The proof is in the pretzel at 3 Square Café + Bakery
April 14, 2012
VENICE, USA – If you really stop and think about it, the soft pretzel is a grossly underused form of bread. Unless you’re at a ballgame, on a New York City street corner, or at an Auntie Anne’s airport concession, it’s unlikely that you’ll encounter the deliciously twisted dough, burnished on the outside and chewy on the inside. But I’d say the pretzel is an untapped treat whose time for adaptation and elaboration has come. It happened with brioche, the sweet French pastry that’s now ubiquitous as a hamburger bun. Why not pretzels?
Luckily, Hans Röckenwagner is on the case. The German chef has brought his take on his homeland’s looped bread to Los Angeles’s Westside, with his Röckenwagner Bakeries in Santa Monica, Venice, and Mar Vista, and at farmers market stalls throughout the city. But at his casual 3 Square Café on Venice’s funky Abbot Kinney Boulevard, he’s incorporated his freshly baked pretzels into the German comfort food menu with lots of creative..well…twists.
At breakfast or brunch, you can have your grilled weisswurst (veal sausage), eggs, and Bavarian sweet mustard with a pretzel roll. At lunch and dinner, the pretzel burger with Swiss cheese, caramelized onions and French fries is insanely popular (there’s even a mini pretzel burger “slider” available on the sandwich sampler–such fun!). I mean really, why not have a pretzel with every meal?
Outside of pretzel territory, 3 Square’s menu does best with German classics. The German apple pancake with crème fraîche is a scrumptions morning treat, while the spaetzle with fresh green peas and wild mushrooms supremely satisfies at dinner. The menu skips across the border with Mexican-inspired avocado fries with fire-roasted salsa. In the spring (March-June), watch for Hans’ famous white asparagus menus.
Despite the emphasis on comfort dishes, the minimalist décor, while cool, is not particularly comfy. The Spartan interiors feel a bit sterile, and the minimalist benches inside are downright painful to perch on (clearly comfort got minimized along with the design). But that doesn’t seem to stop the young, trendy Venice brunchers who crowd in on sunny days (we spotted Vince Vaughn here once). Prepare to wait, especially on weekends (we waited about 10 minutes for a Sunday brunch table for two). Still, once you’ve got a spot, no one rushes you out. It’s a lovely place to linger over an al fresco meal and watch the hipsters parade along Abbot Kinney. Due to the slightly annoying minimum order of $7.50 per person, it’s not as good for a quick snack and coffee.
Though you’ll undoubtedly be stuffed as a bratwurst when you finish your meal, don’t forget to visit the attached bakery before you leave. It’s fun to browse the lush range of confectionary and breads. Plus, for later, you’ll want to pick up–what else?–a pretzel to go.
Read more about 3 Square Café + Bakery in Our Los Angeles Guide
Rachel Levin contributed to this post