Category: Los Feliz/Silver Lake/Echo Park
It's been owned by the same people (the Van de Kamp and Frank families) in the same location longer than any other restaurant in Los Angeles. Now with that bit of obligatory trivia out of the way, I can focus on what I like about the place. The Tam is a massive Tudor-style building. Heavy wooden beams, iron chandeliers, brass railings, paintings of lordly tartan-clad people, and Scottish family crests on the wall make for a solemn, slightly stodgy, yet comfortable interior. It feels a bit like striding into a huntsman's lodge after a cheery afternoon of grouse-hunting. We've all done that, right?
The waitstaff is very attentive; busboys in flowy white shirts and waitresses in kilts, white stockings and tartan Tammy hats speed about with smiles. The menu is lacking in deeply Scottish cuisine (Toad in the Hole, Scotch rarebit, yes... haggis, kippers, black pudding, cock-a-leekie soup, no), but it's got some classic high-end American/UK dishes accompanied by light and dark bread and butter.
I found the Fish & Chips good: fluffy beer-battered Alaskan halibut with malt vinegar and a well-mixed tartar sauce, with excellently crispy chips (that's fries to us Yanks). The peanut coleslaw is tangy and not too heavy on the red cabbage.
The braised short ribs are tender and laden with gravy. The Toad in the Hole (a filet mignon/Burgundy/mushrooms affair baked into a Yorkshire pudding shell) is large enough to split into two. Bianca reported her cream of carrot soup to be very tasty, but the crab cakes only fair.
What to drink? Guinness, of course. Or a Black & Tan. After dinner is when we would consider a fine single malt (I'll have to check Tam O'Shanter's whisky menu to see how they measure up).
There's also an Ale and Sandwich bar open during the day, serving a Rueben, a rotisserie chicken with pepper jack, and a prime rib sandwich, which will be less expensive than the dinners (which run up to thirty-five bucks for the steak dishes).
At least we know where all the senior citizens in Los Feliz come for lunch. While it might feel more casual in a pub, Tam O'Shanter feels a bit like a long-lost home.
... For a shameless Anglo/Scoto-phile like me, anyway.
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), Los Feliz/Silver Lake/Echo Park, English/UK )
It might be considered part of the subtle changes happening in Silver Lake*, but so far it has prospered. There is a perfect seating area outside, tiled and partially covered, for sitting and watching Sunset Junction awake, considering whether to drop into the Silver Lake Cheesestore for some supplies. There are quiet people with eyes locked on their laptops, but it's also social and chatty.
Inside is a rectangular island of furiously busy young people with varying degrees of wild hair and well-trained barista brusqueness making things with percolating machinery. A few sleepy individuals will be sitting around the edges of the bar.
At first it might be a little intimidating since you have no idea what they offer until you can get close enough to the counter to pick up one of their cardboard menus and quickly scan it. Or ask the person behind the counter for a recommendation. They know what it will be. After that point you're fine.
They have a few miscellaneous items--pastries and muffins and such--but this is mainly because they're not going to spread themselves thin trying to make sandwiches or other labor-intensive food fare. The edible items are there to accompany the coffee, and Intelligentsia is about coffee. It's a coffee company from Chicago, of which this confidently designed café is but a part; their coffee is featured at several L.A. restaurants. They feature heirloom-grown, seasonal, single-origin, and organic coffees from all over the world (upon which I would explicate if I had the sommelier-like knowledge to draw from), and use vacuum pots and a Clover brewer (is this the same $11k monster that LA MILL has?).
Here is where I can get an expertly-made espresso: not too yellow, not too dark, with a thin rendering of foam. Here is where I can appease my ever-present iced mocha fetish. There are teas, too.
* Well, maybe not so subtle, not with the two massive blocks of "please buy me! Aren't you hip? Don't you want IN on this stylish lifestyle?" lofts down the street...
