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Can't get an egg white omelet at Joan's on Third [moved from LA]

Being in the neighborhood this morning, and having read about the great food at Joan's on Third, I decided to go there for breakfast this morning. I first perused the shop and was quite impressed (overwhelmed!) by all the gourmet products and fresh take-out.

I went to the counter and ordered an omelet, asking as I always do that it be egg-white-only, please. The friendly girl working there apologized that "she" (this was referring to someone other than herself) only makes omelets with whole eggs. I think the implication was that egg white omelets don't taste as good. The girl tried to steer me to alternate menu items, but I was in the mood for eggs and besides that I think I was too shocked to stay.

This is the first restaurant I have EVER been in that has refused to make an omelet with egg whites or egg substitute. Have you encountered this anywhere else? I'm especially surprised in health-conscious L.A. (Just so you know I'm not being wilfully difficult, I have high cholesterol and therefore avoid whole eggs as much as possible.)

Also, do you know who was the "she" that the employee was referring to-- would that be Joan?

I don't think I'll be going back to Joan's, not even for the good-looking bakery items or cheese. A place with a "we don't do egg whites" attitude is a little too much for me.

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  1. Why is this unreasonable? If it's not on the menu, then I wouldn't expect they'd do it. I'm probably alone, but I kind of respect them for standing up to the request, since yeah, to me at least, they taste pretty different, and plus are sort of annoying to make if you're starting from fresh eggs.

    I'm always asking for substitutions, and plenty of places say "sorry, no substitutions" on the menu, so when I see that, I don't bother. Maybe suggest they write that on the menu, since people do love a good egg white around here!

    1 Reply
    1. re: cant talk...eating

      I see very little difference in making an egg white omelette than a whole egg omelette. Separating the white from a whole egg is easier than opening a bottle of wine. I think it is pretty much very unreasonable. They are in West Hollywood, health and figure conscious central. I would imagine they get this request on a very regular basis, regular enough that the woman at the counter knows without asking that the answer will be no.

      I find it ridiculous.

    2. I suspect that for the proprietor it might be a matter of principle, not "attitude", like a restaurant's refusing to do tofu burgers or soy dogs. Many egg lovers have had bad experiences with egg substitutes and assume they're all equally nasty, and would rather go eggless than do whites only. On the other hand, why would you avoid an egg and yet still have any interest in cheeses and pastry?

      2 Replies
      1. re: Will Owen

        Cheese-- my boyfriend likes good cheese and if I buy some for him, I'm not averse to a nibble or two

        Pastries-- well, one has to indulge once in a while... :)

        1. re: Will Owen

          Why try to make her justify her diet or request, or put her on the defensive. There are so many reasons for choices, tastes, and priorities.

        2. I suspect it's more because of the inconvenience of having to separate the eggs. Many restaurants have a vat of beaten eggs (sometimes with some fat or other grease mixed in) ready each morning. When an omelet is ordered, they only have to ladle out the appropriate measure of beaten egg. Separating eggs thus creates an extra step which can slow down the kitchen on a busy morning. I'm not excusing the behavior; I think an egg white omelet is a reasonable request - just trying to explain it.

          5 Replies
          1. re: CynD

            While I agree with the need to watch the cholestrol and other health issues, wouldn't it be a size and cost issue? For instance if they make all omelets with 3 whole eggs, wouldn't the whites only from 3 omelets be smaller, thereby using 2 more eggs to make up the size? Also wouldn't it cost them more to make it whites only, unless they saved the yokes for something else or they can always charge the customer more...

            There is a place I go to for burritos, I don't care for rice on my burritos, so I've asked them to hold the rice. One time the cashier wanted to charge us the meat only price plus extra bean which was a few bucks more then a regular burrito, hold the rice. .

            1. re: Cinnabon

              I'd like an omelet, plain, and a chicken salad sandwich on wheat toast, no mayonnaise, no butter, no lettuce. And a cup of coffee...now all you have to do is hold the chicken, bring me the toast, give me a check for the chicken salad sandwich, and you haven't broken any rules.


              1. re: millions

                hahaha! I don't even have to click on the link to reply

                "You want me to hold the chicken, huh? "...

