More than just a bastion for forgotten eateries, strip malls often serve a vital purpose as an easy lunch options for droves of office workers. That's certainly the case for the Wilshire Crescent strip mall, on the southeast corner of (you guessed it) Wilshire Boulevard and Crescent Heights. The long, single story run of storefronts and restaurants is perfect for all of your quick business options: there's a mailing center on one end, a fast food 'healthy Mex' chain on the other, and all of your dry cleaning needs right in the middle. And with options ranging from falafel to rice bowls, there's plenty of variation to keep the office drones happy.
Beginning at the western edge, you'll find Wahoo's. The Hawaiian fusion Mexican spot offers lighter-side tacos, burritos and a few rice bowls. It's entirely possible that you've succumbed to the grilled fish tacos or Kalua Pig Bowl once or twice, but for the uninitiated, just know this: Wahoo's Fish Tacos is basically not Mexican food. There are tortillas and pico de gallo, but don't expect the quality carne asada or braised carnitas that you're used to in Los Angeles. This is fast casual healthful food (salads, lots of options that involve something known as Banzai Veggies) masquerading around in a plastic sombrero. Still, the surf vibe and cheap beers on hand appeals to a very specific lunch time crowd -- if that's you, enjoy. Wahoo's Fish Tacos is open daily from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., and will happily take your credit card. 6258 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles; 323-933-2480.
Touting themselves as being "under new management," Chapa Grill still manages to look and feel like almost every other quick service Mediterranean spot in Los Angeles. There's certainly more space to breathe than last week's Pita on Vine, but the vibe is mostly the same. There's a large hanging menu for you to choose your fate, complete with a variety of wraps and plates to choose from. The biggest plates come with two sides and a stack of pita bread, while the lesser options only involve a diced tomato and cucumber salad, plus a thick plateful of hummus. Plenty of folks like to give the chicken shawarma a shot, thanks to its ample piling on the plate and crispy edges in your wrap. Vegetarians will obviously push for the falafel, served six to a plate in thickly fried balls. The Jerusalem mix is a gigantic hybrid plate of chicken, beef and lamb, all for $15, which could easily feed your entire outdoor table. But with that much sun, car exhaust and meat at one time, you might not feel up to going back to work. Chapa Grill is open daily from 11 a.m. to midnight and accepts credit cards. 6256 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles; 323-936-2460.
With surprisingly ample seating inside the long wooden room, Caffee Latte is more than just a quick service lunch option. In fact, their "breakfast all day" menu is probably the biggest draw, offering a swath of omelets and hash browns to eaters any time they want it. The other surprising thing about Caffe Latte? Their built-in coffee roaster, a looming metal tower that stands between the front door and the bakery case like a caffeinated sentinel. The coffee drinks at Caffe Latte are all pretty special, if a bit sugary at times, but they're also meant for lingering. Come lunchtime, diners can nosh on a simple selection of salads and sandwiches, but don't expect much of a crowd. This is a breakfast spot, after all. Caffe Latte is open weekdays from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., and weekends from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. 6254 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles; 323-936-5213.
Almost anyone who's spent time under fluorescent office lighting in Southern California is familiar with Trimana. The often dinky little spaces are usually tucked into the corners of existing office buildings, serving as a sort of office cafeteria for a complex that wouldn't have one otherwise. While this standalone Trimana is more expansive, with plenty of stiff seating, the vibe and food is much the same. Sandwich lunch combos rule the day, with pale baked goods leaving the case with alarming speed in the hour or two before business starts up. Still, for anyone looking to find sub-$10 salads and reasonable sandwich-and-a-bag-of-chips options, Trimana fills that void. 6246 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles; 323-933-4080.
Ah, Subway. As if this strip mall didn't offer enough fast service sandwich options for office lunchers already. But, really, if you're eating at this subway with all of the other options around, you've only got yourself to blame. This Subway (and all Subways) will be open long after the godless computer hordes have risen up and taken over.They also take credit cards. 6238 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles; 323-939-2792.
Billing itself as a "Thai Pub and Restaurant", the squat Tawanna is an oddity in the strip mall world. Fancifully dressed, the square room sports plenty of red mood lighting, stone walls and the sort of old bells and ancient masks that could only come from a Pier 1 Imports. There's even the makings of a thin bar in the back, should anyone find the need to really tuck into an afternoon drink or three. As for the food you'll find while thumping away at the hip hop soundtrack coming from the back? It's mostly Americanized curries and noodle dishes, with an emphasis on $8 lunch specials for the office set. For dinner you'll find add-ons like boa buns and roasted duck, plus the occasional steak or satay. A word of warning: Tawanna Thai makes up for their straightforward cooking with a love of spice, which -- depending on your tolerance levels -- means you may have to tread the menu carefully. Tawanna is open from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. on weekdays, and noon to 10:30 p.m. on weekends. They also happily accept credit cards. 6236 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles; 323-939-2450.
Skewing back towards the cafeteria vibe at the eastern end of the Wilshire Crescent strip mall is Ebisu Sushi & Teriyaki, a large, sunny space that offers endless varieties of Asian dishes. There are standard rice bowls, laid over with grilled chicken or thin strips of uninspired bulgogi. There are sushi rolls, glamoured up in their menu photos to look plump and inviting. There are soups and noodles and piles of steamed vegetables, all for about $10 or less. You order from the back counter so the service is basically nonexistent, and the food won't necessarily blow off your business socks, but in terms of variation it's a nice addition to the strip mall scene. Ebisu Sushi & Teriyaki is open from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Saturday. They also take credit cards. 6234 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles; 323-935-8826.
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