and with their parents in tow, have suddenly made it a hot spot with Alexander's Greek Kitchen. The new strip mall joint attracts a big crowd daily with a fast casual menu of Greek favorites.
"We serve all the Greek greatest hits," laughs Konstantin, who says they partly picked Vernon precisely because of its lack of food options for the many who work in the area. "Most of our customers have a limited amount of time to grab lunch, and that was one of the factors that we considered when we created our menu. We wanted to offer traditional Greek food that we can prepare quickly without having to compromise food quality."
The menu includes everything you'd expect, like gyros, salads, and skewers, but there are also some surprises. Namely, Saganaki. The sultry but simple dish of pan-fried Kefalograviera cheese doused in lemon juice isn't your usual fast food fare, but Alexander's serves up a nice big slab, though minus the table-side production of flames and shout of "Opa!" Also boundary-bending are the french fries, which defy their Greek ubiquity thanks to two, modern food-scape options: You can get them sprinkled with feta cheese or covered in creamy Lagonisi sauce and more of that Kefalograviera for an Animal Fries effect.
The meaty dishes are more traditional. Thin slices of lamb, chicken and beef are shaved off rotating spits with an electric knife, then piled on combo plates of fries, bread, tzatziki, and salad. Big, fat, and tasty, the gyros are wrapped in soft, grilled pita — one of the few items the family outsources — and stuffed with red onions, tomatoes, a choice of sauce, and a lovely layer of fries on the bottom. Finishing the whole thing might hurt a bit, but that probably won't stop you.
Part of the addictiveness is the freshness of the food at Alexander's. The two salads offered (the only difference being that one includes a spring mix and one doesn't) are crisp and bright. Flavorful small plates, like pureed roasted eggplant with spices; Dolmadakia, stuffed grape leaves; and Tyrokefteri, a blend of feta and roasted peppers, taste like they were made today because they were.
"The biggest thing for us is the honest portrayal of Greek cuisine....[Our mom] cooks everyday. She knows Greek food better than anyone we know. She rules," says Konstantin.
The only real downside to the Alexander's Greek Kitchen experience is the ratio of the restaurant's popularity to available seating. The space is very small with an open kitchen that takes up most of the real estate and just a few tables. Lines are also long, crowding the front counter and inspiring that I-don't-know-where-to-stand feeling while you wait to order and pick up your food. If you can, go after the lunch rush, which runs from about 12-2. If you can't, brave the line (it goes pretty fast), go back to work and eat at your desk. It's worth it — they even have a jug of free cucumber water to sip while you wait.
Alexander's Greek Kitchen is only opened on weekdays until 4pm. Plans for extended hours are in the works. The restaurant is located at 3632 Soto St., Vernon, (323) 586-0201.