            2. re: CynD

              Very Good Point Cindy, Also if the Eggs are already batched the restaurant runs the risk of a under skilled cook getting shells in the omelette.

              And you also run the risk of having dealt with an ignorant cashier. It is really tough to find good help for non tip FOH positions.

              You might want to call and give it one more try. I find it very hard to believe that with the clientele they serve that they do not offer an egg white option.

              1. re: CynD

                cynD, from my perspective, is correct...having at one time to be the shortorder cook executing an egg white omelet, in addition to going through the separation and aeration to get the right "omelet" consistency ( you can't just whisk and pour), the general consistency of egg whites alone make them "stickier" than a regular yolk/white consistency ...bottom line for shortorder cooks is it takes a bit more baby-sitting of a whites-only omelet, vs. the standard egg mix where you can, to some degree, walk away and do other things knowing that in a minute it will still be fine, and ready to plate. whites only are are little bit less accommodating. and as much as it may seem reasonable to ask, if they don't serve it, well... go elsewhere. (p.s. re location - Joan's on Third is really not West Hollywood, it's Los Angeles, ...kinda feel like i know as i issued some of their use permits).

              2. Alot of restaurants are now not changing anything from their menu. I went to Le Pain Quitoitien(spelling). Anyway hubby and I heard that they made a great egg salad, so we decided to try it. We ordered it, but we wanted a different bread, they would not substitue the bread. We were told it comes from corporate, and no changes are ever made. Said the item would not taste right. We couldn't believe it and left. We have also heard that the pizza place Terroni will not make substitutions. In this day of economic hardship, I want to order what I want as long as it is reasonable. Changing a bread is reasonable. Times are hard and I choose where I want to eat, and I want to go somewhere my business is appreciated.

                9 Replies
                1. re: paprkutr

                  In Regards to Le Pain Quotidien. You can order a side of egg salad and a side of whatever bread you like for about the same price if not less. The Founder of Le Pain Quotidien still designs the menu and he would like you to enjoy the food the way he designed it. You can substitute Spelt Bread for the Wheat. The Le Pain Baguette does not make a good sandwich bread (too crispy) it is better eaten with the hazelnut spread all over it.

                  1. re: 420 Reasons to eat

                    But I like the Baguette, so why shouldn't I be able to have it on the bread I want without having to order sides of everything. I like crispy bread, that's why I won't go there. Everyone has there own tastes, and all I was asking for was a different bread, not telling them to remake the egg salad without certain items in it. It was only bread.

                    1. re: paprkutr

                      An appreciation of "Gallic culture" may be helpful in understanding the attitude at LPQ. The French (and, in this case, Belgian French) do not have a strong tradition of "having it your way". I think the attitude can be best summarized as: "we are culinary professionals who have used our talent and hard work into creating our menu, and we hope you will respect that". Unfortunately I think the LPQs in LA fall short on execution compared to their counterparts in Europe.

                      1. re: Peripatetic

                        when in France or Belgium I appreciate and abide politely by their cultural norms. However, this is not europe and in harsh economic times, several restaurants in this thread have lost customers due to stubborness and an unwillingness to run their business according to our cultural norms. There is a price to pay, and I can only assume in an intelligent and well thought out cost benefit analysis, the price is worth it.

                        1. re: lotta_cox

                          I agree with you that "this is not Europe". I think the "have it our way" attitude is justifiable only if the food on offer is truly excellent. In my experience the food at LPQ in LA is middling at best (in Brussels and London it's better).

                    2. re: 420 Reasons to eat

                      I agree that the chef has the right to decide how the food is (or is not) served, but saying that "he would like you to enjoy" the food a certain way is either a euphemism for "he wants you to have" the food a certain way, or an assertion that he's a culinary idealist. Obviously if the food is always served exactly as the chef designed it, some people will not "enjoy" it, because the variance in human physiology and psychology guarantees that not everyone's taste will coincide with his--no matter how much he believes it should. He's evidently decided that he can run a viable business without those customers; and as long as there are many other places to eat at the same price point, I can't argue with that.

