Los Angeles is quirky. Not quirky as in it is quaint. Or quirky in a charming way. Quirky as in its off-beat, not matching, a bit rough around the edges. Somehow still lovable through it all. It’s as if every failed dream has left a mark, a falling diamond denting the concrete For every inch of ornate and opulence, there are five inches of quirkiness.
Auntie Em’s Kitchen probably has more square feet of effortless quirkiness (if such a phrase may be used) than anywhere else in the city. Cradled in a bend on Eagle Rock Boulevard, the red building stands out in the banal passage of auto repair shops and strip malls that litter this northern stretch of the city. Don’t be mistaken, though. For an oft-overlooked nook, Eagle Rock has a wide variety of good and excellent restaurants. Be it traditional American, Southern style cooking, French bistro, gourmet Mexican, or simply pizza, they got some of the city’s best. I could list them all here for you but that might give away half of The Digest before you read it. And we wouldn’t want that now.
“It feels like my older sister is taking care of me here,” one of my friends said at a recent visit. That wouldn’t be too far from the truth. Punk girl Terri Wahl started Auntie Em’s as an escape from the years in catering. Having worked catering… I understand the frustration. Terri’s DIY influence has led her grow her own produce, raise her own chicks, and collect her own eggs. In the process of shaping Auntie Em’s Kitchen, she has created one of the most beloved bakeries / sandwich shops / mini-marts in the city. The marketplace is a recent addition after the redesign in the past year. I remember sitting in the room that is now the market, watching the injured painter turn the walls more beautiful by the minute. And now we can go in there and buy anything. 10 year cheddar, Spanish goats milk, sea salt caramels, and plum salsa are an arms length away.
But first things first. Get your own coffee. You can try to be lazy all you want, but here, you get your own coffee. And grab your silverware from the middle. Don’t expect matching plates or silverware. The service here is great with your fair share of eclectic college/post-college food junkies, all wanting a proverbial piece of the cupcake. Sack up and grab a cup of joe – you could use the five feet of walking. And if you already had your caffeine fix, then guzzle down some raspberry lemonade instead.
I recommend ordering seasonally. Every week new ingredients are brought in, leading to almost a daily variety of seasonal food. If a breakfast quiche is on the menu, then you’re money – dive in head first. Some of the daily additions are found on the twitter feed. But as a general rule, the open faced breakfast sandwiches are hard to beat. Soft ciabatta with a few slices of Gruyere and scrambled eggs is a great base – but throw a heavy protein like an Andouille sausage and you got a solid sandwich. Going vegetarian here is no joke either. And if biscuits and gravy are on the menu, then flip a coin between that and whatever else entices you the most.
The bakery gave Auntie Em’s its reputation and it is not without cause. The red velvet cupcake here is the stuff legends are made of. The dough is rich and holds flavor, even through one of the “healthiest” portions of cream cheese frosting you might ever eat. The coconut cupcake has coconut in the damn thing, for christs sake, and then has more coconut on top of the frosting. The “best brownie ever” is always awesome. The one I last digested had strawberry jam baked into it and kept me up all night in an insatiable sugar rush. I refuse to miss bread pudding if it is available either, always imbued with a random fruit (such as kumquat) or savory delight.
If you’re lucky, smart, or simply got a good eye, you will find the coup de grâce: the thin chocolate chip cookie. Through trial and error, this is the BEST thin chocolate chip cookie on the planet. Dark chocolate is smushed into the pan, providing a bitter counterpoint to the sugar infused dough. The worst part about it is how fast it goes into your coffee and then into your mouth.
And soon you’re down another rabbit hole, decked out with pastries and savory snacks, filled with its own quirks. Auntie Em’s may be a quirky place but in the bosom of its ovens, quirky and delicious can be the same thing. Stay weird. Stay awesome.
Auntie Em’s Kitchen is located on 4616 Eagle Rock Blvd., Los Angeles, CA, 90041.