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Jun 2, 2011 11:05 PM

Gjelina Take Away - first thoughts

Gjelina has been on a run pretty much since they first swung open their doors - what - almost a few years ago now? Trying to get a table without a reservation is not unheard of, but is about as likely as getting struck by a meteorite, winning the lottery twice, or being a victim of lightning strikes multiple times. Thus, the lines out in front of the nondescript space on Abbot Kinney.

For those who wish they could just grab a quick bite at Gjelina - one of their well-composed salads - a pizza - how about just a simple sandwich - wish no more. Gjelina Take Away (GTA for short) has now been open for about a couple of weeks, and they seem to have gotten their sea legs quite fast.

They're currently open from 8AM-4PM during the week, and until 7PM on the weekends, and are shooting to be open at least until 7PM daily. Serving breakfast from opening and then transitioning to a lunch/supper menu around 11AM, the seemingly simple hand-written menu lists about a half dozen each of sandwiches, salads, pizzas, hot and cold drinks and baked goods, all with the aura of Lett, all in a well-appointed space dressed in marble, wood and brass. The customer service area is relatively shallow but substantial (remember it is take-out), and two more of the signature wood-burning ovens that give dimension and depth to so many of Gjelina's dishes sit back behind the counter in full view.

So far, I've only tried a few of the salads (panzanella, beet and carrot, and farro) and a few of their baked goods (brownie, berry and corn meal scone, chocolate chunk cookie, bacon and date scone), but my first thoughts are that the competence and genius of Gjelina's kitchen that has turned kale into a good four-letter word has been carried over to GTA - it is an extension of the mother ship for all intents and purposes. The ability to make vegetables sing, meld flour into many forms of great, and even alchemize day-old bread into delectable chunks of gold has been expanded next door and is now available to the average guy and gal on the street who is short on time but in need of, say, a pizza topped with guanciale or a farm-fresh salad with things like fresh mozzarella or capers - a short list of unconventional ingredients for a take-out counter.

The folks behind the counter are very nice, you're more than welcome to sample many of the goods, and you're typically in and out of there in five to ten minutes, depending on what's been ordered. The bread is definitely some of the best in LA, but it's not for sale yet - strictly baked for their sandwiches for now. They're still dialing in the ovens, and once they feel perfection has been achieved, they might - they just might - offer loaves some time in the near future. Reminding myself that this is take out, I'm still scratching my head - and rubbing my belly.

1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, CA 90291

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  1. Thanks for the report. I love Gjelina.

    But for takeout, do they have any special dedicated parking? At just about any hour, that stretch of Abbott Kinney requires either great luck or some real hunting to nab a space, even in back where there is public parking. Otherwise, need to drop a passenger off to pick up the food while the driver can circle.

    1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, CA 90291

    1 Reply
    1. re: nosh

      No dedicated parking - that's just not possible on this street. Gjelina has the passenger loading zone in front, but even that is only during certain hours. If you do the drop-off as you mention, I've pulled up behind the general area behind Gjelina or behind the G3 gallery on the other corner and wait with flashers on. I didn't tell you this, but there's usually parking in the lot of The Electric Lodge, directly behind Gjelina on Electric - use the same "drop-off & wait" tactic. They're pretty lax about it there (lots of car turnover during the activities) but there is a chance that you might eventually get towed if you look like you don't belong. At least you won't have to worry about meter maids. As I've mentioned, it's usually pretty quick - five to 10 minutes, depending on what you order and how busy things are. I find that parking in the neighborhood west of Abbot Kinney to be more available - most cars approach from the east, so the neighborhood to the east tends to get more impacted. There's the alleyway next to Colcha that connects youfrom that neighborhood to the block where Gjelina/Take Away are located.

    2. Is take away cheaper? I'd say you partially pay for ambiance there thought the food is good, it's not exactly a screamin' deal.

      9 Replies
      1. re: mstinawu

        Some of the items are priced similarly or the same as in the restaurant, so one has to decide if that is or isn't a screamin' deal. Sandwiches are around $9-14 (?), pizzas are $10-15. The salads are $4 for a small (about a cup) and $8 for a large (pint). The drinks are $2-4, and the baked goods are $2-3. I don't think their emphasis is on economy. I think of it as an express relative to the restaurant, and I think they have the same notion. They are also offering breakfast from 8AM as well which the restaurant doesn't do (except brunch on weekends).

        I work in this neighborhood and really don't have time to spend the time it takes to cycle through the Gjelina process (and I don't do reservations there because my work load is unpredictable). The quality is Gjelina, the taste is Gjelina, but I've been in and out in less than a few minutes. I have yet to order a pizza or sandwich but the sandwiches are a few minutes, while I'm told the pizzas are around five-six minutes. So what factors more into the wait is how many people are ahead of you there.

        1. re: bulavinaka

          How would you compare Gjelina take away to Huckleberry? The prices seem similar, yet I am interested in the average time of getting through the line to order, paying, getting food and leaving.

