Here's Why The Line At Sqirl Is Worth It
You guys heard of this little Los Angeles eatery called Sqirl? Oh. Well me too.
Last year I ordered the Red Flannel Hash from Sqirl and was sort of unimpressed beyond the name, but so many people demanded that I try this place again that I decided to order what seems to be their signature dish: the Sorrel Pesto Rice. SOLD. And it turns out that this place is popular for a reason: everything tastes good, looks pretty on Instagram, and fills you up while being fairly healthy. "Everything tastes good" may actually be understating it: everything tastes unique, like an effort was put into not just every dish, but every bite. There are no crusts left without avocado. No grain of rice left undressed. It's all dripping with flavor, and they're flavors you'll be hard up to find anywhere else. Believe the hype, etc.
For the purpose of delivering an informed story, I have gleefully forced myself to try almost everything on the menu (which is always changing, btw). Here are some of my thoughts on what they're servin', with additional commentary from Sqirl chef Jessica Koslow, who tells me that they're expanding within their current building, and the bigger space is set to open this October.
Sorrel Pesto Rice ($7.75)
"Kokuho Rose Brown Rice, Sorrel Pesto, Preserved Meyer Lemon, Lacto-Fermented, Hot Sauce, Watermelon Radish, French Sheep Feta, Poached Egg"
Never has brown rice sounded more appealing than in this description—what a difference a "rose" makes. And the rose brown rice is what makes this dish highlight what Sqirl does best: create meals that feel light but hearty. They've taken a typically heavier carb, and with a springtime flavor like Meyer lemon made it feel airy and healthy. Every single thing in this dish compliments the other, and they'll all work together to fill you up. It's one of the most perfect things I've ever eaten, and it's somehow only $7.75!
Chef Koslow tells me that this dish, which is called the "R2" in the kitchen, is their most popular menu item. It should have its own office at Instagram HQ.
White Fish Tartine ($12)
"Cauliflower Baba Ganoush, Cucumbers, Fennel Fronds"
This is a current special, and what's missing from that description on the menu is the picturesque, paper thin slices of candied clementines. Or oranges. Or whatever those are. It's the most beautiful white fish has ever looked, the cucumbers add a nice crisp, and the flavors are all present and accounted for. Order this protein-packed beauty while you can.
Famed Ricotta Toast ($7)
This item is the 2nd most Instagrammed item at Sqirl, after the Sorrel Pesto Rice. (Chef Koslow told me the most IG'd item is "A toss-up. It would either be the 'R2,' or the Ricotta Toast... runaway sleeper hit.") And I would argue that its "fame" is based on looks alone. The item's sturdy foundation is a thick slab of burnt brioche, with a fluffy white ricotta sitting on top, and a colorful burst of jelly smeared on top of that. It's certainly visually intriguing, like a Rothko painting of the culinary world. But as far as it tastes, it's just okay. As someone who enjoyed the occasional cream cheese and jelly sandwich as a child, I was comforted by it, but in the end it can only ever be cheese, bread and jelly. And even if you're Sqirl, and even if you have 18 options of jelly, you can't improve much upon the basic ingredients here. I had the blueberry tarragon jam—it was pleasant, but I wouldn't have been able to pick it out of a standard grape jelly lineup. Get this if you're in the mood for a little savory with your sweet, and if you're craving #basic.
Avocado Toast ($8.50)
"JJ's Avocados, hot pickled carrots, green garlic creme fraiche, wood sorrel, house za'atar"
There are so many variations on avocado toast right now, but Sqirl keeps it perfectly in the middle of the spectrum: not getting too flashy, while not being too boring. They've kept the main ingredient the avocado, slicing up nearly a full one across their house bread. Because of the avocado's natural flavor of "pretty bland," there always seems to be a desire to spice it up, but here's a hot tip: if you want this without the hot pickled carrots they will do that for you, and it still tastes good.
Tomato Jam ($9)
"Beecher’s Cheddar, Arugula"
Note: This comes with greens, which I forgot to put on top before taking this photo. (Jen Carlson/LAist)
Tomato Jam is hard to come by, and thankfully Sqirl has made their own to add to dishes like this (they also sell it by the jar, along with some other jams). This isn't a classic open-faced toast like we see with an Avocado, it's more like a French bread pizza. It's lacking a bit in the jam area, making the cheddar a highlight here—sharp and robust. (It also comes with greens that you can top it with.) It's delicious, but not a showstopper. Save it for when your hungover and your body needs All The Bread.
Braised Koda Farms Chickpeas ($11.50)
"Smoked Chili, Tomato, Ginger, Poached Eggs, Aioli, Swiss Chard & Toast"
This is another current special*, and it's worth checking out if you've temporarily OD'd on that Sorrel Pesto Rice. It's like Sqirl stew for the vegetarian soul—it has a flavorful, creamy punch, and comes with two giant slices of baguette (seriously, when it comes to bread, Sqirl is not stingy). These carb vessels are of course perfect for dipping in the remaining sauce. The ribbons of swiss chard and the two poached eggs bring this hearty meal over the top.
*This is actually called “Eggs and Beans," which Koslow tells me is "obscure on purpose, as it is one of the seasonal dishes that the set and ingredients will change based on the seasons. It is a hearty dish no doubt, one I can only recommend... and it’s served with a cut piece of toast that is the entire size of the baguette (Cut from tip to tip!)" This is the most under-appreciated item on the menu, Koslow tells us.
Quiche with Market Greens ($10)
Look at that fine piece of quiche. Sqirl changes their quiche option daily, but it's always vegetarian (the one above seemed to include a variety of potatoes mixed with leeks). The egg base is fluffy and perfect, the crust is crispy and delicious. Nice moves, Sqirl.
Chicken Salad ($12)
"Mary's chicken, Market Greens, Northern California Garbanzos, Straus Cream Mustard Dressing and a soft egg. Served with House Rugbrød"
I ordered this chicken salad via delivery and it was missing: the dressing, the egg, and most importantly the chicken. Actually, there was one tiny sliver of chicken, which was somehow more disturbing than no chicken at all. I was assured this was not how it is usually served, but if you want a chicken salad I'd recommend going elsewhere, and getting something a bit more unique at Sqirl anyway.
Delicata Squash Hash ($14)
"Weisser Potato, Leeks, Green Harissa, Fried Egg"
Delicata squash is one of the greatest of the squashes—it's not as dense as butternut, it's not as sweet as buttercup, and it's got a creamy texture over the more typical stringy squash texture. It's also criminally underused, so if I see it on a menu I order it. Unfortunately, this dish has more potatoes than it does delicata squash. "Too many potatoes," I wrote desperately in my notes while eating this. Good flavor though, so if you love potatoes you should get it, but if it's the headliner you're looking for you'll be left wanting more.
Extra Egg ($1.50)
I ordered this because I firmly believe you should put eggs on top of everything. I got the poached option. It came in a container, unharmed through the delivery process. And surprise: there was not one, but TWO eggs. What a deal for $1.50. Always get extra eggs.
Sqirl is located at 720 N Virgil Ave in