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), Los Feliz/Silver Lake/Echo Park, Coffee/Tea/Desserts )
The Usual, Please
3524 W. Sunset Blvd.
Phone: 323-664-0404 | map
If it wasn't on Sunset Blvd. in Silver Lake, it'd be a perfect shabby roadside diner or blues joint, with vintage metal signs, tattoos, and some of the oldest-looking wall menus ever seen, the kind where chalk barely sticks to them. Since it is on Sunset in Silver Lake, it's all that plus some healthy options. A dog and its human will pass you every six minutes or so.
Millie's is a breakfast-and-lunch thing, closing in the afternoon. If you're there before eleven, you should have no trouble waiting; otherwise you are subject to the Silver Lake/Los Feliz wakeup time of eleven-thirtyish, when everyone comes out with their properly rumpled hair and friendly dog. You will then have to decide between Millie's and Madame Matisse, yards away from each other.
I start with an iced soy mocha; Bianca has an Arnold Palmer. We agonize over the breakfast choices, which are vast and wonderful and lack only a "chorizo and eggs" kind of dish.
The Devil's Mess is sausage, egg and peppers made properly chaotic but not actually that spicy, while the tofu scramble is no less messy but more polite. The Chilaquiles (black beans, eggs, cheese, etc., over tortilla chips are better than Eat Well's, with big and tasty black beans.
Most of the breakfast items come with the rosemary potatoes. I'm not a fan of rosemary potatoes (rosemary anything, really... parsley, sage and thyme can just go to Scarborough Fair by themselves), but they are exactly what they should be: red potatoes a little crisped around the skins, and not really as rosemary-heavy as I've said before.
The menu has tiny little text at the bottom that says "no cell phones." So, um, there.
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), Vegetarian/Vegan, Diner, Los Feliz/Silver Lake/Echo Park, American )
Rowena Avenue is at the top end of Silver Lake, before it spills over onto the 5 Freeway, and it's got a few eateries. The Coffee Table is the refuge of dog-owners, studious types and breakfast aficianados. The line is always at least seven people deep, but calm and quick to move. The interior is artsy, with local paintings and photographs and a few "no cell phones" placards. The tables are stained glass (probably from Furthur). There's a front patio (smoking and dogs okay) and a warm, wooden-floored back patio.
They'll get started on your drink before you get up to the front. Chai lattes they do well, hot mochas, and mocha macchiatos. There's free water from a metal dispenser, and paper menus to help explain what's available on the wall.
The pancakes or tofu scramble always taste really good when stolen from Bianca's plate; the Eggs from Hell (cheese, black beans, and what they call "hell sauce") have a nice kick to them, but I think I'll ask for something different than the sun-dried tomato tortilla next time. The chorizo and eggs come with black beans and a pile of chopped pico de gallo, and need only a few shakes of Cholula to complete them. For lunch, we always try out a place's turkey burger, and Coffee Table passes the test. Large, rich, comes with gourmet mustard.
There's also a location in Eagle Rock that opened up. It's got more of a Santa Cruz-esque casual family coffee shop feel, with loosely drawn Mexican-style murals of the local landscape. The outdoor seating is on the sidewalk, subject to the sun's rays. They have something I don't recall the Rowena location having: Croissant French Toast. It's as good as it sounds. Again, really tasty when stolen from Bianca's plate.
Other major differences are that 1) the Coffee Table in Eagle Rock has beer, ale and wine: Stella Artois, Guinness, Bass, Chimay Ale, and a few other microbrews; and 2) has a lounge downstairs with electric blue vinyl booths, a massive TV (they show movies on Mondays), a TouchTunes jukebox, and all those beers and ales on tap. Very much a hangout, and we plan to go get a Black & Tan soon. Parking can be found on the side streets or behind the Taco Spot.
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), Healthy/Organic, Glendale/Atwater/Eagle Rock, Diner, Los Feliz/Silver Lake/Echo Park, American, Coffee/Tea/Desserts )
Many reviews--with extra exclamation points and the CAPSLOCK key stuck in the down position--gush about the margaritas available here, and the cocktails are indeed expertly-made powerhouses. One margarita (on the rocks with salt) will have you farther along the road to Tipsytown than most other bars, yet without the "ugh, they made this too strong" taste.
