Vegetable lovers rejoice! There’s a hidden gem of a cafe in Glendale that is armed with veggies and is not afraid to use them. The Basement Cafe is nothing fancy, but they serve good, home-cooked food with a lot of flavor at a reasonable price.
Hunkered down in the basement of the architecturally iconic Hollywood Production Center on Brand, the aptly named eating establishment boasts few signs, so you have to go looking for it. It appears to have originally been designed as the commissary for the office building and still functions as such but is also open to the public. The charming tablecloths give it a homey feel, and the big tables make it a good choice for a working lunch.
The warm, friendly proprietress takes evident pride in her healthful foods. She serves slightly-out-of-the-ordinary sandwiches, such as German sausage, smoked turkey and Portobello mushroom, on vegan, daily-baked breads ($5.95 to $7.45). The whole wheat is outstanding. They also have a selection of Middle Eastern wraps and plates, like shawarma, gyros and kebabs. I don’t think their strengths lie here, however. Where the Basement Cafe excels is in their vegetarian and vegetable-rich foods.
I loved their Virgo salad ($5.95), bursting with fresh lentils, finely chopped bell peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, onions and fresh herbs in a light, lively house dressing. It’s meant to be scooped up in the accompanying leaves of baby Romaine lettuce. If you're looking for more substance, add the warm, marinated and grilled chicken breast on top ($2.50 extra).
Or add a cup of soup. They change daily, but I was lucky enough to try the mushroom barley, a vegan brew of light broth, sliced mushrooms, celery, dill, carrots and parsley ($3.50/cup; $4.45/bowl), as well as their Russian borscht, not vegetarian per se, with its big chunks of beef, but full of veggies anyway, like shredded beets, cabbage, carrots and potatoes. With its bright red hue, it’s as beautiful as it is delicious. If you’re sensitive to salt, you may want to be careful of the soups. To me, though, they had just the right amount of flavor.
One more standout item is their grilled veggie sandwich ($6.45) with marinated eggplant, roasted bell peppers and tomatoes. It is boldly accented with creamy feta cheese, fresh basil and, surprisingly, Dijon mustard. That’s what I liked about this place. They don’t try to please the masses with plain foods. The Basement Cafe serves up fresh soups, salads and sandwiches, each with a unique and flavorful twist.
Lisa Dupuy has been reviewing local restaurants since 2008. She welcomes comments at LDupuy@aol.com.
What: The Basement Cafe
Where: 401 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale
When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday
Prices: Salads and sandwiches $5.45 to $7.45; wraps/plates $5.45 to $9.95; breakfast items $2.25 to $5.45
Contact: (818) 500-1133