I’m going to lunch. I’m hip. I have a BlackBerry, not a Treo. I walk into the 101 Coffee Shop, or at least I get to the door, but today even Vinnie Chase and every pair of Seven jeans that’s working as a C.E. at the new Paramount couldn’t get a table. This is Los Angeles. Smog. Heat wave. Hey, what’s that in the sky? It’s . . . wait . . . Hold on . . . An actual California redwood. It’s close. Close enough to touch. I want to touch it, but I’m hungry. We’re all hungry. No time to get feely. Don’t worry. Hang on. I drive up Fern Dell into Griffith Park, and below the observatory, next to a creek on the left-hand side, 500 feet from Los Feliz Boulevard, is the Trails Café. All of a sudden I’m sitting with a double iced espresso, seasonal salad with exotic olives, and a squirrel. The kicker is, hang on, you won’t believe it: Wi-Fi.
The Trails Café. What once was a rundown Sno-Cone stand where you could buy crack has become an oasis in the middle of the city. Five minutes from Los Feliz Village, three minutes from Hollywood and walking distance from AFI. It’s a million miles from the hustle. Mickey Petralia and Frank Lentz were going to open a bar. It’s Hollywood. Everyone needs his own bar, but something happened: They were struck by intuition. Revamp, redo and reinvent an old shack in the park. Make something. After a year of negotiation with the city, and a year of remodeling and installing with their own hands, the experiment became the Trails Café.
“It’s about good food made fresh daily. All made from scratch,” says chef Russ Heart, the menu designer. Heart was a pastry chef and is a veteran of the Eastside cupcake wars that still rage.
So I’m sitting under the trees with DJ Panic; she bites into a PB&J. “This is the best PB&J in the world,” she says. Living within walking distance, the DJ cruises down almost every day for a relaxing lunch. Heart makes the jelly himself.
It’s a sweet-and-savory menu. Homemade pies of every variety. Fosselman’s ice cream. The best root-beer float in L.A. Soy dogs with cucumber and avocado. Salads and all sorts of different baked goods. Veggie “meat” pies. A BBQ tri-tip steak sandwich, served on some weekends, that will kill you. A kids’ menu. It’s all made by hand. The crust of the quiche is a recipe from the grandparents of a family Heart stayed with while he studied in France. There’s even an avocado-and-sprout sandwich here that is modeled after the ones Frank used to get on the beach in El Segundo as a kid. Exotic foods are mixed in with the seasonal specials. You eat outside, under the redwoods, on one of those concrete picnic tables that have been in the park forever.
A special filtering system makes the coffee and espresso extraordinary. “This place is a labor of love. It’s a service to the locals and really to the guests of the park,” says Heart. Not to mention that Trails caters private BBQ parties in a secluded picnic area.
Take a break. Take a hike. Sit in the park. Eat. Or don’t and leave it to me, the DJ and the squirrels. I’ll e-mail you from here.
THE TRAILS CAFÉ 2333 N. Fern Dell Dr., Los Feliz, (323) 871-2102