So that fact being out of the way, El Conquistador is a fun, solid Mexican establishment. The front patio is completely (almost too) enclosed; the restaurant's raucous interior is like an explosion in a confetti factory, with loud and happy voices from the waitstaff welcoming you (look for a particular waiter always in impeccably fabulous sparkling vest and collar). There's a little upstairs bar area where the restrooms are, so make sure your feet are steady beneath you before you attempt the stairs.
The chips are fairly good, with two salsas. One is a chopped onion/serrano/tomato/cilantro affair, the other a dark red bastard of a salsa; the combination of the two causes a desperate search for a waiter to refill your water glass... and also makes you down your first cocktail a little too quickly. El Conquistador also makes great soups, different every time we go. They can make a carrot soup or a split pea into puréed magic, and they make one of the finer albondigas soups I've tasted (and I do like my albondigas). The issue with all this is that my tongue is already hurting from the salsas before I dip into my hot soup, because I'm an idiot.
Those desiring a familiar dish can try the Dama (beef or chicken enchilada & taco), but El Conquistador does Gallina en Mole very well. My new favorite dish is the Sonorense, which is poached chicken sautéed with bacon, onions, peppers, tomatoes, and black olives. It has an awesomeness to it. All dishes come on a too-busily-arranged plate that somehow fits your meal with guacamole, sour cream, decorative lettuce, radish slices and a carrot stick.
The cocktails are expensive if you call your drinks, but they use a better brand of tequila than Cuervo, so you're already a step ahead. El Conquistador also makes great mai tais, sweet and irreverent.
There's a tiny lot in back that you probably won't get lucky with. Street parking is scarce but no permits are needed, so creep around until you find a spot (don't park in the nearby lot with the liquor store and the restaurant called "Good"!).
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), Mexican, Los Feliz/Silver Lake/Echo Park )
A Coffee House After Our Own Hearts
2388 Glendale Blvd., Suite B
Phone: 323-913-0388 | map
Next to Gingergrass and across from Rockaway Records, this place reminds us of Common Grounds, a long-gone coffee house near our old apartment in Northridge: long and dark, with creatively colored chalkboard menus, and people sitting and studying.
The open books and sheaves of papers are replaced by silver laptops, and there isn't a tiny stage for open mic night, but it's got that same cozy, studious, in-harmony-with-the-earth feel that we like (some of the laptoppers bring their own more-detached-than-thou air to the setting, but that's their affair). In front there is a two-tiered outdoor patio with tropical plants providing shade and privacy. The women we've seen working there are pleasant and efficient, at odds with reports from a few years ago that the service was sliding toward the realm of the aloof.
There is the expected coffee cafe menu: sandwiches/paninis, pastries, coffees and teas etc., with a few neat items like a Korean BBQ Panini, omelettes and fried potatoes, and an iced Mojito Green Tea. I've had the blended Espresso Banana, and it's one of my new favorite midday drinks.
What blew our minds, however, was the small refrigerated unit by the condiments. Normally a fridge like this has racks filled with bottled water, cans of soda, corporate-made flavored teas, yadda yadda. BUT. There is ginger beer. Old Jamaican Ginger Beer. Jamaica's Finest Ginger Beer. Regatta Ginger Beer from Bermuda.
Even better, and this is what made Bianca's eyes grow shiny: they have TING!
Oh, Ting, how we miss you. On balmy Jamaican afternoons in Negril Village or Black River Town, dragging a bottle dripping with condensation across our sweating foreheads and flushed necks, drinking down zingy grapefruit goodness. And it's here, at Silverlake Coffee Co.
I'm sure that colors our opinion a bit.
Oh, and there's a good-sized parking lot in back, shared with Gingergrass.
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), Los Feliz/Silver Lake/Echo Park, Coffee/Tea/Desserts )