Some may think it odd but I like eating out alone. I enjoy sitting and observing: the activity in the restaurant, the staff, other diners. There's something to the anonymous feeling of being alone in public. I especially like to dine by myself when I'm visiting other cities alone. It's a way to really get a feel for a place. Maybe it's not having the distraction of someone else to interact with. You can sit and observe, watch and listen, take it all in. And I do, and have. I have eaten alone in Paris, Milan, Rome, Hong Kong, New York,and San Francisco among other cities.
Local, Solo Dining
One of my favorite local places to dine solo is the little cafe in Say Cheese -- a combo cheese shop and cafe in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles. I moved to Silver Lake from West Hollywood in 1998 and noticed Say Cheese when I first went to shop at Trader Joe's which is right next door. I have been going to Say Cheese for lunch ever since. I probably go in twice a month; the regular waitstaff know me. They automatically bring me an iced tea. The funny thing is that after all these years I still don't know any of their names. And I actually like that distance. Of all the years I've been eating there, I think I've been in twice with someone else. The place has its regulars who I see whenever I go. I don't know anything about them either other than what I observe; one woman, also a solo diner, who always reads a book while she eats.
Sandwiches, Salads and Cheese
What I like about Say Cheese is the attention to detail in all they do. The food is fresh and well-prepared. They serve lunch and weekend brunch only. The menu is primarily salads and sandwiches. Lately I have been getting the Hyperion Submarine -- a sandwich with 'artisan salami, fresh mozzarella, roasted red peppers, shaved red onion, tomato and mesclun with balsamic oil on baguette.' All their sandwiches come with a side of greens with a good house vinaigrette. Other sandwiches I like are the California Melt, an 'oven toasted sandwich' of 'oven roasted turkey, jack cheese, shaved red onion, mustard and aoili on rosemary bread', and the Ham I Am: 'European ham, smoked cheddar, shaved red onion and mesclun with raspberry spread on country wheat.'
The shop is split into two sections; the cafe on one side and the cheese counter on the other. I knew when I first went in, having been a cheese monger myself, that the place was in good hands. The stellar selection of cheeses, not too many to manage, the way they were displayed and how the staff handled and spoke about them won me over. I stopped in a few days ago after eating lunch and they had some wonderful little crottins - small, aged disks of goat cheese sprinkled with ash. Little rounds of perfection. They also offer other gourmet items; owner, Glenn Harrell, has a good palette and great taste, and only sells items of top quality whether it's cheese, coffee, chocolate, or olive oil. Say Cheese also offers catering.
I tend to go to Say Cheese for their sandwiches more so than to buy cheese, however I have purchased cheese their many times. I am going to wait to write about cheese, and local cheese shops for a later blog post. I do, however, have a recommendation for anyone wanting to learn more about cheese: pick up a copy of Steve Jenkins' book, 'Cheese Primer' -- all you'll want, and need, to know about fromage!
2800 Hyperion Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90027
Recommended Reading: 'Cheese Primer' by Steven Jenkins
My Status: International Food Blogger Conference: I leave for Seattle on Thursday, May 14 and return home on Monday, May 18. The conference is Friday, May 15 - Sunday, May 17.
Upcoming Posts: The Wedge Salad: a recipe, the origins of the salad and of Iceberg lettuce. Cucumbers: their season, history and a recipe for my great-grandmother's faux pickles.