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Casual quality

July 06, 2006|Leslee Komaiko

You don't want a fast-food burger, but you don't have time for a proper dining experience either. What to do? Go "fast casual."


Auntie Em's Kitchen

The display of oversized frosted cupcakes in a variety of flavors en route to the register makes it nearly impossible not to indulge. But this funky restaurant also does some nice savories. Consider the moist and surprisingly light beef meatloaf sandwich. Swell soups too, like chilled cucumber and cumin for summer.

* Cupcakes, $3.50; meatloaf, $9.95. 4616 Eagle Rock Blvd., Eagle Rock, (323) 255-0800.

Greek Town Grill

This newcomer on Costa Mesa's hip 17th Street does traditional Greek dishes such as dolmades as well as gyros. (The gyro sandwich on warm grilled pita is especially popular.) But you'll also find items that are pure California, such as a pear and Gorgonzola salad with candied walnuts and a classic Cobb. For dessert, there's homemade baklava.

* Gyro, $5.45. 279 E. 17th St., Costa Mesa, (949) 515-2788.

Feast From the East

There is some contention as to who invented the Chinese chicken salad, but we like to keep our energy focused on who has the tastiest. The version at this 25-year-old spot is a contender for L.A.'s best, what with plenty of tender shredded chicken, crunchy wonton strips, cool fresh lettuce and a tangy sesame dressing you can purchase by the gallon.

* Small salad, $6.77; large salad, $8.12. 1949 Westwood Blvd., West L.A., (310) 475-0400.

Lemon Moon

The guys behind Melisse and JiRaffe -- Josiah Citrin and Raphael Lunetta -- joined forces a couple of years ago to open this cheery breakfast and lunch spot where sandwiches, salads and oversized cookies rule. Traditionalists can get their turkey sandwich, while diners with more exotic tastes might try rock shrimp ceviche or Polynesian tofu.

* Turkey sandwich, $8.35. 12200 W. Olympic Blvd., West L.A., (310) 442-9191.

Solar Harvest

Love burgers but trying to watch your fat intake? The bison burger served on a whole grain bun with homemade ketchup is juicy. The secret ingredient: blueberries -- they keep the patty moist. This year-old spot also does breakfast, including a take on huevos rancheros made with organic eggs and black beans.

* Burger with one side, $11.95; huevos rancheros, $8.95. 242 S. Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills, (310) 777-6527.


-- Leslee Komaiko

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