Islands in the Scene: Two Bites of Braddah’s and Plaka

Christopher Campbell comes from a restaurant family in Pasadena and was a regional manager with Chipotle Mexican Grill, a mega-successful fast-food chain that serves a number of burritos and tacos stuffed with grilled meats. So if a few things you eat at his new concept, Braddah’s Island Style, channel his old company, it’s understandable.

Campbell does Chipotle one better in a converted yellow building that once housed a KFC. Braddah’s Island Style (2330 S. Rainbow Blvd., 222-0767) specializes in burritos, bowls, salads and tacos fused with Hawaiian-style marinated meats such as kalua pig and Hulu-Huli chicken, an idea that works beautifully. Just as Roy Choi started a sensation with Kogi Korean tacos in L.A.—using kalbi short ribs and bulgogi beef instead of the more usual carnitas, pastor and steak—so Campbell is doing here at a price that will attract both families and drive-through guests.

Ordering starts by selecting a base—burrito, taco, bowl or salad—and then adding meat, fish or vegetables. Step Three offers a choice of one or all of Campbell’s tasty seaweed rice, black beans, shredded cabbage, Romaine lettuce or grilled veggies ($1.25 extra). Step Four is your salsa, just one being a charred pineapple verde. Next comes condiments and salad dressings, sour cream, jalapeños and a delicious roasted sesame gingerette dressing, among many others. Campbell will open a second Braddah’s Island Style at Centennial Parkway and Durango Drive in October, and a third location on Sunset Road in Green Valley sometime around Christmas.

Farther south on Rainbow Boulevard (now a major thoroughfare for great places to eat), Plaka—named for a tony Athens neighborhood adjacent to the Acropolis—has taken over the space once home to Opa. The décor hasn’t changed, but the food has. I always grouse about how few Greek restaurants serve lamb dishes that aren’t grilled. Thankfully, roast lamb is a mainstay of Greek cuisine, and Plaka (2550 S. Rainbow Blvd., 471-0720) serves it three ways, including kokkinisto (a delicious marinated lamb shank in a red-wine sauce) and a traditional leg of lamb with a pan gravy. Plaka is, in short, a lamb-lover’s refuge.

Two chefs who most recently worked in Chicago’s Greektown prepare the large menu with an authenticity not often found outside Greek neighborhoods. Everything I tasted was worth returning for. Start with mezedakia (Greek tapas) such as keftedakia (mint and garlic-scented, pan-fried meatballs), dolmades (stuffed vine leaves in a rich egg-lemon sauce) or marides (lightly battered, deep-fried smelts).

If lamb isn’t your thing, there’s fresh, oven-broiled fish with lemon, garlic, olive oil and oregano, or casseroles such as pastistio (like a Greek mac ’n’ cheese) or moussaka (a meat-rich eggplant casserole). For dessert, there are homemade cookies, kourabiedes (like Mexican wedding cookies, but with more butter) and the festive Christmas cookie melomakarona, zested with lemon, orange and cinnamon.

Hungry, yet?

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