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Hot Off The Press: Breakfast Fare Abounds At The Griddle Café

Kelli Shiroma |
November 19, 2013 | 2:51 p.m. PST

Food Editor

"Mom's French Toast" is one of the best-selling dishes at the cafe (Kelli Shiroma / Neon Tommy).
"Mom's French Toast" is one of the best-selling dishes at the cafe (Kelli Shiroma / Neon Tommy).
“Banana Nana.” “Mom’s French Toast.” “Baked Potato Omelette.” “Chicago Charlie’s Scramble.” 

These are just a few of the uniquely named menu items that you’ll find at The Griddle Café, a breakfast-served-all-day joint located in the heart of Hollywood on Sunset Boulevard

The iconic eatery is known for many things: its generously sized portions, friendly staff and quality service, diverse menu and delicious dishes, to name a few. But it’s the combination of these various qualities that creates an unforgettable Griddle Café experience for each and every diner, according to Jodi, the restaurant’s owner. 

And that is a value she still upholds today, even though her restaurant is 13 years old.

“It’s like Willy Wonka and Michael Jackson went to Disneyland together and made food,” Jodi says of the café. “It’s a different experience — it’s not just the food, it’s not just the atmosphere; it’s a combination. It’s not just about the food being big; that’s not the point I was trying to make in creating the portion sizes. It was more about the presentation, the flavors and the way everything comes together. We have very unique and powerful flavors.”

As the café’s name implies, breakfast fare is the eatery’s trademark. However, a lunch menu—boasting frequently requested items like the “Grilled Chicken Sicilian Melt,” which includes basil pesto, fresh basil, chopped tomatoes, lettuce, mayo and mozzarella cheese served on grilled, sweet French bread—is also available all day. 

“You can get the whole menu as long as the café is open,” Jodi confirms. “You can have lunch at 7 a.m. or breakfast at 3:59 p.m. That’s what’s unique about us.”

Jodi developed every single menu item—as well as each one’s unique name—from the eatery’s beginning. Although she says that new menu items are sometimes added, rarely are any taken off. 

“I created everything on my menu in late 1999 and 2000,” she confirms. 

When it came to opening her own restaurant, Jodi always knew breakfast—especially sweet items like French toast and pancakes—would be an essential part of her business. 

“Growing up, we didn’t really have sweets in the house,” she recalls. “I always loved breakfast. When my mom would occasionally make sweet things—like French toast—she would pull out that countertop electric griddle, and as a kid, I knew that meant something sugary was coming my way, or at least something with lots of syrup. That always stuck with me and I was very decided—there wasn’t even a question about it—that’s the name of my café.”

“My first job was at Winchell’s Donut House and I’ve always been really drawn to food and creating,” she elaborates. “I’ve pretty much been in the food industry since I was 15.”

When it comes to the eatery’s lineup of most popular items, there are a few A-listers, so to speak. Jodi cites the “Mom’s French Toast”—featuring egg-dipped bread cooked to perfection “Mom’s old-fashioned way”—and “Banana Nana” pancakes specifically as her go-to items. 

“I always tell people to try the ‘Banana Nana’ pancakes … they’re amazing,” Jodi says. “It’s not just pieces of bananas in buttermilk batter; it’s actual brown sugar-sautéed bananas mixed through the batter. It’s like banana bread meets pancakes; they’re so good and moist. I also love the ‘Mom’s French Toast’ served with bacon.”

Other popular breakfast items include the “BLUESberry” pancakes—filled with blueberries, topped with blueberry sour cream and dusted with powdered sugar—as well as the eatery’s signature “Red Velvet Pancakes,” which is topped with decadent swirls of cream cheese icing.  

“I created the first red velvet pancake and I was offering it via Twitter almost four years ago,” Jodi declares, “then everyone started copying. That’s when I added it to my menu and created the first [red velvet pancake] mix, and now other people have copied that as well.”

