Cooks County, West Hollywood

la-fo-0324-goldJen: I started going to Cooks County last year, when I was working at an art gallery a couple blocks down the street. It’s on the awkward stretch of Beverly Boulevard across from the awful 24-hour Swingers diner, and light on foot traffic. Every time I went—twice for brunch, and once each for lunch and dinner, it was never busy. Weird, since the farm to table menu of fresh, rustic fare always hits the spot and the ambience, though nondescript, is charming and cozy with salvaged wood and iron furniture. I was always concerned when I walked by its dining room, bereft of diners—would one of the best restaurants in LA in my opinion eventually shutter its doors for lack of patronage???

Fast-forward 6 months to the present and it is no longer just my humble opinion, but Cook’s County is officially #1 Best Restaurant, according to a recent LA Magazine feature, and the space is now bursting at the seams during mealtimes. The article focuses on dinner, but brunch is my favorite. I ogle every item on that menu, wishing I had several stomaches to fill with every dish listed, from fresh baked goods, housemade artisanal donuts and simple but unique egg dishes you won’t find anywhere else.

We went for brunch last weekend, and we were pleased to see the restaurant bustling with eager diners. Despite the crowd we were seated promptly with no wait. Noelle ordered one of their best egg dishes: the fried eggs with fried chickpeas, yogurt, harissa and grilled bread. Their homemade harissa is the star of that dish, with a fully dimensional chili taste without the tongue-scorching heat.

IMG_4105I was feeling low on my veggie quotient and so I ordered the black kale salad—but wait!—before you yawn and move on, this was one of the most hearty, delicious salads I’ve ever had, chock full of roasted butternut squash, chewy farro, pungent parmesan, sweet cranberries, perfectly massaged kale, all dressed with a most exotic “pumpkin seed vinaigrette” and topped with pepitas.

Caitlin and Zorn ordered the cedar-smoked trout on a housebaked bagel, with homemade dill cream cheese and caper berries. This was good, if you are in that “bagels n lox” kind of mood, which as the corned beef portion of this blog, Zorn is in perpetually.

Zorn: Cooks County is your quintessential WeHo brunch spot: sparse, open space with natural light, a Californian menu, and a steady stream of Angelenos coming through the door. Over the last year it has grown in popularity due to its inclusion in LA Mag’s best new restaurants list this past January. Our last brunch outing there 18 months ago found us to be one of the only diners present.

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Last weekend, we were more than thrilled to pull up to a lively crowd, brunching away to the spoils of fresh caught fish, house-baked bread, and farm to table veggies. After sharing a plate of their strawberry rhubarb jelly donuts with the table I fell victim to the bagel, cream cheese, and fish item on the menu. But this was no ordinary bagel and lox. Here, your bagel is a perfectly crafted everything bagel that was baked on site, served with a dollop of dill cream cheese, caper berries, red onion and a very healthy portion of their cedar-smoked Idaho Trout. A far less salty and oily alternative to nova lox, the trout was the perfect topping on one of the better seasoned bagels I’ve had in years. I was pleased with the portion size of the fish, more than enough to top each half and some to relish on its own after the bagel was gone. And the caper berries, which tasted like tart olives, gave me the kick I needed while waiting for my coffee refill.

The service was friendly but on the slower side during peak hours. It’s a small space that crams in a lot of tables. Not bad by any means, just not a hot top-off of coffee to be found the few times I needed one. The menu changes daily, but you can always expect to find a simple assortment of ingredients in just the right combination to leave you praising this Beverly Boulevard brunch hub and craving for another meal in the not so distant future.

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