My eyes were strained from staring at spreadsheets and a break was long over due.
While scrolling through old photos to pass the hours before the home time countdown, I noticed how many photos I had taken at Panini Cafe. This small chain of local cafes has long been a staple on our lazy Sunday restaurant rotation so I figured it was only fair to dedicate a complete post to this favorite pastime of ours.
No one in LA cooks at home so there are many places popping up to provide ‘cheap eats’ From DTLA’s famous happy hours to food trucks parked almost anywhere they see fit, you will be spoiled for choice, but when it comes to healthy fast food the options dwindle.
Panini Cafe does not fall under either category nor is it classed as cheap but the reasonably priced food, huge portions and exceptional quality make this a must for a mid-week meal that won’t loosen the purse strings.
We first came across Panini Cafe after working up an appetite while exploring downtown Los Angeles, getting lost and attempting to avoid skid row.
After walking for what seemed like ages with no suitable eatery in sight, we were delighted to spot a cute sun lit cafe on the corner. With no great expectations and a growling stomach to keep at bay we ordered the Mediterranean Bread Basket and the Trio of Hummus to start. The waiter advised that the hummus came with pita bread so we may not need the basket as well. Clearly he was not aware of my weekend carb consumption so I ignored his advice and sipped on my pint of water to distract my stomach from starvation.
For the main course I opted for the Date Salad with added chicken and my husband went for the Chicken Pesto Panini, which came highly recommended according to the menu. The bread and hummus arrived in no time and as I shoveled in a piece of pita I realized the waiter was right. I was full and we were only half way through the hummus. Like a true eating champion I hate to leave anything, so I powered through and looked forward to the main event.
The salad exceeded my expectations and soon became one of my favorite dishes, the sheer size and quality of ingredients makes me wonder how they keep the prices so low. The seasoning on the chicken was divine and the salad came with even more pita bread! My husbands panini was just as good but being Iranian he got food envy when he saw everyone’s kabobs filling the small tables so as we left in a major food coma we vowed to come back, and soon.
Within a week, we had returned, this time to the West Hollywood location that has now become our local. The highly anticipated huge kabobs did not let us down. My husband had chicken and I went for the salmon. You get a choice of salad with rice or pilaf. Our favorite is the romaine and avocado. Each dish we have tried here we have enjoyed and the quality has never wavered.
The staff are extremely friendly and you know you have been somewhere too many times when they know your order and deliver your food pretty much as soon as you take a seat. We have tried the Beverly Hills location which is slightly more upscale, probably due to the zip code, but there is usually a wait for a table This Mediterranean cafe has never let us down and the mix of Greek, Italian and European diners are testament to its authenticity.
With lunch for two coming in at around $35 we will continue to frequent this place most weekends and I can’t wait to try the new location in Santa Monica.
Price: $35 – lunch for two
Tips: The starters are made for sharing!