SQIRL — ****/5
720 N Virgil Ave #4
Los Angeles CA 90029
On a sunny, Saturday or Sunday morning, when I’m off work and I can go about my own business, you can catch me stumbling around Silver Lake, picking up coffee from Café Organico, then off to the weekly flea market, or maybe grocery shopping, or swiping my clothes from the dry cleaners… and during these moments, this is normally my theme song. You might even see me on the street and be like, “oh, there’s that swarthy, mixed-race zombie, of which races I do not know, but boy, does he looks hungry,” (I’m ethnically inscrutable AND perpetually peckish). And if you had the gall to start a conversation with me, I’d probably end up bumbling my words like Juliette Lewis in the Other Sister (which still makes me cry every time I watch that movie. Mentally challenged people in love is probably the cutest thing in the entire world. MOVE OVER CATS!).
Wait… This is a restaurant blog, and a review… and I had a point. So, where was I… Oh, yes: on one particular Saturday morning, I was doing the exact opposite of what I mentioned above: I was lying on my couch, with the lights off, the curtains drawn and hoping not to speak to anyone. I was unfortunate enough to leave my front door wide open, through which my roommate’s Sagittarius girlfriend arrived unannounced (and if you know any Sags they can talk for AGES, God bless ‘em). She gabs to me about something called “Squirrel”. Of course I’m a third paying attention, a third trying to catch up on the 6th season of Mad Men, and the last third wondering why I woke up that morning cradling a jug of 7-Eleven water. So whatever, mostly I ignored her, but this “Squirrel” business stuck with me. They make their own jams, I recalled her saying, one day as I was just sitting and staring at a wall. They make their own jams… her voice still ringing in my ears.
CUT TO: me waking up in a pristine bed that is not my own, but that of a talented graphic designer with a penchant for triangles, red wine, and clocks with gargantuan numbers. We discussed breakfast and this “Squirrel” came up again. Since I was emotionally unavailable at this point in time (and I had errands to run) I jettisoned my ass out his apartment.
But I remembered his advice: Get the porridge.
Porridge? I thought. Like Oliver Twist porridge? What century is this? Do they have gruel too? Imitation gruel?
The next day, I realized I had booked a brunch for the upcoming weekend with a colleague from an agency, Mr. Greenbomb. So I looked up “Squirrel Silver Lake” on google. I came up with nothing.
Well that’s a little weird. I could have sworn they said it was right by me.
Of course, when you’re me, at this point, I already rationalized that I’d made up the entire place and the aforementioned scenarios, because I’m creative and have an un-diagnosed mental disorder. Though, in actuality, I was just SPELLING IT WRONG, because as we all know, anything hip is spelled wrong… And my reaction to that is this Lucille Bluth .gif
Anyway, so the eatery is spelled SQIRL. And it is located off Virgil Avenue. Virgil Avenue acts as a buffer between Silver Lake, East Hollywood, and Koreatown. I quickly informed my brunch partner of the plan, and we were set!
Arriving at SQIRL, you take in the surrounding area: dusty, barren, and chock-full of barred windows, cracked pavement, and not that many signs in English. But Virgil is still a picturesque avenue with tons of culture that hasn’t been given a “facelift” via gentrification, so that’s refreshing. Regardless, suggesting such a location will receive sneers from those more accustomed to West side sterility. Or maybe that it’s just too damned far from West Hollywood and like, I dunno, TOAST, or something.
The restaurant itself is situated on a corner, with rickety aluminum tables scattered about outside (there was no indoor seating at the time). As soon as you walk in, there is a chalkboard: their wildly inventive, comfort-food laden menu. From thick cuts of brioche toast, slathered with everything from chocolate ganache to hazelnut butter, and of course their array of homemade jams. Oh and the porridge. Oddly enough, they also have a selection of different Rice Bowls to choose from for brunch. One caught my eye: Kokuho Rose Brown Rice Bowl: sorrel pesto, preserved meyer lemon, Lacto, hot sauce, black radish, french sheep feta, and a poached egg. They also had a vegan option, call The Stella. Needless to say I was floored, but as tasty as it sounded, the thought of eating rice at 11:30am just didn’t jive with this turkey.
When it came time to order at the register (they give you a “card” and bring you your food), I opted for the open face brioche toast, kale, tomatillo puree, lacto fermented hot sauce, a fried egg, and I added the option of homemade sausage, because you know, I’m body-conscious. Mr. Greenbomb chose the Toast with chocolate.
While the portions don’t look that filling, by the end, when your plate is completely clean, you realize it was just the right amount. I also lost half a sausage because my Cro Magnon knife-cutting skills sent it sailing across the outdoor patio. Mr. Greenbomb suggested I was on drugs, and I suggested casting a fatal curse on him and his family.
My favorite aspect of the café is its “sustainable philosophy” and also their… STAINLESS STEEL DRINKING STRAWS (WTF). Which are quite possibly the coolest / most dangerous thing you could give your customers. I did almost chip a tooth with that thing. On the bright side, I guess we have another utensil to maim a bad date with (or an annoying friend!).
Furthermore, it’s always a good sign when I look over at what everyone else is eating, and envy surges into my blood stream! So I’ve been back. Which is when I went with the Quiche with Arugula, Feta & Herbs, and market greens (delightfully light and tasty). As of 8/15/2013, they’ve since renovated the space to include indoor seating!
I’m only keeping a star to myself because when I asked for silverware, one of the employees passing by said I could get it myself inside (like, what’s with the attitude you granola wench). Anyway… if you’re feeling daring, and craving an east side adventure, hit up Sqirl for an undoubtedly unique dining experience. And think of me when you’re sucking down your iced coffee between forkfuls of brioche ;)