REVIEW: The Trails brings cozy ambience to Griffith Park

In a scene that will put all first dates to shame for centuries to come, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone prance through Griffith Observatory in the middle of the night and launch into the air for an extended song and dance number.

Not only do they break into the planetarium, but they also twirl through the stars for an entire evening, and all of that is perfectly believable. After all, it’s the musical La La Land. However, director Damien Chazelle forgot to fill one glaring, gaping plot hole in the film: Where did Sebastian and Mia go to eat after their musical shenanigans?

The answer may be The Trails, a small food kiosk nestled in Griffith Park, just a mile walk away from the Observatory at 2333 Fern Dell Drive. Serving coffee, baked goods and a limited selection of sandwiches and entrees, this quaint cafe is perfect for fueling a day hike through the park or a night of illegal, gravity-defying musical theater.

With decor that can only be described as “shack chic” and a clumsy chalkboard menu, the restaurant doesn’t look especially incredible at first glance. If it wasn’t for the bright yellow sign and long line sloping toward the street, it would be easy to drive past and miss it. However, as the large crowd gathered in front of the kiosk suggests, this is worth waiting for.

The menu straddles a strange line between cozy bakeshop fare — scones, muffins and cookies — and utilitarian lunchbox favorites — egg salad sandwiches, grilled cheese sandwiches, hearty quiches and pastry-wrapped hot dogs. The drink menu is extensive, with a full selection of espresso drinks from Stumptown Coffee Roasters, a characteristically bold, small-batch Portland roaster, as well as fresh-squeezed lemonade and Jarritos sodas.

Though it caters to vegetarians, the cafe does not serve a light, diet-friendly lunch: This is stick-to-your-ribs adventure food, suited for a hike through the park or a romp through the observatory.

Special standouts on the menu include the avocado sandwich, with a generous serving of avocado paired with tomatoes, red onions, soy bacon bits (because vegetarians deserve bacon, too), alfalfa sprouts, cheddar cheese and mayo, all piled onto a sweet, hearty wheat bread. It’s a solid amount of food for the $8.50 price tag, and though the bread was a bit dry, the thick layer of avocado more than made up for it.

The quiche was another dish to note, and though the menu seemed slightly threatening when it instructed customers to “ask what I’m made of,” the daily special of artichoke, tomato and parmesan produced a rich and savory egg filling in a light crust.

Highly differentiated from the sterile açai bowls and delicate microgreen salads that have invaded L.A.’s culinary scene in recent years, cheese and butter flow freely at The Trails, creating a cozy homemade atmosphere. The all-outdoor seating, cement picnic tables and milling crowds of families and dogs add to the chaotic, inviting environment, making the dining area feel like one giant, disorganized family reunion.

For dessert, the honey lavender shortbread cookie pairs well with their house-made almond milk latte, and though the famous pies had sold out by midday, they are supposed to be phenomenal as well.

Whether fueling up for a day hike in Griffith Park or a midnight re-creation of everyone’s favorite La La Land sequence, it’s hard to go wrong with The Trails.