The Alcove is adorable. A brick patio in front of a historical cottage fitted with a counter service café and a throwback cocktail bar… plus a magically available table always awaits you at the end of the winding line of hungry Angelenos. The menu is a rambling list of American and Americanized dishes. Most are decent—some truly suck. Still, if you live in Los Angeles long enough (like 3 months), you will eventually end up at the Alcove Cafe.
If you’re just trolling for the pictures, here’s synopsis: Order fries and onion rings only… possibly a salad. Order one dish per two people.
Let’s start with the worst. DO NOT EVER ORDER THE CHEESE PLATE ($15). It is the most horrendous cheese plate I’ve ever had. I mean, Sage Derby. Seriously?! The mélange of other cheap cheeses and the 1985 tomato rose makes the cheese monster inside of me weep. The herb rolled medallions of goat cheese and thin wedges of brie are passable, but still have an air of supermarket refrigerator case.
When you visit Berkeley, you’re faced with many tempting options, from South Indian chaat at Vic’s to Michelin-rated California cuisine at Chez Panisse. Be sure, however, to reserve at least one morning for my absolute favorite brunch spot in the East Bay—La Note. In my college days, I spent leisurely hours between classes nibbling on baguettes with raspberry jam in the dappled light of the garden patio. Today, their provincial French breakfast plates are just as I remember them…easily worth the 500 mile drive from Los Angeles.
My favorite dish is the elegantly simple Tartine Mistral ($7.5). A skinny toasted baguette—slathered with *just enough* goat cheese—then topped with mounds of basil chiffonade and slick roasted peppers. Despite its minimalism, every mouthful is an event. With each bite, the crisp baguette crust crackles in your mouth, followed by a clingy pull of wooly white bread. As the sharp goat cheese prances over your tongue, sweet peppers burst between your teeth and your nose fills with the fragrance of fresh basil. It’s an edible symphony! … La Note (Berkeley, CA)
Although I detest these New York winters, nuzzling up in a fur-lined chair (let’s not debate over that, ok) next to the wood burning hearth at the Loading Dock is one of my few snowbound pleasures. This food cart, parked in an actual loading dock of a downtown live-work industrial loft, is flush with all the pomp of the hipster allusion (complete with an art gallery), but none of the dickery.
My sensible friends let me select our downtown brunch location before embarking on the totally rad Atlantic Tunnel Tour. A perfect chance to show off my “what’s hot now” knowledge, I mean, what’s the point of obsessing over all those food blogs if I don’t get to dazzle people by dragging them to obscure industrial corners of our dismal downtown, secure in my promise of awesome Mexican breakfast!