When we were back in D.C., I lived and worked in Dupont Circle, arguably the most walkable neighborhood ever in the history of the world. And I loved it. It took me literally five minutes to walk to work, and I had a Safeway, a Whole Foods, a CVS, a Dunkin Donuts, a liquor store, and several dry cleaners within a 5-block radius. And then we moved to L.A., the driving capital of America. SIGH.
After a year here, I've adjusted to the constant driving that is necessary to live a normal life in L.A. Even so, it's always nice when an eatery opens up in walking distance, giving us a new option for dining that doesn't require gas. We've anxiously been awaiting the opening of the WeHo branch of Los Angeles-based sandwich chain Mendocino Farms for weeks now, and Saturday afternoon was the perfect time to try it out.
Mendocino Farms is named after an area upstate where the slow food movement and sustainable farming aren't just fads, but ways of life. The rustic, clean decor and wide-open, airy set-up of the sandwich shop fit well with the casual Californian cuisine.
Upon entering the sandwich shop, we grabbed a menu and perused Mendocino Farm's over 2 dozen sandwich options (on the day we went, there were at least 2 vegan options), salads, and soups de jour, before proceeding to the almost agressively cheerful staff member who wrote our selections down on slips to take to the cashier. The cashier then sang out our orders to the sandwich artistes waiting along the wall-hugging open kitchen.
We started out with a Save Drake Farm's Salad (below, $9.95), with roasted chicken, Herbs de Provence marinated Drake Family Farm’s goat cheese, Pink Lady beets, green apples, dried cranberries, crushed honey roasted almonds, red onions (we requested ours without), Scarborough Farm’s greens, butter lettuce and romaine with a citrus vinaigrette. It was a pretty decent salad, though nothing special. Oddly, it took us a while to figure out that the citrus vinaigrette wasn't just melted butter (which is exactly what it looked like, and kind of what it tasted like) - in other words, it could have used more citrus and more vinegar, or less oil.
We were really excited about our first sandwich, the Porchetta (below, $8.95), which featured slow braised pork, roasted garlic whole grain mustard aioli, fresh housemade giardiniera (Italian relish of pickled vegetables), and cilantro, on Dolce Forno soft roll. Objectively, it was a decent sandwich. Given our expectations, though, we were slightly disappointed. The pork was tender, but not quite as flavorful as we would have wanted - maybe to make up for that, huge hunks of pickled vegetables were heaped on. Unfortunately, there was too much pickling juice included, which the soft roll soaked up like a sponge, making for a messy, soggy sandwich.
The Kurobuta Pork Belly Banh Mi (below, $9.75) fared much better. Medocino Farm's take on the classic Vietnamese sandwich included braised, caramelized kurobuta pork belly, housemade pickled daikon and carrots, cilantro, cucumbers, jalapenos, and chili aioli on panini grilled ciabatta. In contrast to the soggy Porchetta sandwich, there were a number of crunchy elements to the banh mi that made it awesome: the crisp, warm grilled bread, the refreshing (and proportional) slivers of Vietnamese-style veggie toppings, and best of all, the golden brown bits of pork belly.
While our first visit wasn't quite spectacular, and the prices are a little high for Mendocino Farms to be an everyday option, we enjoyed our meal and will be headed back in the future to try their other sandwiches. Another solid lunch option in West Hollywood.