Plan Check co-owners Terry Heller and chef Ernesto Uchimura will be the first to tell you that they aren't thinking more than a few steps ahead at any time. But those few steps are likely to make those hungry folks who previously had to shlep to Sawtelle very, very happy.
After being in the American comfort food game for just over a year, Plan Check has seen that original Sawtelle location go from busy to booming to near capacity, and now it's looking to expand. “We hear it all the time,” Heller says. “People saying, 'If you guys were downtown, we'd come twice a week instead of once a month.' We get requests from people in completely different states.”
With such high demand for their signature Plan Check Burger and smoky fried chicken, the Plan Check team began to look at expansion possibilities closer to the heart of the city. It wasn't long until they found the short-lived Vodvil location on Fairfax, which suits both Heller and Uchimura perfectly. “My parents met at Fairfax High,” Heller says. “I was always there as a kid, going to Canter's and the Farmers Market. For me and Ernesto, there's a personal connection to the neighborhood.”
And with a growing roster of great eats along the Fairfax District strip — which, to the chagrin of some, means the closing of institutions like Damiano's pizza, Plan Check looks to add to the mix with an October opening date. “We're trying to cater directly to each new location. Fairfax will have a comparable core menu to the Sawtelle location, but we believe a brunch would do very well there. There's also a larger bar, so we'll be catering to the late-night crowd. That's what's going to differentiate us.”
All of that same-but-different talk apparently got Heller and Uchimura talking fast, because the pair is already hard at work on a third location as the anchor unit in a new development just west of downtown. The 1111 Wilshire location is still in the design phase, but construction will begin in the next three months. “To me, that's a neighborhood,” Heller says. “It's underserved. There's a tremendous amount of people there but not a lot of restaurants. We want people to not have to cross under the 110 to eat anymore. … We don't need to be on the corner of Main and Main to have success. We believe we're a destination-driven restaurant, and we like to go into little pockets where we can bring something unique to the table.”
For now, the Plan Check team is content to not look beyond those two new outposts, though their seamless scalability seems perfectly suited for a wider expansion. Possible locations in the Valley or even Pasadena have been discussed, but Heller is quick to not get too far ahead of himself. “The type of cuisine we serve, especially with our rotating specials, allows us to be regional. But the Plan Check Burger, the smoky chicken, the doughnuts — those will fly anywhere. That being said, we aren't just going to grow for the sake of growing.”
Growing east of the 405 will be enough to suit most eaters, happy to not have to make the trafficky slog to Sawtelle. And with exciting new locations in the Fairfax District and just off downtown, Plan Check seems perfectly primed to deliver well-executed American classics and seasonal specials to a much wider audience — eventually.
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