                      1. re: Miss Priss

                        I'm curious about why the qualification of "as long as there are many other places to eat at the same price point." If there weren't however many of those someone thinks necessary then the chef (owner, what-have-you) shouldn't be able to serve their food as they wish and suffer the consequences of customers choosing not to eat there?

                        1. re: ccbweb

                          Good question. I was responding to a post that was specifically about Le Pain Quotidien, so my point was that I could easily go elsewhere for that type of thing. Agreed, the chef has no obligation whatsoever to change his practices just because there's a lack of competition. (Well, I guess I could concoct a scenario in which he might ... but it would involve government funding, a public-service mission, and other conditions that seem very remote from this discussion.) That being said, if I had no other options, and really couldn't deal with the existing menu, I'd probably try to persuade the chef to be flexible--without necessarily expecting to succeed!

                          1. re: Miss Priss

                            Thanks for the great response! I was thinking along the lines of your parenthetical musing there and wondered whether you were asserting that sort of thing. I'm quite glad that you weren't! (Though tickled that someone else thought of such a thing.)

                            And to the last point....exactly, no harm in asking.

                  2. I respect that the chef is an artist and would like us to experience his art as he envisioned it. However, we live in an on-demand, Starbucks-style-customization world where, for better or worse, people expect to get what they want when and how they want it. The art argument is a bit like the musicians who complain that people buying single tracks on iTunes are missing the experience of the unified album.

                    I do understand that an egg white only omelet is more work, but that's why restaurants usually charge $1-2 more for the extra effort (and wasted yolks).

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: avivale

                      If I were the chef I'd say great! Free yolks for hollandaise. although maybe they don't have eggs benedict.

                      1. re: hsk

                        that's what I was thinking, too. there are typically more uses for an excess of egg yolks than egg whites, depending on the kind of establishment, tho.

                      2. re: avivale

                        As an egg-white-omelet aficionado, I sympathize with your frustration; but you seem to be arguing that because the on-demand ethos has become so pervasive, a business that doesn't adopt it is somehow doing something morally wrong. Or maybe you're primarily arguing that restaurants that don't customize their products are making a bad business decision. Whichever it is, both arguments seem futile to me. If I don't like a restaurant's stated policies, but the place isn't misleading me, doing anything illegal, or causing some major social harm, I don't eat there, and that's the end of it. If a restaurant's business model isn't to my liking, same response. Either way, the loss is theirs.

                        1. re: avivale

                          "The art argument is a bit like the musicians who complain that people buying single tracks on iTunes are missing the experience of the unified album."

                          Which is a totally valid position to take. I certainly have more respect for the few artists who refuse to abide by the single-track purchasing lunacy (yes, they do exist).

                          Similarly I have a lot of respect for restaurants that limit substitutions. Swapping out sides, removing toppings, levels of rareness: those things I can reasonably expect accommodation on. But, actually changing how a composed item is made, that is a bridge too far in my book.

                          1. re: Atahualpa

                            Musicians or chefs certainly have every right to make up any rules they please. Just like I, the consumer, have the same right to choose not to purchase their product.

                            But really I don't want to come across angry or negative. Regarding the musicians-- I do sympathize with their dilemna. If I put in all that work, I'd want people to listen to my entire album too. But they have to ask themselves if it's worth fighting the public's wish to buy just one or two songs... or work with the state of things as it is.

                            Back to the egg white omelets, I was just taken completely by surprise at Joan's-- this is the first restaurant I've encountered in L.A. that doesn't do egg whites. Which was why I wanted to find out if other people have had similar experiences elsewhere.

                        2. if I was cooking I would have separated the eggs and made your omelet, it seems like a reasonable request

                          I remember refusing to put lett/tom/mayo & pickles on a hot meatball parm sub once, I just couldn't do it... I sent them out on the side

                          1. I have been there for breakfast and faced the same problem. They have a limited breakfast menu and I really don't like any of it, except the fresh bread. It's not far from my office so I head there about once a month for a change of pace but for lunch where there is more to choose. The "she" is Joan. My favorite person there is her son in law who is fantastic. Egg whites are pretty common these days and it's a shame that they don't offer them. The chocolate chip cookies and cupcakes disappoint me - a lot of the good looking stuff can be heavy and dry.

