On the other side of the street, on Richmond Avenue, which remains closed to all but pedestrian traffic, the crowds can be considerable, especially in the evening. But on Grand Avenue, a short walk but long distance by vibe, crowds are few – and dining has a peaceful weekend feel no matter what day of the week you show up. .
During our recent heat wave, when I felt like I was in the “Twilight Zone” episode on the sun approaching Earth, sitting on Grand was a pleasure, with light breezes during the day and enough cooling in the evening for a light sweater. Sweater season! We can only dream…
The name Metro Cafe is generic enough to allow just about any kitchen. And indeed, the Metro menu is, quite simply, everywhere on the culinary map. It’s largely American. But there are lots of dishes from Italy, a touch of France, pan-fried ahi from Japan – and Eastern Europe, not just good old goulash and chicken cutlet, but also a sausage sandwich called ćevapčići (also known as ćevapi), from Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia and various surrounding countries.
It comes with mozzarella burrata (which is very Italian), ajvar (a sweet pepper and eggplant spread that originated in Yugoslavia), and jalapeño vinaigrette, which is Mexican. It sits between the turkey and Swiss cheese sandwich and the avocado BLT. You can get V8 to wash it. Like I said…all over the map.
Indeed, these trips around the world appear all over the menu.
There, for example, not far off the breakfast menu are chocolate chip pancakes and tofu scramble (made with or without eggs; can you scramble tofu?), served with smoked pork loin and mozzarella cheese. is just above Montenegro – three medium eggs on bacon, peppers, capers and feta cheese. Is it a Balkan dish? Damn if I know.
It’s Trans-Continental Cooking Lite – a kitchen that never strays too far from El Segundo. It can also surprise with a white bean soup with smoked pork ribs – which doesn’t look so much like a soup as a stew, and a very oriental stew at that.
Deep down, Metro Café tries to be many things to many people. But at the end of the day, what Metro is all about is a good, laid-back California cafe, a destination for food (mostly) we know well, well-made, served in large portions at reasonable prices.
So it was that on a particularly hot Sunday morning, I was only too happy to sit down to an El Segundo omelette of eggs topped with bacon, cheddar and caramelized onions – comfort food at its best, finally, comforting.
My wife had the avocado toast, because she always makes it, made a little quirky here with radishes, scallions, cilantro and jalapeños on toasted ciabatta bread. Fully recognizable, despite the quirks.
No matter what you do for avocado toast, it’s still avocado toast. (I recently came across a stand serving a dozen variations of avocado toast at my local farmers market. Very creative. But still, avocado toast.)
Throughout the day, Metro’s menu is full of familiar and reassuring things, amidst a twist here and a twist there. The chopped salad is made with Tuscan cabbage, roasted sunflower seeds and flax seeds. The portobello mushroom sandwich comes with goat cheese and jalapeño dressing. The fried chicken sandwich is a fried chicken leg in a Japanese breading. The pesto on the pasta is made with pistachios. The burrata is served on mini sweet peppers, rather than the usual tomato. Order the bread and it will come with the ajvar spread. There’s zucchini pancakes for dinner.
But especially for me, there are the outdoor tables on Grand Avenue. I heard the city of Santa Monica is eliminating a lot of the outdoor restaurants on the Third Street Promenade. In Beverly Hills, Spago has to fit inside his huge space on Canon Drive.
Hopefully here in El Segundo, Manhattan Beach, Torrance and elsewhere in the South Bay, we never lose our outdoor dining. Covid was no fun, no fun at all. But it gave us outdoor dining. Let’s count our blessings.
Merrill Shindler is a freelance food critic based in Los Angeles. Email [email protected]
- Evaluation: 2.5 stars
- Address: 131 W. Grand Ave., El Segundo
- Information: 310-648-8991, www.metrocafela.com
- Kitchen: Californian casual
- When: Breakfast and lunch, daily; dinner, Tuesday to Sunday
- Details: beer and wine
- Atmosphere: In the considerable space, now inside and out, former home of ES Chophouse, this California Casual is a tasty destination for breakfast and lunch every day (and dinner, almost every day) , with an eclectic menu, reasonable prices, large portions – and pleasant outdoor tables to enjoy the evening breeze.
- Prices: About $24 per person
- On the menu: Breakfast: 24 egg dishes ($12-$19), 8 pancakes and other stuff ($9-$16); Lunch: 9 salads ($16 – $19), 5 burgers ($17 – $19), 9 sandwiches ($17 – $19), dinner: 10 entrees ($16 – $30), 8 pastas ($22 – $30), 9 meat and fish ($26-$36)
- Credit card: CM, V
- What do the stars mean: 4 (World class! Worth the trip from anywhere!), 3 (Most excellent, if not outstanding. Worth the trip from anywhere in Southern California.), 2 (A great place to go for a meal. Worth the trip from anywhere in the neighborhood.) 1 (If you’re hungry and it’s nearby, but don’t get stuck in traffic.) 0 (Honestly not worth it describe.)