Kid Hit Menu Items: The “no substitutions – only eliminations” policy at Mendocino Farms might work in your favor, since these aren’t your run of the mill sandwiches. There’s a whole menu section dedicated to “Not Just Grilled Cheese,” meaning gruyere comes with prime honey ham, smoked gouda fondue and roasted tomatoes, and the Highway 128 has chicken AND goat cheese AND ancho chili cranberry chutney. Hmm, yeah, some kids might want those compositions without all the bells and whistles. But then again, it’s great if they’ll go for it. Mendo Farms’ bacon and housemade peanut butter sandwich with crushed honey roasted almonds, cranberry chutney and green apples sounds like it was invented by a ten-year-old. Or Elvis, if the restaurant’s policy allowed for swapping the apples for bananas.
Adult Perks: Beer and wine is forthcoming at the brand new West Hollywood Gateway location. Otherwise, based on only one Mendocino Farms experience, the growing local micro-chain is the sandwich-centric response to Tender Greens (which I still need to post about). I bet finding stuff for my kids to eat at Mendo will be easier, even if Salad People like me gravitate towards the T.G.s of the world. But because Mendocino Farms’ sandwiches are compelling and so wide-ranging — I better spend some time deciding ahead of time if I’m in a tuna melt or Kurobuta pork belly banh mi mood so I’m not That Person holding up the line — I might just skip the substantial salad options and explore Mendocino Farms’ broad world of high quality stuff served between bread.
Pros: Fun farm-inspired, slightly kitschy design and fast casual set-up. Yup, lots of reclaimed wood to go with the clever faux-grass seat coverings. The front and especially the side patio have room for moving around and access to other open areas. It’s also easy to pack food to go if the need arises. Apparently the Marina Del Rey location is the most kid-friendly, since it has a mini seating and play area.
Cons: The WeHo Gateway, while not without its utility value, is hardly a quaint neighborhood commercial cluster. In fact, Mendocino Farms might be the most charming place in the entire development (not counting the Formosa, which is in but not OF its current setting). There’s a big parking lot and elevators and such to navigate.
Changing Station: Chances are you’ll wind up at Target no matter what. (Hey, you’re already THERE, right? Don’t you need a couple things? Like dish soap and toilet paper, which suddenly turns into a $100 shopping trip?) And Target definitely has changing stations.
High Chairs: Yes
Parking and Access: Validated parking in the West Hollywood Gateway lot.
Other Tidbits: I’ve been late to the Mendocino Farms party, both literally and figuratively. I hadn’t eaten at any of the locations before last week, since they’re not exactly on my usual beat. But with the new WeHo location, that’ll change. And I showed up to a media lunch 15 minutes after it had ended, but I still got to sample some hearty sandwiches and fresh sides. I love being able to look out on the beloved Formosa, a bar we used to frequent for mediocre cocktails and one-of-a-kind atmosphere back before any of us knew or uttered the word “mixology,” or figured a chain of sandwich restaurants with sustainable, green business practices, nods to the Slow Food movement and a name referencing Northern California would take off. I’ll have to gradually make my way through the “Mendo Style” Classics sandwich list, and I’m looking forward to Mario Del Pero and Ellen Chen’s forthcoming Blue Cow sandwich “think tank,” also because it’ll be in great company across from Starry Kitchen and so close to some of our favorite Downtown activities. There better be a sandwich named for Angels Flight.
7100 Santa Monica Blvd. (at La Brea) and other locations
West Hollywood, CA 90046
Cuisine: Sandwiches, Market-Driven, Fresh, Fast Casual
Hours: 11 a.m. – 9 p.m., Daily.