                            1. "Having read about the great food at Joan's on Third," I would think you would want to try the food at Joan's on Third -- not something you could order anywhere else. Different chefs have different visions, and Joan's vision doesn't include egg whites. Her business model doesn't include making whatever people want in whatever way they want it. Like it or not, that "attitude" as you call it, was a conscious decision as to how their business should be run. And despite your being "too shocked to stay," it doesn't seem to be hurting their business at all.

                              Joan's on Third doesn't serve an egg white omelette, and I can assure you this is because the quality of an egg white omelette wouldn't meet the standard that Joan's have set for themselves. If you ever break your dietary restriction and opt to try one of their omelettes, you'll understand what I'm talking about. Joan's makes one of the best omelettes I've ever had. It's kind of amazing that someone can turn out eggs like that. It makes you question the eggs you're getting everywhere else.

                              It's certainly your option to not return. But you're really missing out on a pretty stunning market and cafe experience. One of the best Los Angeles has to offer.

                              And for the record their menu does say "no substitutions please."

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: RBH68

                                "And for the record their menu does say "no substitutions please."

                                That's a really important part that the OP left out. If a menu says no substitutions, I would expect that it meant no substitutions with no exceptions.

                                1. re: RBH68

                                  I did see the "no substitutions", but I've never considered egg-whites-only a "substitution". I do respect the "no substitution" rule when I see it on menus, but it bothers me-- it feels like the restaurant is expecting a confrontation with its customers?!

                                  Maybe if my cholesterol drops 100 or so points, I'll take your advice and spring for "one of the best omelets". :)

                                  But, yes, it seems that Joan's is getting by just fine without my patronage.

                                  1. re: avivale

                                    Surely there are other things that you can get that are on the menu which are not egg based? Not to mention which, the consumption of eggs and relation to blood cholesterol is wildly overestimated. I think people in LA eat the omelets to be trendy and make the kitchen do a special order, which everyone seems to want, intsead of just for health reasons. I mean, I've been with people who order an egg white omelet and it's filled with CHEESE. Cheese has cholesterol too you know.

                                2. The restaurant is perfectly within reason to refuse your request, and you are perfectly within reason not to patronize it as a result. What's not reasonable is either side cultivating a sense of resentment about it.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Karl S

                                    Hear hear!

                                    Just upthread the OP added "I do respect the "no substitution" rule when I see it on menus, but it bothers me-- it feels like the restaurant is expecting a confrontation with its customers?!"

                                    It seems to me that *you* (meaning the OP) are the one whose nose gets put out of joint when you cannot have what exactly you want. Any confrontation (real or perceived) perhaps begins in your head when you read that restriction.

                                    I think this thread is all about finding the space to allow and acknowledge that many fine chef's have a vision and an intent with their fare, and the customer is NOT always right!

                                  2. Just for the record - here is their breakfast menu. Which clearly states "no substitutions."

                                    good morning.
                                    Breakfast is served Monday through Friday 8am – 12pm and Weekends 8am – 2pm.
                                    Soft Boiled Organic Farm Egg 4.
                                    with toasted pain de mie
                                    ‘Egg Basket’ Omelette served with sour cream
                                    plain 9. fines herbes 9.
                                    with cheese and/or mushrooms 9.50
                                    with asparagus & goat cheese 9.50 bonne femme ~ potatoes, onins, bacon 9.50
                                    Housemade Granola Parfait 8.
                                    with organic yogurt & fresh berries
                                    Scottish Smoked Salmon 12.
                                    capers, red onion & cream cheese with toasted bagel
                                    Buttermilk Pancakes 7.
                                    French Toast 7.
                                    Chocolate French Toast 8.
                                    Irish Steel Cut Oatmeal 5.
                                    with brown sugar & steamed milk
                                    New York Breakfast Sandwich 9.
                                    scrambled eggs, bacon & monterey jack cheese on toasted country bread
                                    * no substitutions, please.

