The fast-casual dining experience is not new but it has evolved nicely and a perfect example is the introduction to the Los Angeles area of Wolfgang Puck Gourmet Express.
Fast-casual is the combination of fast food and casual dining and it aims to bring the best of both worlds to the restaurant industry. This day in age we all want fast service and great food.To this end Wolfgang Puck Gourmet Express hopes to fill this void.
I heard about it from a friend of mine and I decided to check it out myself. I went to the first location which opened in November 2006 located in Downtown Los Angeles at 630 West Sixth Street.
Wolfgang Puck celebrity chef in Los Angeles for over 20 years has always been known to offer excellent food but quite expensive.The difference you will notice upon entering the restaurant is that you place your order at a counter and also pay for it at that time. You are given a plastic number that you place at the edge of your table. You also choose where you want to be seated.
The dining area is very clean and inviting with warm, rich colors and the lighting is just right, not too dark or bright . It has booths,tables and some counters and stools for single diners.It also has a nice size flat screen monitor to show sports or such in the middle of the dining area. They also have limited outdoor seating but it is not private, it is open and exposed to the street and elements, but in warm weather it is a nice alternative to have.
There are employees and staff, but no servers or hosts. Since you are not seated by a host and your order is not taken at the table.
Which also means that you don’t have to leave or give a gratuity, also known as a tip. The menu is quite varied offering soup,gourmet pizzas,pastas,sandwiches,salads and what they call “Wolfgang puck classics”such as rosemary rotisserie chicken,ginger salmon and meatloaf. They serve lunch and dinner but are also open for breakfast serving coffee and muffins,scones and bagels.
I went after the lunch hour to avoid the crowds,the place had about 10 people at most in the dining area. I ordered the Chinois (shin-wah) chicken salad and a ice tea. Also the beverages are self-serve a la fast food, except for the alcoholic ones, of which they serve beer-domestic and imported.
I was presented with my order in less than 8 minutes. There is silverware and napkins at all tables in a silver-medal type container. The meal was served in a large “real” plate no plastic or foam here.
The portion size was generous,entree worthy and not the minimalist I was expecting. The sliced chicken breast,Asian vegetables and crispy wontons were tossed together in a honey-mustard dressing. The visually appealing mixture of textures and flavors was great tasting and satisfying. I spent about 30 minutes in one of the booths closest to the large windows so I could eat and see a bit of the people working and living in downtown LA pass by.
Overall Wolfgang Puck Gourmet Express offers a nice moderately priced alternative to fast food and the typical sit down casual places such as Denny’s or IHOP. They offer eat in,take out and delivery. They don’t have parking but there are some lots within walking distance. This is a great addition to the vibrant revival that downtown Los Angeles is experiencing right now with the building of apartments,lofts,condos,retail and entertainment venues in the core of the city. I for one plan on many return visits.