Katie Kerr has always had a childlike obsession with peanut butter, one that goes far beyond the basic PB&J. As a kid growing up in the San Fernando Valley, she often used the nutty spread as a base for all kinds of fantastical after-school snacks, from a pickle-and–potato chip peanut butter sandwich to a peanut butter–slathered tortilla filled with apple slices, raisins and granola.
Today, these and a dozen or so other playful sweet and savory concoctions make up the the main menu at SpreadPB, a "peanut butter bar" in Studio City started by Kerr and her childhood friend Dustin Alpert. The two, who met in middle school and graduated from nearby Campbell Hall, joined forces over the last year to turn a small storefront off Ventura Boulevard into L.A.'s most playful peanut butter paradise. (Grand opening of the space was on Jan. 10.)
"Literally anybody of any age eats peanut butter," Kerr says. "Peanut butter isn't trendy. You ate it when you were 6 and you'll eat it when you're 66."
Although putting a banana inside a hot dog bun (aka a "dogwich") and topping it with coconut-flavored peanut butter, chocolate chips and graham cracker dust is basically every kid's sugar-filled dream (and the efficiency of SpreadPB's setup is perfect for busy moms looking to feed a horde), it's nearly impossible to describe SpreadPB's versatile menu and not mention that it's really just gleeful stoner food.
After all, the eatery's main draw isn't its Holy Bagel (bagel with bananas, spread, honey and cinnamon), its versions of ants on a log (you can get it topped with chocolate chips instead of raisins) or its Banana Sushi (a banana rolled in a tortilla with peanut butter, cut into sushi-style rolls) — it's the build-your-own sandwich option, which lets you mix and match among three jams, eight kinds of bread, 11 nut butters and 26 toppings to create your own dream PB&J.
The jams are your basic strawberry, raspberry and apricot. Breads include blueberry and gluten-free (plus hot dog buns and tortillas). And of course it's interesting to have bacon, marshmallows, sprinkles and potato chips as viable additions to any sandwich, but the real creativity at SpreadPB lies in its custom brand of almond and peanut butters, which includes unseen-before flavors such as green curry and maple bacon, each made to Kerr and Alpert's specifications at a commercial kitchen in Venice. (Soon, the company will have packaged versions available for purchase.)
Consider SpreadPB the Chipotle of gourmet peanut butter sandwich bars, where helpful spreaders in red suspenders go down the assembly line and make no judgments on your impulse urges for coconut shreds and Nutella. Or maybe it's more like a peanut butter–centric version of that scene from Home Alone where Kevin MacAllister is watching TV and gorging unsupervised on whatever ice cream and sweets he could find in the kitchen.
Either way, the concept is perfect for families and munchie-addled adults alike, two demographics that happily co-exist in the east San Fernando Valley. Plus, with collective obsessions for grilled cheese and macaroni and cheese fading fast, the PB&J is a natural next move in the realm of nostalgic food trends.
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"People forget about peanut butter, but they shouldn't," Kerr says. "It's so delicious, and no one remembers that."
SpreadPB, 12215 Ventura Blvd., Studio City; (818) 980-2472; spreadpb.com