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Sometimes Cheesy Means Good

{mosimage}Aroma Café. Pljeskavica is a thin, Balkan hamburger, as big and round as a phonograph record, flavored with salt and onions and peppers and briefly cooked over a hot charcoal fire, a chewy meat patty that still has all its juice. In Los Angeles, pljeskavica is served more or less exclusively at this Westside coffeehouse that offers probably the only Bosnian cooking in town. Tucked into its sturdy, focaccia-style bun, a steroidal construction that bears the same relationship to a supermarket roll that Barry Bonds’ right arm does to the musculature of a ballerina, Aroma’s pljeskavica is as daunting in its appearance as it is difficult to pronounce. The feta cheese roasted with herbs in tinfoil is goopy, salty, grand, like a great grilled cheese sandwich without the bread. 2530 Overland Ave., West Los Angeles, (310) 836-2919. Open Thurs.–Tues. 11 a.m.–10 p.m. BYOB. Lot and street parking. MC, V. Eastern European. JG $

Campanile. The basic premise of urban rustic cuisine is the perfection of Mediterranean peasant dishes, often in ways that may be incomprehensible to actual Mediterranean peasants. Campanile’s Mark Peel reinterprets this sunny cuisine by using the best farmers-market ingredients, assembling them with chefly skill, and illuminating the spirit of each dish as if from within. Peel is the Jascha Heifetz of the grill. Thursday at Campanile, grilled-cheese night, has become the stuff of local legend. 624 S. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 938-1447. Lunch Mon.–Sat. 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m. Dinner Mon.–Thurs. 6–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 5:30–11 p.m. Brunch Sun. 9:30 a.m.–1:15 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. Entrées $25–$38. AE, CB, DC, MC, V. California/Mediterranean. JG $$

Clementine. At lunchtime, there may be no happier place in Los Angeles than Annie Miler’s cheerful takeout café across from the Century City Shopping Mall, home to Southern ham biscuits, a showcase full of carefully composed roast-vegetable salads, and an anthology’s worth of grilled cheese sandwiches crisped in an Italian sandwich press. There is even an annual grilled-cheese month, with a different sandwich each day. Don’t miss out on the Angelina-style hot chocolate; it’s a local legend. 1751 Ensley Ave., Los Angeles, (310) 552-1080. Open Mon.–Fri. 7 a.m.–7:30 p.m., Sat. 8 a.m.–5 p.m. No alcohol. Parking in rear lot and on street. Entrées $7–$10. AE, CB, DC, MC, V. California. JG $

Cheebo. Why aren’t more restaurants like Cheebo — a smart, fun, clattery café where the food is mostly organic, very fresh, modestly priced and prepared with an in-arguable flair for flavor? Try the halibut on smoky white beans, the slow-cooked pork, the chewy, thin-crusted pizza topped with house-made sausage and fennel. Sandwiches are assembled with — or, for you carb-a-phobics, without — house-made bread. A crisp, pressed “porkwich” with melted Manchego cheese? Sign us on. Salads are diverse and luscious (try either chopped, the city’s best caesar type, or a hippie-dippy sprout mélange, to name but a few; all of them are composed, like the restaurant itself, of countless small intelligent details). 7533 W. Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, (323) 850-7070. Lunch and dinner, seven days, 8 a.m.–midnight. Beer and wine. Takeout. Valet parking. AE, MC, V. Entreés $12–$18. Organic Italian. MH $$

Europane.  A good croissant is a joy forever, crisp, airy and saturated with butter, large enough to take the sting off a double cappuccino but not so large that you’d be tempted to use it for anything so vulgar as a “croissandwich.” On a good day, Europane’s magnificent croissants could be mistaken for France’s best in a police lineup — the crisp, buttery almond croissant could make you swoon. Toss in the homemade granola, the epochal bread pudding, and the delicious panini of grilled ham and cheese, and it’s no wonder that Europane’s regulars treat the bakery more as a permanent residence than as a café. 950 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, (626) 577-1828. Open Mon.–Sat. 7 a.m.–5:30 p.m., Sun. till 2 p.m. No alcohol. Street parking. Pastries and sandwiches $5.75–$7.50. MC, V. California Bakery. JG $

