Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Foodie Girls Lunch Brigade - Episode 8

It was obviously some kind of illusion. A mirage. A repudiation of the effectiveness of progressive lenses in women who are clearly too young to need them. Perhaps a misprint of some kind. It couldn't actually say "John O'Groats Coming Soon" on the side of that completely nondescript new apartment complex a block and a half from our house. Could it?

I asked my husband to report back after one of his morning runs past the building.

Him: It's not a misprint.
The kids: Why is Mom down on her knees praising the Lord*? It's embarrassing. Make her stop.
Him: I'm going to take a shower. You deal with her.

I was beyond their help. This was a job for the Foodie Girls.

Episode 8: The Hope of O'Groats

I was not alone in my ecstasy. Witness this incoming email from FG3:

"John O'Groats has just opened a new location in Encino and it's fabulous! (Sharon can walk here**.) Best breakfast in the valley! And they have a beautiful patio under old live oaks. It's awesome. I predict lines next weekend."

When my son and his friends started hyperventilating*** as we drove by on the way home from school, I knew it was time to bump this to the top of our list. On a breezy Monday afternoon, we met to put this shimmering fantasy to the Foodie Girls' test.

Outside on the patio, we ordered hot tea to combat the oddly cool weather and an assortment of breakfast and lunch dishes. Almost as soon as we had surrendered our menus, the biscuits arrived. A whole pile of them.

The best part of a meal at John O 'Groats. Although it looks like FG11 is grabbing for them, I believe she was just showing us how big the pancakes might be.

When topped with the delicious apricot preserves and berry jam that are on every table, these are 100% validation of the hype. Loved every last bite.****

Then the rest of our food arrived. It was interesting to see the slight deflation go around the group as the plates circulated. The salmon hash was light and tasty. The huevos o'groats were delicious, but awfully heavy after several bites. The bacon and cheddar waffle was fine, but nothing to write home about. A tostada was over run with spinach greens and so bone-dry that it was hard to finish. Sweet potato fries were soggy and unappetizing. Alone among our orders, the fish and chips was a standout. The batter was crispy, perfectly fried, and the fish was melt-in-your mouth fresh. The french fries were fabulous. Even the home made tartar sauce was yummy. If you aren't having breakfast, have the fish and chips!

Meanwhile, it was clear that the place had yet to fully hit its stride in terms of service*****. A side of bacon was forgotten. Drinks took time to be refilled. The staff is beyond friendly and is trying hard, but it's not quite there yet.

But I think it will be, and as long as they keep making biscuits, flipping pancakes, frying fish and turning out fresh, hearty home cooked meals under the oak trees, my prayers, at least, will have been answered.

FG final verdict? John O' Groats is ON the list, by unanimous consent!
Pricing information: Breakfast items, $7.95-$12.95; salads & sandwiches $8.95-$14.95; other entrees $9.95-$16.95.
FG Value Rating: Fair deal

* If you have lived in Encino for long and even thought going out to eat in the neighborhood, you, too, would have bowed down in thanks.
** I can, and I do.
*** Per my son, "The pancakes here are about FIVE TIMES better than anywhere else in the world." This comment was met with general agreement amongst the teenage boys in the car.
**** The plate was empty within minutes.
***** I have heard that service is much better inside the restaurant, but on this and all my other visits I've been unable to resist the patio. Especially because they allow dogs to join their owners out there. At night they have beautiful strings of twinkling blue and white lights in the trees.

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