I can’t decide if I’m more passionate about good food or adventure, but when they’re combined, its a match made in heaven.
I’m not normally a brunch person (ain’t got not time for that!) but travelling seems like the perfect excuse to forget breakfast in search of decent coffee and then decide to be starving between breakfast and lunch; hence brunch!
Last month I visited my friend in SoCal and had a morning to myself in LA while he was at a meeting. I have a confession to make; cities scare the crap out of me. There’s too many sounds and sights and smells and potentially sketchy people and one-way streets and bicycles; cities cause me a ton of anxiety and generally the only way I enjoy visiting them is when I can cling to Topher or hover close enough to a friend that I’m clinging-to-them-without-actually-touching-them.
So, when the elevator doors closed on my friend and I was suddenly all alone in one of the biggest cities in the country, I definitely had a mini panic-attack.
Plus, I had to pee.
Did you know that downtown LA has a severe lack of restrooms? Its probably due to its homeless population, but I was still pretty blown away that I couldn’t find a bathroom anywhere that didn’t require a badge to get to.
Anyways, as an avid, long time reader of Bon Appetit, Sqirl has been on my bucket list for a very long time and I had made up my mind to be brave and go have brunch alone. It was the perfect opportunity since I can’t imagine anyone I know being willing to wait an hour in line for toast.
After searching for a bathroom for an hour without luck, I ordered an Uber (I’m getting so brave, the Uber was actually a relief compared to the busy downtown streets) and headed across town to Sqirl.
Tucked away on an unassuming street corner across from a convenience store and a fiesta supply store, Squirl is a tiny brunch spot featuring a small patio with several tables, a tiny inside space with a communal table and a few spots at a bar and, that’s it.
They describe themselves as, “Bacon serving but vegan friendly, attuned to the rhythms of an L.A. day (breakfast until 4 p.m.), of the moment yet anchored by something deeper.”
When I showed up at 9:45 am on a Friday, there was a line to the corner of the street, which a local told me was shorter than usual. I stood in line and listened to a greasy man covered in cat hair chat with a pair of friendly ladies who were out for a birthday breakfast on one side and a group of indiscernible Europeans talk in a foreign language on the other.
I waited for half an hour or so before making it inside to order at the counter. I got a slice of brioche toast slathered with ricotta and their flagship; jam. Rhubarb Kumquat was in season, so I ordered it on my toast and spontaneously grabbed a jar to take home. Luckily Southwest doesn’t charge for checked bags; PSA, jam is considered a liquid, you’re welcome.
I asked the nice ladies ahead of me to watch my spot at the bar while I peed (finally!) and when I came back I’m pretty sure Brit Marling from the OA was sitting in my spot (they totally failed at watching my spot). I got it back and was served my toast to enjoy while people watching.
I’m really bad at being alone. I think most of us are; with smartphones in our pockets, we never have to be alone. We’re connected to our friends and complete strangers 24/7. I tried my hardest to put my phone away after a few obligatory Snapchats and enjoyed my toast and watched people completely alone.
It was a revealing and humbling experience. It was uncomfortable to be on my own, I had to physically restrain myself from grabbing my phone as a security blanket, but once I took a few breaths and really paid attention, it was wonderful.
I watched the kitchen and decided that I wished I had ordered their signature Sorrel Pesto Rice Bowl. I watched people, there alone or with family members. I learned that greasy man was serving on a jury and had heard about Sqirl through Bon Appetit just like me. I decided that maybe I judge people too quickly. I made myself linger over my toast and as I left, I felt very proud of myself.
I’m not sure I enjoyed brunching alone, but as silly as it seems, brunching alone was definitely a growing moment. So, if you’ve never done it, do it. Brunch alone. Keep your phone in your pocket, pick a place nobody else wants to go to with you and be confident in being your own best friend.