When in LA…Where the Sun Sets: Smoked Brisket, Lox and Croissants in Venice, CA
During a trip to Los Angeles time spent in Venice may only consist of strolls on the boardwalk past rollerbladers and among graffiti soaked palm trees. While there be sure to take time to stop by Gjusta, a spot currently experiencing rave reviews from both food blogs and mainstream publications. Gjusta is part bakery, deli, smokehouse and Willy Wonka food factory. Having eaten there multiple times now, I have come to completely understand what the praise is all about.
It’s a Sunday morning in December, cool but sunny out and there isn’t a cloud in the sky. Gjusta is several blocks away from downtown Venice and maybe a ten minute walk from the beach. I lock up my bike near the entrance to the restaurant. Across the street is a busy gym and within fifty feet of either side of me are tents on the sidewalk with homeless people stirring in them. Welcome to LA.
There is the smell of freshly baked bread just before you pass through the front door. Then, inside, the noise of a large open kitchen at work. Pots and pans clamoring, knives at work and the collective sound of the staff talking to one another. At the counter ticket numbers are called and orders written on notepads. Slightly louder then the kitchen noise is electronic ambient music from speakers above deli counters filled with pastries, cheeses and seasoned raw meats. Hollywood may be just down the road but it would be difficult to write a restaurant movie scene more intoxicating then this.
I go to the shorter Express line designed for ordering breakfast items, pastries and coffee. If you come here for lunch and their Smoked Brisket Banh Mi or dinner and their Rotisserati Chicken Plate plus a pound of smoked salmon to grill that weekend- take a number but don’t fret they move quick here.
Depending on my mood, if I’m hungover or have a pending bike ride following breakfast, I’ll order a pastry with a breakfast sandwich. In the past this was a fresh banana loaf, berry scone or baklava croissant. Today though I order just an egg sandwich, the Risky Biscuit (sadly the only pun on the menu) and a black coffee. The coffee here comes from Sightglass Coffee and is hands down the best cup of black coffee I have had in this city to date.
As far as seating goes you can either enjoy the outdoor patio or my go to, a large L-shaped counter in the back to stand around and eat your meal. It is a great vantage point to watch the restaurant go by. The place is filled with a mix of Venice locals, both young and old. Tourists who look like they are making a quick stop before a day of sightseeing. And then people like me, not wearing their best Sunday attire and have come from across town-I’m also not the only one with a bike helmet at their side.
My name is called and my meal arrives. The biscuit top is to the side showing you an egg sunny side up with pepper sprinkled on the yolk. The egg whites stretch over the side of the sandwich covering the fennel sausage and melted cheddar cheese underneath. On the biscuit as a spread is a harissa ketchup, this being a tomato based sauce with some sort of pepper (looks like most of the time dried chili pepper) and variety of spices.
It’s delicious and well worth the Riskiness. The fennel sausage is rich and has a strong spice to it while missing the heavy grease taste and feeling after that often comes with the meat. The egg and harissa ketchup go great together but as the egg yolk drips down my hand and the biscuit starts to crumble it is clear I will need some utensils. Finding a knife and fork nearby, I take my time with the now egg, sausage and biscuit breakfast taking sips of the warm black coffee in between bites. The sandwich and coffee will easily win when compared against any fast food breakfast sandwich meal. All that is left saving the golden arches’ sausage egg and cheese from extinction is a nostalgic heart sting pull and the fact that Gjusta doesn’t have multiple locations outside of Venice.
The next time you find yourself in Los Angeles take a trip to Venice, see the beach, the interesting characters that walk the boardwalk and stop by Gjusta for a meal you will tell your friends about back home-or even have some leftovers to share.