The Griddle Café.  On a Sunday morning, the Griddle is really loud: clattering pans, a hundred shouted conversations, amplified rock & roll bouncing off the high ceilings. Actors from what seem like half the shows on Fox and the WB are rubbing sleep out of their eyes. And the woman next to you at the counter is eating a stack of berry pancakes so large that it looks like a movie prop, like three large pizzas piled on top of one another and smothered in powdered sugar. Lunches feature various chilis imported from Chili My Soul, grilled cheese sandwiches, and an improbably good grilled sandwich with pesto, cheese and shrimp. 7916 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, (323) 874-0377. Breakfast and lunch Mon.–Fri. 7 a.m.–4 p.m., Sat.–Sun. 8 a.m.–4 p.m. Beer, wine, champagne, martinis. Takeout. Lot parking. Food for two $12–$18. AE, D, MC, V. American. JG $

In-N-Out Burger. The home of the 2X2, the 4X4 and the legendary 100X100 burgers, the secret menu, and freshly cut French fries, In-N-Out is the Lourdes of local drive-thru culture, a shrine to the excesses of the adolescent appetite and the internal combustion engine. (We admit: There is still a thrill in ordering a burger Animal Style when we want it with the mustard broiled right in, or a Grilled Cheese when we are in the mood for a sloppy cheeseburger that doesn’t happen to include the meat.) When Angelenos come home from 18-month tours of duty in Iraq, they tend to stop by In-N-Out on the way home from the airport. Not even Eric Schlosser, the author of Fast Food Nation, can stay away from the place. The various branches of In-N-Out Burger may be the proximate cause of more clogged traffic in Los Angeles County than anything this side of a jackknifed big rig. See Web site at www.in-n-out.com/ for locations. Open seven days, Mon.–Thurs. & Sun. 10:30 a.m.–1 a.m., Fri.–Sat. 10:30 a.m.–1:30 a.m. Cash only. Fast Food. JG ¢

Jar. Any place in town can serve you a grilled T-bone, but Suzanne Tracht’s snazzy steak house is strictly postmodernsville, man, with riffs on the strip steak and the porterhouse, the hash brown and the French fry, that may or may not incorporate every last pea tendril and star-anise infusion in the Asian-fusion playbook, if that happens to be your desire. Some people we know have never even tried the steak here — the braised pork belly, the glorious pot roast, and the various and sundry wonders of Nancy Silverton’s Mozzarella Monday are just too compelling. (Mozzarella in carrozza — be still my heart!) But the steak is about as good as it gets. The décor is straight off the set of a Cary Grant movie. And there’s banana cream pie for dessert. 8225 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 655-6566. Dinner daily 5:30–11 p.m., brunch Sun. 10 a.m.–2 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. Entrées $19–$29. AE, D, MC, V. California American. JG $$$

Pann’s. A quintessential ’50s coffee shop near the airport, owned by the same family since 1958, Pann’s is a bright, space-age fortress of patty melts, grilled cheese sandwiches, pie, and regulars drawn together by the decent coffee, long hours and massive plates of chicken wings with waffles. Dowdy specialties such as the Dreamburger, a re-imagined California coffee-shop burger, are revealed as elegant essays in texture. Thick-shelled onion rings are exactly right. Given the genteel African-American makeup of the neighborhood, the menu overlaps a bit with that of the area’s Southern restaurants, and Pann’s is a decent place to go for grits, chicken-fried steak, sugar-cured ham or homemade biscuits with sausage gravy. And Marilyn Monroe used to love the place. What more could you want? 6710 La Tijera Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 670-1441. Open daily 7 a.m.–11 p.m. Beer and wine. Lot parking. AE, MC, V. American. JG $

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Related Locations

Campanile
miles

624 S. La Brea Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90036

323-938-1447

www.campanilerestaurant.com

Euro Pane
miles

950 E. Colorado Blvd.
Pasadena, CA 91106

626-577-1828