Summer In The City

LOS ANGELES | Monday, August 29, 2005

South Park Catering Company Adds Lunch to Its Menu

I have a new favorite salad in this city, or at least one to add to my top 10. It's a mojito marinated chicken chopped salad, made with lots of finely chopped romaine tricked out with sweet corn kernels, moist chunks of flavorful seasoned chicken, black beans, grilled red onion, shaved manchego cheese and, to really put it over the top, candied pepitas. Dressed in a bright citrus-mint vinaigrette, it manages to be both light and satisfying. City Kitchen Cafe offers an array of salads, sandwiches and entrees in a compact South Park space.

The salad ($8.75) is one of several served at City Kitchen Café, a newish spot on the southern side of the Met Lofts building near Staples Center. (The address is on Flower Street. But the cafe is actually off Olympic.) Calling City Kitchen a "cafe" is a bit of a stretch. Really it's a patio, and a wee one at that. Currently there are just half a dozen tables (though there are plans to add more) set under khaki oversized umbrellas. Some stylish concrete planters, filled with lacy bamboo and miniature cacti, set it off from the sidewalk. In other words, this isn't the power lunch scene. It is, however, a fine destination if you're in search of a tasty salad or sandwich or something more substantial, such as baby back ribs served with cheddar biscuits ($13.95). Although only open about six months, City Kitchen has been operating as a catering company in Downtown Los Angeles for several years.

This helps explain why the menu is so appealing and just about all the dishes are well executed. Chef Ken Brown and his crew know what people in the neighborhood like to eat and they have had plenty of practice making the food.

The oven roasted turkey breast sandwich ($7.50), for instance, served on a salty, chewy pretzel roll, is a winner. There's also a good smoked turkey sandwich ($7.50) on ciabatta, aka Italian slipper bread. What makes it stand out is the smear of pretty pink cranberry mayonnaise. Prefer your sandwich warm? Choose from a trio of hot, crunchy grilled sandwiches (all $7.50) including colorful grilled vegetables topped with melted jack cheese.

While most sandwich places Downtown offer the option of a bag of chips with your lunch, here all the sandwiches come with housemade chips. (This sort of thing makes it clear you aren't at a run of the mill deli.) The chips are terrific: thin, crunchy and topped with plenty of tangy barbecue seasoning. I could eat a big bag of 'em. The pickle slices on the plate are made in-house as well.

Main courses at City Kitchen range from the aforementioned ribs to spinach ravioli ($8.95), as well as pan seared salmon ($12.95) and grilled skirt steak ($12.95). You can add a garden salad or small Caesar to any of these for $2.50. But you probably won't need to. Portions are generous, and most of the main courses come with one or two sides. The skirt steak, for instance, all slices of moist steak fanned on the plate and topped with melted roma tomatoes and sauteed onions, is paired with fat, golden wedges of potatoes which are first baked and then fried to achieve maximum crispness. Beverages include pink lemonade and desserts are of the decadent variety. Amen to that. There are giant, freshly baked cookies, a bargain compared to those fancy restaurant desserts at $1.50 apiece; a lovely fruit tart filled with cool, not-too-sweet custard and topped with beautiful fresh berries; and for chocoholics, moist, ridiculously rich brownies ($2) made with premium Sharffen Berger chocolate. The menu also lists vanilla cupcakes ($2). Alas, they were sold out the day I visited. But I have a suspicion they're excellent. This is just one of many compelling reasons - not least of which is that mojito chicken chopped salad - to return to City Kitchen Café. City Kitchen Café, 950 S. Flower St., Suite 105, (213) 614-1442. Open for lunch only Monday to Friday.

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City Kitchen
950 S. Flower St., #105
Los Angeles, CA

Phone: (800)704-2070
Toll Free: (800)704-2070
Fax: (213)236-0951

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