Friday, June 20, 2008

Main Street's Panini Garden Blooming With Free Wi-Fi

This is my third day in a row at Panini Garden on Main Street. In fact, I’m writing this blog entry from there now.

The first day, the sun was shining and my stomach was growling, so I was looking for a lunch spot with an outdoor patio within walking distance to my apartment. I considered Urth Caffe on Main, but lately getting a lunchtime table there requires the eagle-eyed table-pouncing much in the same vein as the insanely packed Father’s Office. I couldn’t remember the food at Panini Café from my visit several years ago, but did recall a back garden, so I decided to try that out.

Inside, the long skinny cafe is cute; warm sunlight filtering through the large front window, cottage yellow walls decorated with an assortment of floral paintings and cushion-topped wooden bench running along the wall leading to a shabby-chic back garden with mismatched tables and chairs amid lavender-filled flower pots, white-washed walls, generous shady canopies and an overflowing birdbath.

But what immediately caught my eye was the free wi-fi access sign in the front window. Score! As a frequent coffee shop hopper, finding my first free wi-fi spot on Main Street is a notable milestone. Their 8am-11pm hours were also very writer-friendly. Unless the food was horrible, I knew immediately I would be back.

Turns out I didn’t remember the food from last time because it’s not remarkably memorable. Not necessarily a bad thing; although the menu won't will set off a middle of the night craving for a panini, the food here is all reliably solid and definitely doable for repeat visits.

Their namesake paninis come with a choice of soft (thick toast-like Tramezzino), medium (more baguette-like Al Forno) and crusty (ciabatta-like Rustico) bread, and chicken and turkey paninis are dressed up with things such as goat cheese, pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, olive tepanade etc.

The menu also has tasty-sounding salads (Greek, Caprese, Nicoise, Spicy Chicken and more, $8-11 range) and daily soups with vegetarian-based broths. Breakfast junkies will appreciate the egg scrambles (eg. prosciutto, mozzarella and basil, $9.50) and morning sandwiches (eg. black forest ham and swiss on a croissant, crepe or bagel, $8.99) are also served all day.

I opted for the soup du jour and panini combo ($12.95), the mushroom soup was surprisingly really tasty, and the chicken pesto goat cheese panini came hot with a satisfying toasty crunch.

The next day, I came back with my laptop. The interior surroundings of colored brick walls, good lighting and easy-to-tune-out KOST-FM’ish music was very conducive for working away. Without the distraction of interesting people watching (the clientele here is a much blander group than my usual alternative Novel Café peers) nor an LA Weekly stand nearby, I breezed through a writing project in less time than I allotted for. My vegetable soup and croissant cost me $8.

Day 3, and excited to find a place with a good working vibe, I’m back again. In three short days, Panini Garden has become my home away from home. Living in a yard-less apartment, it’s nice to finally have a garden here in my second home.

Panini Garden
2715 Main Street, 310/399-9939
8:00am-11:00pm Everyday

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