So I played my Can’t Join You For Lunch – Going To A Place I Can Blog About card yesterday during a meeting I attended. Lost was a chance to network and schmooze with the folks who manage funding for the major grant that I oversee. While their plan was to sit down at one of my favorite downtown LA spots, Border Grill, I had something different in mind as I’ve eaten at Border Grill (and Border Stop and at the Border Grill Truck) quite a few times.
Found was one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever enjoyed in my 41 years. Mendocino Farms is subtly nudged into the corner of 5th & Flower downtown. I’d passed it on my way to Baco Mercat last year during a conference lunch break. From just the look of the place, I knew it was something I’d have to try eventually, and added it to my (loooooonnnggg) list of future restaurants. When my opportunity to taste this place came with a pair of LA meetings that straddled lunch, I knew I had to go for it, even if it meant our partners might consider me snobby, anti-social, or strange.
Then again, who couldn’t love me, even after ditching a fine modern-Mex lunch. My colleague John must have been in a non-conformist mood too, joining me instead of going with the group. Or maybe he felt sorry for me. Doesn’t matter either way – his company gave me someone to chat with and a second sandwich to photograph.
We arrived just before the rest of downtown LA, a line pushed out past the door by the time we sat to eat. The staff was ridiculously friendly, perhaps even happy to talk us first-timers through the menu and the Mendocino method operandi. This included samplings of their sides. I might have filled up on samples alone, but I didn’t want to be THAT woman. Besides, after trying their curried couscous, I was sold. I ordered a side of it to go with my sandwich.
The friendly woman who helped us with our order cued in right away to what kind of diners we were. “Are you a foodie?” she asked, and my response was a strong, affirmative nod. In that case, she suggested one of their Foodie Favorites – the “Not So Fried” Chicken or the Pork Belly Banh Mi. Of course I chose the chicken sandwich, once she described how they deep fried slight drops of buttermilk to create “krispies” that are scattered on top of shaved chicken breast, herb aioli, mustard pickle slaw, tomatoes, and pickled red onions, all sandwiched between sliced ciabatta with BBQ sauce served on the side. She said she liked it with Buffalo Sauce as well, so I requested both sauces with my sandwich.
John ordered the Pork Belly Banh Mi, which smelled as amazing as it looked when we picked up our tray. In true LA fashion, Mendocino has several vegan options, uses free-range chicken, and stands firmly behind the slow food/sustainable farming movement. All the more reason to visit, sample, and savor away.
If you haven’t already figured it out, I fell in love with this place. I became enraptured with my sandwich. The chicken was thinly sliced and delicate, the mayo tangy, the slaw firm. The pickled onions dazzled, the toasted bread made me want to do flips. And then there were those darn krispies. The krispies are what got to my heart. They made a great sandwich unforgettable.
I cannot wait to return. While I have another meeting downtown this week, and so another lunch break that I can use to check off another place on my (loooooonnnggg) list, I’m so tempted to go for another “Almost” Fried. I guess we will find out when there is or isn’t a new Tasty Places post later this week. 🙂
444 S. Flower Street in LA and other locations
So the next day, I didn’t get back to Mendocino Farms, opting this time to network with partners. We ended up at a place strangely similar to Mendo – the Sandwich Smith also prides itself in offering sustainable food served responsibly. I ordered the Original – a buttermilk fried chicken sandwich served on a french roll with garlic aioli, cheddar, and creamy coleslaw. It was pretty good, but it scored nowhere close to the “Almost” Fried, especially with the fried part of the chicken sliding off with each bite I took. Still a nice find, however.
The Sandwich Smith
362 E. 1st Street in LA
More pics from another outing, this one at Mendo’s Fairfax location