Saturday, July 24, 2010

Crave Cafe: Lead Us Not Into McDonalds, But Deliver Us From Taco Bell

Who hasn't had that "It's 3a.m., I'm in the Valley, I'm hungry... Fast food it is!"-rationale slice through their brain. It's inevitable, it's the only option.

Until now.

The beauty of the Crave Cafe is that it's the kind of 24-hour place you'd still want to go, grab some food, sip a tea on the couch, or linger with friends even during normal human business hours. The space is simple but chill, and their menu... Frankly, it's impressive that they're able to stay in business considering their long hours and long list of quality options.

First off, let's walk into Crave -- there's an outdoor seating area with some warming lamps (essential for those native Californians who start to shake the second it gets below 70 degrees), an endearingly haphazard main seating area, and a couple of overstuffed couches on the sides. Off to the left is... oh my, a line of frozen yogurt machines! Straight ahead... dear me, a glass case displaying individually sized (if you're hungry) quiches, colorful mugs of fruit, and layer cakes that might make a first-timer weep. Just looking at the Godiva chocolate cake is enough to send a person into a choco-overdose; stare too long at the Blue Velvet cake, and it's burned into your mind forever.

Once you make it to the counter, your options expand to crepes, panini, omelettes, salads... Again, NOT your standard late-night fare. Anyone who's ever subjected themselves to a Denny's Grand Slam after a particularly late night can appreciate the beauty in having real-food options, even in the wee hours. Peel your eyes away from the massive wall menu to take in the smaller board perched on the counter -- a Nutella menu. Get it on a croissant, in a sandwich (sourdough is HIGHLY recommended), with fruit, whatever. The chocolate-hazelnut spread has some serious devotees (including a certain reviewer), so offering it to a 24-hour crowd is just really smart.

The beverage selection is also lovely, including an array of coffees, teas, juices, and fancy-pants bottled drinks. Also worth mentioning is the fruit cup. Now you might ask, "What on Earth is so special about a fruit cup?" This isn't a sad ramekin loaded with cantaloupe, honeydew, and other filler-fruit staples. These large mugs are stuffed to the brim with watermelon, strawberries, mango, pineapple -- the pieces you'd save for the sacred last few bites if it were any other fruit salad. It's little things like that which set this place apart.

The food itself? It's good. Now, this is not to say anyone's reinventing the wheel here, but this is quality food that is reliable and tasty, won't send you into pangs of post-Burger-King regret, and you can get it any time (EXCEPT Sunday nights after midnight; they gotta shut it down at some point). As previously mentioned, their ability as a 1.5-year-old cafe to keep the doors open is itself impressive in this day and age when even celebrity chefs have trouble making a new restaurant last and Starbucks' and Subway's pop up on every other corner.

So whether it's a lazy morning, a light lunch, or something to satisfy you as you head home crazy-late (you party animal), Crave is worth a stop.

Crave Cafe
14504 Ventura Blvd
Sherman Oaks, CA 91403

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