Chef Eric Greenspan is running a little leaner these days. The always-quotable chef was, when we last spoke at his sky-high dining venture The Roof on Wilshire in September, working on rebuilding his empire and dropping some weight — without losing his comfort-food sensibilities, mind you.
As of last week, he might be running a bit meaner, too.
Maybe he's just got a lot on his plate right now. Maybe it's the burning need to climb back into the L.A. food ring in a real way. Or maybe it's because every media piece about his new grilled cheese restaurant opens with a snarky line that pokes at how long the place took to open. Whatever it is, chef Greeny is fired up.
"I love being the grilled cheese guy; I'm happy that's what people know me for," Greenspan says. "But folks who were there when I was at Patina know too: I can still fucking cook."
A little over six months ago, Greenspan had only the Roof on Wilshire and a shuttered Foundry, with a few projects forthcoming and other ideas percolating. Now, there's the updated Melrose Umbrella Company inside the front half of the Foundry space, serving cocktails all night long. The back patio will house a forthcoming fine dining restaurant ("I want people to remember the sort of shit I'm capable of cooking," he says), and his mobile Jewish/Latin food truck El Ñosh has been hitting the streets hard with pastrami croquetas and falafel tacos.
And as of last week, Greenspan's Grilled Cheese is out of hibernation; the sleeper has awoken.
It's always nice to see Greenspan back amongst the masses, instead of just cooped up inside his castle tower at the Roof on Wilshire. And while the city's lust for gourmet grilled cheese has been more than satiated of late, there's likely still plenty of room for The Champ, Greenspan's signature sandwich that acts as the foundation of the entire operation.
The new quick-service concept began melting butter last Friday, but — as noted a few months ago — the chef and his Foundation Hospitality Group partners are interested in taking the idea regional, if it sticks.
Really, there's not much to dislike. A handful of overindulgent sandwiches, a make-your-own option and Greenspan himself working the griddle. Melrose Umbrella Co. drinkers can order a grilled cheese and have it hand-delivered next door, while weekend window-shoppers can step through the long, narrow space for a quick bite before moving on. It's a deceptively simple operation — and one that took more than three years to come to fruition.
After all that time, Greenspan has now come back to the beginning, crafting comfort food his way, for anyone who comes through the door.
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The chef seems happier for it. And a little more pissed off, too.
Editor's note: This post has been changed since initial publication to add a quote.