          1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, CA 90291

          1. re: maudies5

            Huckleberry has so much more in terms of menu choices and number of baked goods. With that said, so far I prefer the flavors of the food at GTA. I've only tried the salads and many of the baked goods, so I can't give you an assessment on the sandwiches or pizzas. But I did sample some of the bread and it was mighty good. But I also consider Huckleberry to have some of the best bread in LA as well. A big plus for GTA are those wood-fired ovens. They fire those up early in the morning so they're raring to go right from the opening. I can't tell you what the average time from beginning to end is only because I've yet to go when it's been very busy. Word is getting around that they're open for breakfast as well, I've seen eight to ten customers queuing as early as 9-9:30AM. I've been there 2-3:30 for late lunch and have averaged three to five customers, but was in and out within three to five minutes. They usually have three people serving the counter and two to three in the kitchen, so it's been going fast so far.

            1. re: bulavinaka

              sweet, so i can get one of their pizzas when they open up at 9am? way sweet.

              1. re: kevin

                I've never ordered or seen a pizza that early. I went for breakfast this morning and not a pizza in sight. I will ask the next time I go, but in the mean time, you might want to inquire as well.

          2. re: bulavinaka

            >>...I'm told the pizzas are around five-six minutes.<<

            I ordered a pizza yesterday - the lamb sausage pizza - and it took six minutes. And it was very very very good...

            1. re: bulavinaka

              I love that pizza, too. Was it the same price as in the restaurant? Did they include the parm cheese, crushed chili peppers, and herbs the way they do inside?

              1. re: nosh

                Hey nosh,

                Yup - same price - $15, and it's pretty much as you described. I think what sets their pizzas apart in general is that not only are the flavors well matched/integrated and expertly prepared/baked, they're not piled high with ingredients - to the contrary. It's somewhat of a minimalist pizza that is big on flavors and textures yet leaves no greasy mess.

                1. re: bulavinaka

                  I agree, but for me the highlight is that charred, blistered, very thin crust, extremely crispy and tasty at the edges.

        2. I'd agree with bulavinaka on all counts.

          It's also worth noting that the coffee on offer is not only made from Intelligentsia beans, but actually prepared by Intelli alumni -- so far as I can tell there is at least three people who migrated there from the shop down the street. Makes for a complete breakfast!

          Highly recommended to go with the coffee: the biscuit with one of the jams (which they also don't sell by the jar --- yet?). But the brownies are addictive too..... and the one pizza I had for lunch (bitter greens, bacon) was terrific too.

          There always seems to be parking on Electric, btw...

          I'd say Huckleberry is a whole other kind of outfit. Though no decent coffee, there are great breads to buy, excellent salads in the deli counter, great variety of baked goods etc. But longer lines and tough parking despite the lot during rush hours. So far, GTA seems a much faster pick up -- never seen lines to equal Huckleberry's.

          3 Replies
          1. re: antonis

            the coffee they use is from San Francisco, the name is Clear Sight, as I recall. You can see the name marked on the bags. Excellent. And not from Intelligentsia.

            I tried their corn scone - delicious. But did not like their breakfast "McMuffin" of egg, bacon, cheese and kale only because I found the overly vinegary kale sauce overpowering the other flavors. They need to tone it down. And it took a good 10 minutes to prepare it on a slow Sat early morning. That's far too long. Wondering how long a busy lunch would take?

            I plan to find out soon when I try a sandwich

            1. re: dharmathug

              I couldn't disagree more about the breakfast sandwich. I thought it was incredible, especially the kale which I thought balanced perfectly with the other flavors. And I got it in 5 minutes on a busy weekday morning @9.

              1. re: QualityMart

                you were lucky and I guess they read my review and changed the dressing : )

          2. I love the baked goods at GTA. Scones, Carrot Cake, turnovers & biscuits are delicious.
            But otherwise their service is confused and prep work is very sloppy.
            I work nearby and have stopped in many times. Honestly, it's more about proximity than craving though. Usually I've picked up a small $4 salad or two ( or bakery good, if it's early)
            I understand rustic but I shouldn't have to pick out the inedible woody cores from the heirloom carrots, or hard pieces of hazelnut skin.
            The space is pretty and light filled but people ( and staff!) seem unsure which is entrance/exit ,
            where the line is or who does what job behind the counter.
            I know that a huge # of the neighbors resent Gjelina, who has 0 parking/0 valet (really) for a 1000 covers per day on weekends ( per LATimes). If I wasn't next door, I doubt that I'd bother.

            1. Does the same policy of no changes/substitutions hold at GTA? Does anyone know if there is a direct number for them?

              5 Replies
              1. re: bruinike

                They will omit items but ' substitutions are politely declined'
                One thing I will omit from my GTA list is their soup. Would be tasty aside a sandwich, I suppose. But at $6 for <6 oz of veggie soup coupled w/another $11-12 for the sandwich, maybe not.

                1. re: 1venicefemme

                  Thank you! Do you know what their sandwiches offerings are at lunch? They don't have a direct number right now. Chicken and turkey sandwich options? What kind of bread do they use for sandwiches?

                  Thank you

                2. re: bruinike

                  >>Does the same policy of no changes/substitutions hold at GTA?<<


                  1. re: bulavinaka

                    Actually they allow omissions, not substitutions.

                    Per Eater LA the GTA policy is "Omissions granted, substitutions declined."