Even at lunchtime in the middle of the week, the crowds queuing up outside of Gjelina are fierce. Not in an awesome drag queen way, in a focused, discreetly look-at-me, need-to-get-to-my-important-meeting kind of way. Fortunately, the perennially popular restaurant operates a matchbox sized takeout counter next door. Gjelina Take Away is, essentially, an upscale larder along the lines of Mozza2Go (Day 2), The Larder at Maple Drive (day 14) and dozens of less memorable shops. There are seasonal roasted vegetables, fancy grains, pastries, some format of bacon and highbrow sandwiches. This genre of sandwich is generally delineated by freshly baked bread (bonus points if it's housemade) with some sort of artisanal condiment (perhaps a custom aioli or rare mustard) and market-fresh vegetables (we hope). Gjelina fits the mold but manages to add its own stamp, especially on the brisket sandwich.

Gjelina Take Away: Pork Belly Sandwich

Why should you try their brisket sandwich? Because it's almost as good as our mom's.

We've been eating our mother's brisket, perfumed with Bay leaves and studded with cloves then cooked low and slow in its own juices, for 30 years. We can definitively say (without “reservations”): It is one of the best briskets on earth. It's classic brisket, not minimalist and barren of all spice beyond salt and pepper but not gussied up and overwhelmed with raisins, carrots and other abominations that have no place on this cut of meat. It's hard to find a brisket that lives up to the brisket of our dreams. Gjelina Take Away comes damn close.

The meat is tender without immediately melting in your mouth. Like all great brisket, it has fortitude and an echo of toughness. The flavor is rich and beefy, the right balance of earthy and savory with a hint of spice. It's served on the aforementioned bread and smeared with some variety of the aforementioned condiment, but this sandwich is about one thing: the brilliance of brisket.

Pro Tip: Gjelina Take Away offers a handful of sandwiches each day, not the same ones as at the full restaurant, though there is some overlap. Call ahead to place your order, probably before 1 p.m., as they sell out of the more popular options.


Elina Shatkin is a staff writer at LA Weekly. Follow her at @elinashatkin or contact her at eshatkin@laweekly.com.

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