When La Gran Cucina Restaurant at Figueroa and Olympic quietly shuttered in late 2014, I assumed it was the end of the stout Downtown LA Car Wash building, which had been sold a few months prior for a record price of $25 million. After a short period of dormancy, however, a green banner cheerfully announcing the arrival of a new restaurant concept appeared. Fast forward to January of this year and EJ’s Bites made its debut serving up some of the tastiest Mediterranean fare in Downtown LA.
On my first visit, I’ll admit that I was a bit skeptical. The restaurant, although bright, airy and large at around 2,000 square feet, seemed to have all the trappings of a typical fast casual restaurant but without the recognizable branding that would initially catch my interest. After trying the food, however, my skepticism was quickly replaced by pleasant surprise (and why we at DTLA Rising felt it was imperative that we help get the word out about this new place!).
The menu consists primarily of pita pockets and bowls with diverse fillings including lamb with beef, chicken, tuna or eggplant but the combination of ingredients and flavors really showcase the restaurant’s “Made with Love” motto. Founder and executive chef Orit Mesica may have gotten her start as a jewelry designer, but it’s clear that cooking is her true passion.
Named after her son EJ, the restaurant allows Mesica to share her interpretation of her favorite Israeli dishes with a new audience in a format that’s simple and familiar. I really enjoyed the Wow-e pocket and bowl with marinated roasted chicken and the freak-e fries, home-made pitas and hummus are not to be missed.
Although Mesica is aware of recently released plans to raze the car wash building for a new skyscraper, she remains optimistic about her restaurant and its future. Given the development timeline for projects of the size and scope of the new proposal, she is confident that she will have plenty of time to build her brand and reputation among downtown residents, workers and visitors before her business will eventually need to relocate.
EJ’s Bites is not only tasty, but it also offers an affordably priced menu (a combo is only about $10 for example) that adds a great eating option for not only visitors attending Staples’ games and concerts, but it also instantly becomes an approachable eatery in South Park for residents who don’t necessarily want to (nor can they afford to) dine every night at all of our many new expensive restaurants opening up all over downtown. Casual, tasty, and affordable restaurants like EJ’s Bites are exactly what we need a lot more of here in Downtown LA to make it pleasantly livable for residents.
EJ’s Bites is open seven days a week from 11 am to 9 pm although once they receive their beer and wine license later hours may be implemented on weekends. — Lawrence Aldava
All photos below by Lawrence Aldava