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Pop-Up Pays Off for Gram & Papa’s

By Jenni Simcoe
Published: Thursday, October 07, 2010, at 10:03AM
Mike Ilic of Gram & Papa's Jenni Simcoe

Owner Mike Ilic works the kitchen during lunchtime at Gram & Papa’s

When Mike Ilic asked famed chef Ludo Lefebvre to do a nighttime pop-up restaurant in his Fashion District cafe Gram & Papa’s, he knew it would be good for business. He was right. After two stints of Ludo Bites, Ilic says sales are up 25 percent. “The invaluable part of it was the media attention we got that we wouldn’t have otherwise,” said Ilic. “We became a destination for foodies.”

Gram & Papa’s is currently open just for breakfast and lunch, something Ilic says was shaped by the eatery’s locale. “During the day there’s a built in market, but at night you need to be a destination restaurant to attract people to the neighborhood,” said Ilic. To add dinner service in early 2011, Ilic is planning to turn the space into a hybrid: keeping the current cafe concept for breakfast and lunch, but transforming into a seafood restaurant at night. “L.A. has room for well-sourced, cleanly cooked fish,” said Ilic.

As for other expansion plans, Ilic opened a second outpost of Gram & Papa’s at SCI-ARC. The menu is very similar to the original Gram & Papa’s but offers more grab & go options for students and faculty. Ilic is also actively looking for space in Santa Monica and Silverlake to expand his restaurant empire.

As with any expansion there are always a few hiccups. “For example, recently the health department inspector came in and our hot water heater gauge was malfunctioning so the temperature wasn’t registering correctly. She left and within 10 minutes, I had it fixed, but the rules are that she had to report it, so we went from an A rating to a B rating,” he said. The mechanical issue had nothing to do with food quality, keeping food to temperature or cleanliness, but that isn’t apparent by simply seeing a B in the window. Ilic is looking forward to the return inspection when he can regain his A.

As for the future of pop-up restaurants, Ilic has no plans to invite other chefs in to show their chops. “I think very few chefs can do it well and Ludo was one of them. His success was wholly based on his reputation and abilities,” said Ilic.

Meanwhile, Ludo’s mark can still be seen on the menu board in his own sandwich. Ludo’s Parisian sandwich features a combination of flavors similar to a dish that he created in the first round of LudoBites. The sandwich consists of Paris ham, Emmenthal cheese, honey butter, cornichons and radish on a warm baguette.

Gram & Papa’s / 227 E. 9th / (213) 624-7272 / M-F 8am-3pm; closed Saturday & Sunday / gramandpapas.com

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