>> Metro Cafe | Eat the World Los Angeles

Saturday 11 April 2020

Metro Cafe


EDITOR'S NOTE: An updated version of this article (16 January 2024) is available as part of the Historical section of our Substack page. Check that out here:

When you pull into the parking garage for Metro Cafe, it actually feels like you have arrived at the Travelodge motel that wraps behind and around the restaurant. This is no sad motel restaurant though, the bright and modern space is hip and diners seem much more from the neighborhood rather than coming downstairs from their rooms.

Guests at the Travelodge do get $10 vouchers for the cafe though, so sometimes you might find them wandering in for the quick lunch specials or in the evening after a long day of studio tours.

Pre-meal bread with homemade ajvar.

On a Tuesday evening in February the cafe is buzzing immediately when the doors unlocked for dinner service at 18:00. A group of eight friends shows up, then another group of six coworkers. A couple other tables fill up and everything hums.

Most of the menu, as you can guess from a place nondescriptly named Metro Cafe, is something of Californian or New American, with salads, steaks, and some pastas. The other tables seemed to mostly skew in this direction, and those good-looking burgers did not go unnoticed.

While it is not promoted that some foods on the menu are specifically Balkan, if you look close enough you will notice an item or two that stands out. Express an interest in these foods and the staff here will be delighted to let you know more, proud of some options you do not see in many places in Los Angeles.

The first item on the menu of Balkan origin might not even catch your eye because it is just called white beans soup ($9 bowl, above). What Serbians call pasulj, here is made red with tomatoes and paprika but is full of deep, smokey flavors. Grilled hunks of pork belly come to the surface with spoonfuls of white beans.

The friendly server also said that she could have the chef whip up a cabbage salad (8, above) if desired, which of course was accepted with excitement. Along with the thinly cut strips of crunchy fresh cabbage and a small piece of garlic here and there, the salad is seasoned very simply with some salt, pepper, and red wine vinaigrette. A slightly sour taste must come from the squeezing of a lemon. If they have this available, you should not pass up the chance to enjoy it.

The most recognizable Balkan dish available at Metro Cafe is their rendition of chevapchichi ($19, below), a plate you will see served to a smattering of tables. Ten or so of the small skinless sausages are piled alongside freshly chopped onions, a bright cucumber and tomato salad, and some fried potatoes.

To accompany the dish, ask for a second or third serving of their homemade ajvar, an essential sauce made of red peppers and enjoyed throughout the Balkans.

Also worth a bit of translation in the dessert menu are the "house crepes," which are actually Serbian-style palaฤinke. These thin pancakes are rolled around various fillings, and room must be left for them on the next visit. It would be the perfect way to finish the meal.

11188 Washington Place

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