Two restaurants known for their fresh and interesting take on breakfast -- it only makes sense to put them up against each other. And, no, this is no battle of the crepes. That would be too easy. This is a battle of granola.
A surprisingly versatile dish, granola is an easy way to peek into the style of a chef: Is it burned, sticky, filled with clusters or fruit? Nutty or oaty? Subtleties like these can easily be overlooked, but granola holds powers that have captured the stomachs of hippies and beyond and that deserve to be respected. So let us find out who bakes up the most honorable granola.
In This Corner: Crepe Bar
The Setup: Starting out as a food-truck pioneer, Jeff Kraus has built a reputation for an utterly artful experience at this gem of a restaurant. Crepe Bar offers seating in the cool, calm, and sleek restaurant, with a menu that is clearly designed with a pride in its ingredients.
The Good: When first ordering "Vegan Cereal," with Crepe Bar's granola, strawberries, and almond milk, I was confronted with the worrisome fact that there was none left, until the chef poked his head out of the kitchen to offer me fresh-out-of-the-oven granola in 10 minutes. Yes, folks, a fresh batch of granola made up of bran flakes, sliced almonds, pistachios, and oats mixed with apricots and dried cherries. Simple yet full of flavor, the granola came out with a glisten of freshly roasted oil and melted sugars and was presented alongside a cold pot of almond milk.
The Bad: Salt. Now, I strongly believe that salt can deepen the flavor in a sweet dish, but this granola is nearly savory due to its sodium levels. Not that that's such a bad thing. Indeed, the salty aftertaste did provide incentive to continue shoving this otherwise delicious cereal into my mouth and was balanced by the sweet fruit before it became overwhelming.
In The Other Corner: La Grande Orange
The Setup: A hectic yet cozy grocery, pizzeria, sushi bar, wine shop, bakery, gelato shop -- and breakfast restaurant -- LGO has a taste for everyone and a menu to show it. To ease the weight on this busy kitchen, there is a standalone fridge with salads, muesli, and granola in plastic containers to grab and go.Though the presentation can cheapen the food, the ingredients are by no means low-quality -- this is a place that boasts only the freshest and most natural ingredients.
The Good: A simply and perfectly good granola -- there are no curveballs here. A combination of sesame seeds, sliced almonds, sunflower seeds, and oats, LGO's granola delivers a cinnamon-filled crunch with a rounded and rich flavor. Placed on a bed of pleasantly tangy vanilla yogurt mixed with fruits, this cereal gives a delicious and balanced bite.
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The Bad: The presentation and lack of variability that come with LGO's granola definitely do not add to the experience. Even if you skip the fridge and order at the counter "for here," the granola is delivered in a plastic tub with little care for the sogginess that could follow a combination of granola and yogurt. Plus, for the vegans among us (or those who like to eat your granola like a cereal), ordering the granola with soy milk brings the whole system to a confusing halt.
And the winner is . . . Crepe Bar. Though La Grande presents a simply delicious granola, depth to a dish is important, especially in something as malleable as granola. The presentation and overall care for the flavors and ingredients showed at Crepe Bar, while LGO just delivers a straightforward granola, ignoring the opportunity for an expressive dish. Plus, the personal touch at Crepe Bar (along with the saltiness) will continue to bring me back for a tasty, and interesting, bite.