Earl’s Gourmet Grub, Mar Vista

photo 2 (13)David: Riding bikes to the Mar Vista Farmer’s Market is a pretty regular activity for a westside Sunday. Like most farmer’s markets, there are a ton of on-site eating options, including the amazing Larry’s Tacos, but I just wasn’t in the mood for the paper plate fare. I suggested we check out a new spot half a block away on an up-and-coming section of Venice Blvd.

Earl’s Gourmet Grub is neighbor to tattoo parlors (who gets a tattoo at 10am on a Sunday? A lot of folks), bike shops and vintage goods. Lately, this area makes me feel like I’m strolling through San Francisco’s Mission district, which is a compliment. The two areas even have the 826 Time Traveler’s Mart in common.

Earl’s impressive decor has a modern Danish vibe with geometric shapes, bright furniture, natural wood walls and gourmet odds and ends sprinkled about. It has enough character for Mar Vista locals and its close enough to cater to the Abbot Kinney yupsters. Orders are taken at the counter from a menu consisting off simple stuff: sandwiches, burgers, salads and an all day breakfast menu. I liked it immediately because every item they carry is something I would most certainly make for myself at home if I had a fridge stocked with gourmet ingredients at all times.

I got the Croque Madame: ham, gruyere, aioli, and a fried egg pressed between two slices of soft French sandwich bread. Nothing fancy about it except for pristine assembly and pairing of ingredients. My sandwich induced a single tear of joy, and once the egg yoke starting oozing out in rivulets over the ham folds, I was a goner for this ‘wich. I’m honestly getting hungry right now writing about it. Served with a small mixed greens salad and some sweet pickles, it makes for a solid $10 plate. Next time we go I’ll have a hard time deciding between a repeat order or going for the Carne Y Huevos. Definitely adding this place into the local rotation.
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Jen: Not sure who Earl is, but this place is appropriately named as they serve sandwiches (as the oft-recounted story goes, John of Montagu, the Fourth Earl of Sandwich in Kent, England, asked for his meat to be served between two slices of bread so that he could eat with one hand while playing cards with the other). “Gourmet Grub” is also an apropos label–the menu offerings and ambience are casual and easy, while the flavors are upper-crust.

I ordered one of their two vegetarian options: the TNA club, with tomato, avocado, roasted olive tapenade, arugula, sprouts and vegan basil dressing on a hot pressed baguette. The pressing of the sandwich was a nice touch. It warmed the bread while everything within stayed crisp and cold like a fresh salad. My main gripe about sandwiches is that there is never enough avocado and ingredients are usually hastily slopped together, leaving certain bites brimming with every element while other bites are sorely lacking. At Earl’s, they covered the bread real estate with appropriate trimmings so that each mouthful was worthy.
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Zorn’s Croque Madame kind of blew my mind. I’m not sure what kind of aioli they used, but the creamy, potent spread was a revelation in my mouth. When we hit the egg yolk pot-o-gold, it was like an unexpected explosion of liquid, bright yellow sunshine. I can’t wait to go back and try their Tuna Nicoise salad and their Pig-n-Fig (Prosciuo di Parma, Maytag Blue Cheese, Fig Hash, Arugula, Aioli on 3 Season Bread).

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