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.