People love making fun of Los Angeles. And frankly, why wouldn’t they? This is a city where people drive to the end of their block to mail a letter, juggle three different career paths (two of which aren’t real), and spend entire afternoons in coffee shops brainstorming podcast ideas with someone they met two days ago at a Petco commercial audition. Oh, and we apparently eat really “weird” food too.
There isn’t a place that embodies the absurd elements of LA better than Sqirl, the daytime cafe/bakery in Virgil Village. And while this perpetually-crowded Eastside spot is everything people make fun of LA for, it’s Sqirl that gets the last laugh.
When Sqirl opened in 2012, lines at the cramped Virgil Ave. space formed early and stayed that way until close. Today, the wait is even worse. Standing in line outside for a half hour and listening to people intensely talk about auditions, makeup blogs, and Pete Buttigieg’s husband is simply part of the experience here. Just embrace it, because even during peak weekend hours, the line moves quickly, and you probably needed tips for a new bronzer anyway. Plus, when the food coming out of the kitchen is this good, the wait is worth it.
At first glance, Sqirl’s menu reads like a lifestyle influencer’s 20 Yummy Things For Your Tummy post. There are grain bowls and granola, avocado toast and tonics. There’s even a vegan buckwheat pancake made from cactus flour. And it all shows up to your sidewalk table looking like it’s been run through a paid app filter. But once you actually start eating, you realize the food isn’t just pretty, it’s pretty damn incredible.
You’ll notice the sorrel pesto rice bowl and ricotta toast with jam being eaten at almost every table - follow their lead. These are both tremendous, stick-to-your-ribs dishes that won’t leave you in a food coma. The avocado toast is so hearty and flavorful you’ll make a mental list of all the other places you’ve ever eaten one just so you can call and ask for your money back. We’d drink the house-made turmeric tonic out of a Camelbak, if they’d let us.
We’ve been coming to Sqirl for years and have yet to find a true weak spot on their menu. So if the lines, clientele, or dishes you love to make fun of are still keeping you from eating here, the joke’s on you.
Ordering pastries at Sqirl is important not just because they’re delicious, but because it gives you something to eat while you wait for the rest of the food to come out. The pastry menu rotates fairly frequently, so just follow your heart - but if there are crinkle cookies left, get as many as you can.
This is easily the most ordered dish at Sqirl, and for good reason - it’s a near-perfect bowl of rice. Topped with preserved lemons, hot sauce, feta cheese, and a poached egg, it’s savory, spicy, and exactly what you want to be eating when you need to stay full for a while.
Have you heard the one about how people in LA don’t eat bread? It’s a fallacy, and you can go watch a sidewalk full of people at Sqirl eat ricotta toast for proof. This iconic dish is an inch-thick slice of brioche toast topped ricotta and your choice of jam. Flavors change almost daily, but strawberry is our favorite.
We get it - this town is littered with avocado toast and, at this point, you probably don’t need to be told where to get it. That said, we’re telling you right now you need to get it at Sqirl. Topped with za’tar, spicy pickled carrots, and garlic crème fraîche, this is our favorite avocado toast in LA, and it isn’t even close.
This is basically a tricked-out latke and exactly what your body needs after a long night out. The tot itself is made from potatoes and chickpeas, then topped with an almond-chive schmear and marinated vegetables. There’s a lot going on, but you should definitely make sure this hits the table.
When we’re sick, this is what we’re eating at Sqirl. It’s essentially a big bowl of chicken and rice cooked in a broth made with tomatoes, ginger, lime, turmeric, and onions. We already feel better.