Dear Mr. Gold:
At any café on any street corner in any city in France, you can find a croque monsieur, an ambrosial grilled sandwich made with ham, cheese and possibly a big glop of white sauce, depending on who’s making it. In Los Angeles, not so much. Do I have to hop the next flight to Toulouse, or can you tell me where to get a croque monsieur — or, better yet, a croque madame, which is a croque monsieur with an egg?
You can find croque monsieurs pretty much anywhere you would expect to find croque monsieurs around here. The French lunch place Angelique in the garment district? Check. Mozzarella Mondays at Jar? Check. (Nancy Silverton is the queen of ooze.) Café Beaujolais in Eagle Rock? Of course. The Crepe Vine in Old Pasadena? Yes. At Dusty’s, the reincarnation of everything cool about early-‘70s dining? You bet, with a big old runny fried egg stuck right inside.
But I encountered a seriously delicious croque monsieur the other day at Maximillian’s, a weirdly accurate NoHo replica of a kitschy tourist restaurant in a French railway town, complete with smeary murals of the Eiffel Tower, a deserted patio around a fountain, and a tooth-dissolvingly tart vinaigrette. The croque monsieur is made with Gruyère cheese and a thick wad of smoky ham on super-rich toasted brioche — formidable! And if you are much below the age of 60, you are likely to be the youngest customer in the dining room. Maximillian’s is also reputed to serve a croque madame, but last week the claim was not subject to independent verification. The restaurant had run out of eggs. 11330 Weddington St., North Hollywood, (818) 980-6294.