Square One Dining: Brunching in Style in Scientology’s Shadow

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Restaurant Los Angeles

Square One Dining turned an unlikely east Hollywood address into a breakfast destination.

In March 2006, Phil Fox partnered with fellow culinary school grads Robert Lee and Hayden Ramsey to open Square One Dining across the street from the Church of Scientology headquarters. Lee and Ramsey last worked together at Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Spice Market in Manhattan, so they clearly have chops in the kitchen. I hadn’t eaten at Square One Dining since just after it opened. I enjoyed my first meal pretty well, and given the recent buzz in the neighborhood, I figured it could be worth another visit. It was.

According to Fox, they chose the name of the restaurant over “too much red wine.” Square One refers to their starting point and to the first meal of the day, if there are three square meals a day. Pretty good rationale.

Square One Dining’s small but airy space features tangerine colored walls and a well-populated patio, which is ideal on a warm day. In Los Angeles, that’s just about every day. Inside, the walls prominently display two blackboards. The board closest to the street codifies the owners’ philosophy: “We believe the highest quality meals come from the freshest local ingredients. By taking care in sourcing our ingredients, we hope to connect our customers, purveyors and staff through the most basic of needs…food. We utilize organic, local & small farm produce when possible. Natural is best & basic is not a trend.”

Each day brings a different set of blackboard specials. This particular visit included an apple bran muffin, butternut squash soup and a fruit topping of fuyu persimmons, pear and pistachio. Square One Dining “proudly” serves: Nueske bacon + smoked meats, Anson Mills grits, Mike + Son eggs, Harris Ranch meats, Fair Hills Farms, Huntington Meats + Friends Ranch “yummy” citrus. With all those meat purveyors, I liked my odds for finding a good meal.

Breakfast Los Angeles

Braised mustard and collard greens with mushrooms and cave-aged Gruyere on grits ($10) came with two farm fresh eggs in an individual cast iron skillet, topped with two country bread slices.

I punctured the eggs with my fork and yolk ran into the grits, creating clumps but providing even richer flavor. The restaurant uses Anson Mills grits, which are stone ground in South Carolina and considered some of the nation’s finest. The greens were expertly prepared, not bitter in the least. The sliced mushrooms provided an earthy texture. Of course the restaurant gets bonus points for serving my meal in a skillet, a nice down home touch.

The only thing missing from my meal was meat, which is a breakfast requirement and a requirement for most any meal. I was especially impressed with Square One Dining’s breakfast meat selection, which not only included standbys like smoked ham and bacon strips, but also smoked Canadian bacon, pork sausage patties and chorizo.

Sausage Los Angeles

I opted for a side of Hungarian sausage ($3), since I’d never seen it on a breakfast menu before. They split the spicy link down the middle and grilled it until the exterior was taut and crispy. The sausage also bled orange grease. Thankfully it was a trickle and not a gusher, which meant big flavor and still-appetizing presentation.

Breakfast Los Angeles

My friend Krystal ordered poached eggs, with a heap of house cured salmon and wilted frisée on a shredded potato pancake with Hollandaise ($13.50). It was a highly evolved take on eggs Benedict. She had a choice of roasted potatoes, green salad or grits. She wisely opted for the grits, which came with a little dish of butter. Not that they needed it.

Breakfast Los Angeles

On my previous visit, I enjoyed breakfast sandwich with fluffy eggs, tomato, aioli, and fat-streaked Nueske bacon on toasted brioche.

Breakfast Los Angeles

My initial meal also yielded a soupy skillet of breakfast cassoulet, white beans with pieces of dark meat chicken, Cajun sausage, and roasted tomatoes with two eggs cracked over the top.

Muffin Los Angeles

A warm pineapple-ginger muffin, which was crispy at the edges and moist inside, featuring pineapple chunks, was particularly memorable from my first Square One Dining meal.

Square One Dining offers four home made jams per day, which is probably the largest selection I’ve ever seen. I got little metal dishes of pear and strawberry-rhubarb. They also had raspberry and Concord grape, but I didn’t try them. Sadly, I saw that I had just missed pumpkin butter, which was crossed out on the list. Not that I’m complaining. The pear and strawberry-rhubarb jams were terrific slathered on my toasted country bread.

Thanks to the owners’ clear commitment to quality ingredients and given the time they’ve had to refine their concept, I was more impressed with Square One Dining than I was on my first visit. Though the restaurant is more expensive than some of my other favorite breakfast spots in town, the extra cost is reflected on the plate, so I’d still have to consider Square One Dining one of the better morning options in Los Angeles.

2008 Update: Square One Dining has two new owners: D’Nell Larson and Manao Demuth.


Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

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