Etchea on Figueroa has only been open for four weeks, but the owners of the bakery are already opening a second location on Hope Street in Downtown Los Angeles. Etchea — which means “home” in French — is expanding with good reason: People have been flocking to the cafe, where croissants, muffins and croque monsieurs are selling out daily.
What sets Etchea apart from the neighborhood corner bakery or Panera is that the menu includes home-away-from-home pastries such as their Gateau Basque, an almond-infused dessert with a cheesecake-like consistency — a treat from the Basque regions of France.
The bakery’s in-house pastry chef bakes delicacies fresh daily and entices would-be customers by displaying them in the front window. The bakery also serves breakfast, soups, salads, sandwiches, main courses and organic coffee and tea.
Etchea’s uniqueness is also reinforced by its atmosphere: It brings a cozy neighborhood feel to a busy metropolis. Its patrons range from nearby office workers looking for a lean lunch to students who appreciate Etchea’s reasonable prices.
If a customer wants some homemade granola for breakfast, he or she can order a delicious blend of nuts, dried fruits and oats paired with yogurt and fresh berries. For purists and snackers, the granola is good enough to be eaten alone and comes in two forms: as part of a meal, or bagged as a healthy snack to eat on the go.
Lunch offerings include the Atlantic smoked salmon sandwich and the Basque Serrano chile and a chile aioli. The cold sandwiches are packaged for immediate take-out but don’t skimp on the flavor. Etchea also offers an assortment of imported drinks including a crisp French limonade (a sparkling lemonade), ginger ale and sweet root beer.
Etchea’s grilled chicken breast sandwich comes highly recommended; it’s loaded chock full of avocado along with some red onion and Anaheim chilies served on fresh sourdough bread. One thing of note is that Etchea’s European-style sandwiches differ from the fat, layered Dagwood variety Americans might be accustomed to. They have very few ingredients in between the bread, and mostly consist of meat and cheese with a thin layer of spread. The idea is that the bread should be a point of emphasis — not just a tasteless vessel that keeps the ingredients together.
That idea is taken to an extreme with the croque monsieur — hands down one of the best brunch items on the menu. Dubbed by an employee to be “ham and cheese on steroids,” diners might call it “to die for.” It’s a warm and classy take on a grilled ham and cheese sandwich wrapped in special bread — delivered from its partner bakery — that offers a delightful crunch as you bite into it.
Etchea doesn’t stop there — they offer a slew of vegetarian and vegan options. Vegans will certainly appreciate the zucchini, mushroom and basil soup, delicious whether served cold or warm. The soup is a delightful blend of all three ingredients, but the basil makes the soup, serving as a canvas for the flavors of zucchini and mushroom. It’s an ideal choice for summer, one that feels light as a feather. Of course, the soup also comes partnered with one of Etchea’s artisan rolls.
Vegans and vegetarian will also take comfort in a seasonal salad. The current one comes with avocado, grapefruit, red onion and citrus dressing, another light and healthy option that has a sweet taste with a bite of citrus from the grapefruit. Rounding out the vegetarian options is the Pizza Style Basquaise, which can be served without any meat and piles peppers, tomatoes, cheese and kalamata olives atop warm, crispy ciabatta bread, perfect for a light lunch date or a large late-afternoon snack.
There’s something comforting about the concept of a homey French restaurant in the middle of bustling Downtown Los Angeles; the restaurant gives off the vibe that it’s a little oasis where people can relax during food breaks throughout the day.
Etchea Cafe Bakery and Market, 254 S. Hope St. and 2280 S. Figueroa St., Los Angeles, Calif., 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. daily. Ample parking is available on location.
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