Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. Especially a hot one. Sometimes cereal or a muffin is all I have time for, but those are mere sustenance. They don't make getting out of bed worthwhile. I love breakfast so much, I've cultivated my cooking talents in that direction. I make a mean breakfast burrito, kick-ass chilaquiles and, when I have more time, a frightfully-good frittata. You can keep the pancakes, waffles and French toast. Savory is where it's at.
So it's rare when we actually go out to breakfast in our hometown. Long lines and high costs ($10+ for eggs and $3 for mediocre coffee?) generally keep us at home. Recently though we had the need to be over on the Westside in the AM, so I went on the search for a place that would trump what I could make in my own kitchen. No chains, no fancy brunch, just hearty, interesting food.
I found it at the Hotel Erwin's Barlo Kitchen. What made me choose this unknown establishment over all the others? Well, it was pretty simple – I wanted to try everything on the menu.
I'm a sucker for Eggs Benedict and they have four lovely Benny choices - traditional, potato pancake, country-style (biscuits & gravy) and Norwegian with smoked salmon. Sold. They also have Breakfast Tacos, another fav, and a chorizo skillet I knew the Man would love. He can't resist the chorizo.
The Barlo Kitchen is more bar than restaurant, but we got there early and beat the sleepy hotel guests to seats at the long counter. We aren't talkers in the morning, so we preferred to just watch Sports Center while we came to life. There are tables, but this is a pretty tiny space - seats about 30 people – so I'd suggest getting there before 9:30 – if you don't want to wait. (By the way, 9:30 is the worldwide go-to peak breakfast time. Don't even bother heading out after that if you want to eat anytime before 11am. In fact, be there/anywhere by 9:15 if you want to be safe. Otherwise, have fun standing in line with your tummy rumbling.)
I have a feeling though we were the only guests who weren't staying over, so perhaps the Barlo is still something of a secret. So, now I had a big dilemma. I seriously could not decide between the Country Benedict – biscuits, sausage, beer-batter poached eggs with country gravy – or the Down South Skillet – bacon cheddar grits (hello!), fried green tomato and poached eggs with sassy béarnaise (my favorite sauce). So what to do? Eating both was not an option and like I said earlier the Man was going for the Socal Skillet – chorizo, peppadew peppers and avocado with two eggs. He know what he likes and sticks to it.
After consulting with our very friendly server – (I will never understand how people can function successfully before 10am) – a solution was reached. To satisfy my yearning for biscuits & gravy, we ordered the "starter" version, so I could then enjoy the Down South skillet and those bacon cheddar grits. It was a genius and delicious compromise. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the fried green tomato. Yes, it's fried and that intrinsically makes it good, but the tartness of the tom helped cut through the richness of the rest of the dish, which was unexpected. The grits were every-bit as fabulous as I expected. Bacon, cheese, you can't really go wrong there.
My only complaint is that the biscuits and gravy could have been a bit warmer. I eat everything at a nuclear level of heat, so others may not have this issue. I could have sent it back, but I was hungry and it was good. The skillet came plenty hot in it's own super-cute cast iron pan and stayed warm for every bite, which made me a very happy girl.
Others may care about the "barn to belly" freshness of their food – sourced from local, artisan growers and crafted by Chef Jason Wiggin – but what matters most to me, is that what's delivered on the plate makes me want to lick it clean. Mission accomplished. If I ever have to be back in that neighborhood, I know exactly where I'll be starting my day.
Barlo Kitchen at the Hotel Erwin
1697 Pacific Avenue
Venice Beach, CA 90291
Open for Breakfast and Dinner, 7 days a week
Lisa Dinsmore is a writer, web programmer, movie and wine lover. She currently runs two review websites to share her passions: www.crazy4cinema.com and www.dailywinedispatch.com. She is also the Managing Editor of One for the Table.
by Scott R. Kline