While some Los Angeles residents may tire of hearing gripes about what our metropolis lacks compared with other cities, other folks decide to do something about it. Take, for instance, business partners and native Angelenos Justin Foster, Hussein Katz and Danny Zackery, who today are opening Trencher in Echo Park to fill a particular food niche, and with a distinct L.A. sensibility.
"There are no real sandwich spots around here," co-owner Katz explains, remembering the food he liked to eat when he lived in New York. "But you get plenty of tacos."
Katz means no disrespect to what's arguably L.A.'s signature food item. After all, there's enough room for everybody, especially at night in Echo Park these days. It's just that a sandwich craving is a particularly intense itch for some. And it's generally smart business to sell hearty food in close proximity to drinking establishments, which Trencher's next-door neighbor, Little Joy, happens to be. A trencher, by the way, is the medieval precursor to both the plate and the open-faced sandwich, a flat piece of bread you ate from then ate.
Trencher's menu includes house-brined corned beef for Reubens, vegetarian bánh mì, pulled pork, fried chicken, BLT, club, an open-faced salmon sandwich and a grass-fed beef burger. Plus french fries, a few salads and seasonal specials, and freshly made condiments such as aioli.
As for this eclectic approach, Katz notes the team brings a collective lifetime of local sandwich research. "These foods aren't foreign to us. We all have friends whose moms would cook for you," he says, meaning they grew up understanding a wide variety of food traditions. The three are longtime friends; Katz attended Los Angeles County High School for the Arts, and Foster, who runs the kitchen, went to Fairfax High and L.A. Trade Tech.
There's no wine or beer license, but the team is stocking the self-serve fridge with small-batch and cane sugar sodas. Sandwiches are priced mostly in the $8-$10 range, with the open-faced salmon and Portobello mushroom sandwiches crossing into low double digits.
The space, located just a sandwich pickle's throw north of Sunset Boulevard, contained Phnom Penh restaurant for several decades. After a short-lived pupusa restaurant closed, the Trencher team spent the past year completely renovating the interior and exterior.
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Approximately 100-year-old building details, including the wood ceiling, concrete floor and a brick wall, were exposed to juxtapose old and new. Foster, Katz and Zackery made a donation to Berendo Middle School in Koreatown in exchange for acquiring circa-1930 vintage library chairs, which serve as some of the restaurant's seating. A smooth plaster wall opposite the exposed brick will feature a rotating gallery of local art — starting with Katz's work, as he's a professional photographer.
"We want to serve a kind of food that hasn't been served around here yet, in a comfortable, relaxed environment," Katz says. Good thing, if you happen to be on the hunt for a quality sandwich at, say, 1 a.m. on a weekend night when Trencher is open until 2 a.m. On all other days, hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. (Trencher is closed on Mondays.)