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: Catskillgirl

                                      This has raised such an interesting question: is asking for egg whites only a "substitution"? I never thought of it that way, honestly, as someone who ALWAYS asks for whites only. But I do see how it could be considered as such. "Please substitute egg white for the egg yolk." I guess part of it for me is that I actually never expected, or asked, the restaurant to "substitute." If the menu says "3 egg omelet" and I asked for egg whites only, I would expect a "3 egg white omelet." I wouldn't expect the restaurant to use 5 egg whites or something in order to acheive the same volume or size omelet. I might be in the minority there though.... So from that perspective, it is not a substitution at all. It's more like "hold the yolks." Interesting things to think about!

                                      1. re: charmedgirl

                                        I think of an egg-white omelet as a totally separate menu item. Which would indeed make it a substitution. I guess it all depends on how the restaurant (owner) defines an omelet- in this case they only use whole eggs.

                                        Awful grammar, but I can't seem to improve it!

                                        1. re: charmedgirl

                                          I think that you're thinking about it entirely differently than the vast majority of people would and do. Most folks would then complain that they got a tiny omelet.

                                          Your take seems really reasonable to me but I think you're in the very small minority on it.

                                          1. re: ccbweb

                                            ^ I'm with you, cc -- a three-egg omelet minus the weight and volume of the yolks would surely be a small(er) serving and may prompt complaints.

                                            Surely most establishments deliver the same size omelet to those who want it with yolks and those who request it without. Which must, perforce, require more than three egg whites... Hence the reason some places have it on their menu and others don't!

                                      2. Yeah, I'm confused, too about the supposed effect eating egg yolks (or whole eggs, if you will) have on cholesterol. Last time I heard that theory was in the 80s, I think.

                                        I have roughly 5-6 eggs a week, and my cholesterol is fine. I also don't shy away from butter or cheese. Maybe I'm just lucky.....

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: linguafood

                                          The cholesterol in eggs is not as bad as formerly thought.

                                          But blood cholesterol levels are mostly a function of genetics, only secondarily of behavioral choices. There are lots of skinny people (who may or may not eat lots of animal fat) with horrible cholesterol profiles and lots of large people (who may or may not eat lots of animal fat) with fantastic cholesterol profiles.

                                          1. re: linguafood

                                            As Karl notes, it's not safe to generalize based on your own medical history. I do not often eat eggs, butter, or cheese, and my cholesterol is higher than desirable - because I have a genetic predisposition that you are, indeed, lucky not to have.

                                            1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                              While my cholesterol has been a problem, I'm taking a low-dosage statin and avoiding trans-fats, and my LDL levels have been staying well below the HDL, pleasing my doctor no end. I also eat about six eggs a week, and occasionally bacon.

                                          2. I'm not sure I understand the issue here. They don't want to make an egg white omelette, which is completely their choice. They don't have to explain their reasoning, and their choice is not "attitude". It is their restaurant, their rules.

                                            That being said, the customer doesn't have to shop there either, if what they want isn't on the menu.

                                            It strikes me as odd that people assume that eateries are supposed to whip up whatever they want, whenever they want it.

                                            1. my other thought ....liquid pasteurized egg whites, in janitor-in-a-drum-size containers, are widely available to the restaurant industry. the quality of egg white omelet you get from such product, while perfectly safe, generally does not have the light, fluffy consistency that can be obtained by whipping a fresh white, and is somewhat flatter, more crepe-like, and can be potentially rubbery...this and other prepackage liquid egg product (think Eggbeaters) tends to be used more widely in mass-production of baked goods ....so while using the pre-separated and package egg whites may be less labor intensive, and allow for an acceptable size omelet, the overall quality of the product might not be acceptable to certain restaurant's standards...and thus, perhaps this is why Joan's has opted out, ...that using the prefab eggs or alternatively spending time to break, separate and whip, just ain't their gig. just a thought...

                                              1. Joan's has about the best omelette I've had in Los Angeles, or ever for that matter. It's not the brick of eggs so often served, it's perfectly cooked, light, has perfect texture and just the right amount of filling.

                                                I'd guess that an all egg white omelette is missing something that allows them to create what they're going for. And if they did make it anyway, you may not have the wonderful experience that they planned for you to have, as it wouldn't have surpassed expectations like many of their dishes do.

                                                Or maybe it just takes too much time or is just one extra step they've cut out. It gets so crowded in there, the line would take even longer if they were constantly substituting.