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Gram and Papa's Offers the Basics, Served Well

By Ed Fuentes
Published: Wednesday, December 17, 2008, at 09:06AM
Owner and the Chef Ed Fuentes

Gram & Papa's co-owner Mike Ilic with Chef Stephanie O'Mary.

When Mike Ilic opened his cafe this fall, he named the place after his grandparents, nicknamed Gram and Papa. Since September, the eatery at 9th and Santee has marked a new outpost in the push to bring upscale casual into the Fashion District.

Ilic honed his skills in hospitality under Danny Myers of New York’s Union Station Cafe. He says that making people feel good is an important part of what makes a successful cafe. “That includes knowing how to respect the food,” he adds.

The simple idea of basics served well can be seen in the cafe’s sandwiches, more call-outs than names: Portobello, Chicken, Turkey, Prosciutto, Shrimp Po’ Boy, Grammy’s Turkey Burger, Tuna and Cuban. All are made under the watchful eye of Chef Stephanie O'Mary, formerly of The Hall at Palihouse.

Clearly lunch here is not mass-manufactured. The tuna sandwich ($9.95) is made from poached tuna with herbs served with wheat bread (sliced from whole loaves) with arugula and bacon.

“I walked in and it was like, ‘Wow, lunch that’s good and fresh,” says Julie Soens-Adams, an assistant textile designer who works a few blocks away. “And they can custom make my salad.”

Don’t expect a fancy name for that custom made salad either. It’s just called “Custom,” and is $6.95. After you witness your serving of lettuce taken out from a crisper, you can select four ingredients from 42 choices, including shrimp, avocado, carrots, mushrooms -- seasoned and roasted -- or even glazed walnuts.

During a recent morning visit, walk in traffic was steady and the cafe was preparing several large lunch orders for delivery. On some days the deliveries can reach up to 60% of a day’s business, says Chef O'Mary.

For those who live Downtown but don't work in fashion, Saturday hours (10am to 4pm) offer a chance to check out the eatery without the constraints of a lunch hour.

During the week, the cafe is designed primarily for food to be taken out. Yet with uncovered brick walls and a partly recovered penny tile floor complimenting the wood furniture, workers are almost dared to stay away from the desk for a lunch hour... or two.

Gram and Papa's / 227 E. 9th, Fashion District / 213-624-7171 (PAPA) / Breakfast is served Mon-Fri from 8am to 11am / Lunch is served Mon-Fri from 11am to 4pm / Brunch is served Saturday from 10am to 4pm

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