Jodi was a pioneer and started the "Red Velvet Pancake" trend (Kelli Shiroma / Neon Tommy).
Jodi was a pioneer and started the "Red Velvet Pancake" trend (Kelli Shiroma / Neon Tommy).
In terms of egg dishes, the “Poached y Papas Benedict”—the eatery’s twist on the traditional “Eggs Benedict,” which includes two poached eggs and a tender slice of tender baked ham covered in homemade Hollandaise sauce and served atop seasoned potato skins—and the “Chicago Charlie’s Scramble,” made with Italian sausage, bacon, bell peppers, potatoes, mozzarella cheese, garlic, basil and onions (and served with garlic bread), are frequently requested. 

“The benedict is on potato skins instead of an English muffin and we serve Canadian bacon,” Jodi explains. “I like English muffins, but I’m just not a fan of them in the benedict, so I don’t even have them at my restaurant at all.”

While the café’s menu remains stable, Jodi says that, sometimes, variations of menu items will be announced on the eatery’s Facebook page or Twitter … and customers following the accounts will reap the benefits.

“It just depends whenever I’m in the tweeting mode,” she laughs. “I did ‘Sweet Fantasy Baby’ carrot cake pancakes with cream cheese icing before. I also did an ‘Oreo-Crusted French Toast,’ as well as a ‘Hot Chocolate French Toast,’ which is my ‘Devil’s Daydream French Toast’ with roasted marshmallows on top. It’s like a bread pudding, chocolate soufflé and French toast all in one.”

Instead of doing rotating seasonal specials, Jodi features items on her menu—such as the “‘Tis the Season" Pancakes—that many other eateries only offer for a limited time. 

“‘Tis the Season’ is like a pumpkin pie pancake that’s served year round,” says server Tony Klein. “We have two different variations that have pumpkin in the actual batter. There’s ‘Tis the Season’—which is very fitting for this time of the year—and there’s ‘A Time to Love,’ which is a sweeter version that includes streusel, butterscotch chips and caramel. If you have a sweet tooth, you’ll like that one. Because the food portions are large, I usually recommend getting something sweet, something savory and sharing everything, family style.”

“Every day’s a holiday at The Griddle,” Jodi echoes. 

The café—open from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends—draws a varied clientele, according to Klein. He likens the bustling eatery to a community center where both locals and tourists can relax and enjoy the company of friends and family over a delicious meal.

“From a serving standpoint, we get a nice variety of people all the time,” he shares. “We have a lot of regulars that come in here; we know a lot of the regulars and they know us so it’s like a family-oriented restaurant. But on weekends, we get a lot of tourists that come from outside of the state or country.”

Large weekend crowds are the norm at The Griddle, according to Jodi, who has seen as many as 100 hungry customers lined up outside of the café at one time for breakfast. 

“The wait on the weekends can be one hour plus,” she says. “It’s quite something. [While takeout is available during the week], sometimes we don’t do takeout on the weekends. We don’t want to slow down the people that have waited for an hour to sit; we don’t want their food taking long to come out.”

While The Griddle Café currently has only one So Cal location, Jodi shares that the eatery will soon be expanding … to Las Vegas. sbe Entertainment Group is planning to debut a 1,620-room SLS Hotel & Casino: Las Vegas location next fall (in place of the former Sahara), and several of the company’s popular brands—including Katsuya, Umami Burger and The Bazaar—will be located at this hotel, and a 24-hour The Griddle Café among them. 

“My clientele come from all over the world,” Jodi says. “Lots of them go to Vegas, and a lot of L.A. locals go there, too. The menu will be the same [as the menu here], but with more.”

Reflecting on her café’s run so far, Jodi knows that the driving force behind The Griddle—homemade-style (breakfast) recipes made and served with heartfelt genuineness—has played a large role in the eatery’s success and will continue to be essential to the restaurant.

“It’s [breakfast] a meal people like to eat at any hour of the day,” she says. “Griddle is a really good way to start the day and it gets your mood up. I didn’t know it would be that way, but as I always say, do what you love and the rest will follow.”

See more of The Griddle Cafe's famous breakfast fare below.

Reach Kelli Shiroma here or follow her on Twitter



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