Kid Hit Menu Items: It’s fairly easy to entice kids to go to SweetSalt Food Shop in Toluca Lake, since most young eaters tend to like foods on the extreme ends of these two flavor spectrums. Breakfast served until 11 a.m. and weekend brunch hits all the major kid food groups. Egg dishes, baked goods, granola. Bam. Done. Or a gooey croque monsieur cut up into manageable cubes should keep them going for a few good hours. At lunch I zeroed in on the less embellished sandwiches for the boys and picked some stuff out of my veg-loaded salad to share. SweetSalt makes good on the latter word with a fun assortment of regional potato chips. I’d never had Zapp’s before. As for the first noun in the restaurant’s name, each kid got to chose a macaron as a departure treat; one ate his aqua-toned vanilla one on the walk back to the car, while the other practically cradled it to save until we were home. A minor yet insightful example of my two kids’ totally different temperaments.
Adult Perks: Since I was saving myself for a heavier dinner, SweetSalt dishes like pancetta crisps with burrata salad will have to wait for another meal. The fall vegetable salad currently on the menu is hardly an appetite-depriving dish, but it feels pretty healthy despite the dressing. Even if I don’t associate grilled baby artichokes with this time of year, that prejudice didn’t stop me from eating them tossed in the mix with beets, radishes, firm roasted baby carrots, zucchini, and feta cubes. In addition to the fancy pants house-designed combos such as lobster and peaches, and a crab cake salad, the customized salad option with a long list of toppings for an additional 50 cents is appealing and practical.
Pros: With its adorable quasi-Colonial storefront, white beadboard wainscoting, gray and while walls, Depression era schoolhouse style lighting, mix-and-matched chairs, and exposed shiny metal ducts, SweetSalt’s aesthetic is slightly retro with non-threatening contemporary edge. The soundtrack that included a couple of Elvis Costello’s rage-fueled classics from the My Aim Is True era gave the vibe more character. Definitely preferable in this environment to hearing Zero 7 or zoning out to neutral music from Chill Out Collection, Volume 46. Families gravitate to the bench seating, and our late lunch meant we could snag the big farmhouse table in back. We always enjoy watching an open kitchen, too.
Cons: Once I got past the usual emotional ordeal of explaining why there aren’t French fries here, we were all good.
Changing Station: Yes! The couple that owns SweetSalt is composed of one Top Chef alum and one alum of my high school, and they have a baby. Or maybe two kids now, actually.
High Chairs: Yes
Parking and Access: Parking is so easy compared to other parts of Toluca Lake’s commercial district, and it’s 2 hours free, no meters, on Riverside Drive. Plus surrounding residential streets.
Other Tidbits: A few weeks ago at ink.sack (a post for another time) I thought I’d expose my older son to some slightly off the beaten path foods he’s not very familiar with. Maybe some fried chicken skin bits with liver mousse, or marinated Vietnamese style tofu. Instead he came across this incredible exotic substance on Michael Voltaggio’s turkey sandwich that he could NOT get enough of: mayonnaise. And during our usual weekend hang at Grand Park, the go-to lunch item happens to be a turkey sandwich from Starbucks. Anyway, long way of saying SweetSalt makes an excellent turkey, bacon and avocado sandwich on a soft ciabatta style bread with melted slices of cheddar that my kids loved. The kitchen gladly swapped out the mustard for mayo. A few blocks away, our first shot at Olive & Thyme was a no-go because of parking, which worked out for the better, because I’ll gladly return to SweetSalt to sample the its take on classic soup/salad/sandwich-y type cafe foods and changing seasonal specialties. But first, I might have to make good on that promise of a meal at Bob’s. At the very least, I owe my boys that slice of important L.A. restaurant history.
10218 Riverside Dr., Toluca Lake
Hours: Monday – Saturday, 8 a.m. – 9 p.m.; Sunday, 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.