the grub street diet

Liz Barclay Knows Where to Find the Best Breakfast Sandwich in L.A.

“This sandwich is sex.”

At Uncle Paulie’s Deli in Los Angeles. Photo: Maggie Shannon
At Uncle Paulie’s Deli in Los Angeles. Photo: Maggie Shannon

If you’ve read about the joy of buttered kaiser rolls in the New York Times, or weed in America in Rolling Stone, you’ve seen Liz Barclay’s heavily saturated, un-glossy, and candid style of photography. She helped create the aesthetic of Complex’s First We Feast, but her subjects extend well beyond the dinner table. The Georgia native has done work for companies like Nike, and photographed figures like Travis Scott, Andre 3000, and Andre Leon Talley. She now splits her time between New York and Los Angeles, where she was after a stint in her hometown of Atlanta. Between gigs, she found time for fajitas in Georgia and stopped by her favorite East Coast-style deli in L.A. Read all about it in this week’s Grub Street Diet.

Friday, April 26
Hotlanta. I woke up remembering the sweet Georgia humidity that awaited me. Then I walked outside and the pollen in the air hit me like a heavy wool military blanket. Nonetheless, I was thankful for the time to spend in the city where I was born and raised, embracing its new era of expansion and creative boom since I left a decade ago.

Being home reminds me of the Southern essence within my soul and simple beauty of my upbringing. My taste was shaped by uncomplicated things: vegetables from my pepa’s garden, like tomatoes and Vidalia onions sprinkled with salt; Vienna sausages fresh out of the can; and peach cobbler.

Anyway, I got up and prepared the six-cup coffee maker with pre-ground coffee. It’s one of my favorite things. Believe me, I appreciate good coffee but I also love an easy batch brew situation just like I do a bodega coffee. Two cups later, I started my morning ritual — meditation, reading, and writing. Doing this everyday has been my lifesaver.

I grabbed a honeycrisp apple and almonds and then headed out to a hot power vinyasa class. After yoga, I stopped by Sevananda, a Rastafarian-owned and run health food store in the middle of the Little Five Points neighborhood. It was a staple long before vegan food and the vitamin lifestyle was ever a trend. The storefront is covered with hand-painted acrylic murals of vegetables, and inside it smells like patchouli and incense.

In the back, there’s a small food counter with housemade vegan and organic hot and cold items. I got a small plate of collard greens and sesame soba noodle salad, along with a spicy ginger beer and walked out through Little Five. Listened to Buju Banton during my stroll and cruised by Criminal Records, a long-standing record shop in Atlanta, before heading back.

I then met up with a sister, and we worked before hanging out at her apartment complex’s pool. There something about Atlanta and the suburbs that traditionally involves stereotypically large apartment complexes with a gym and every amenity possible that all seem to be almost empty during work hours. Coming from living in New York City for the last decade, where a trip to the pool meant spending at least $70 for a day pass, I’d say I was in heaven.

For dinner, we decided on Superica, a Mexican restaurant run by my good friend, the chef Ford Fry. You’re greeted with chips and salsa, and I went for a margarita and the fajitas, which come out as a sizzling platter with spring onion, chicken, mushrooms, and other vegetables. You also get fresh corn corn tortillas and rice and beans, the whole nine yards. We walked home, crickets sounding off in the background and light bustle providing an almost wild noise like soundscape against sweet Georgia evening air. Friday night in Atlanta is always booming.

Saturday, April 27
It was airport travel day. I’ve mastered the art of the airport hustle and always having snacks on deck. I grabbed a coffee at the local Octane Coffee and made sure to ask for — why of course — OAT milk.. It’s like the UGG boots of milks now: it’s a trend, and you love to hate it, but by surrendering to the stereotype, you opt for simple comfort and self-indulgence instead.

I made it through TSA no problem, and grabbed a toblerone bar to nibble on during my flight to L.A. Also had some trail mix, fruit, and my RX bar for my lunch. It’s my best plan of attack, versus grabbing a $12 turkey sandwich or packing a heavy-duty lunch in advance. Sometimes just keep it simple. I had the Clash queued up along with Hanif Abdurraqib’s recent book about A Tribe Called Quest, Go Ahead in the Rain. I switched between that and the Steely Dan biography I was still finishing.

Landed in L.A., and went straight for my house. I live at the base of Laurel Canyon: I’m a big Jim Morrison fan and ‘60s/70s rock, funk, and jazz advocate.

Dinner was with a music-industry friend at Pace, a beautiful gem of an Italian restaurant in the basement of the Laurel Canyon Country Store. It has an unapologetically whimsical hodgepodge of various decorations, including mosaics, acrylic paintings of Kurt Cobain, and butcher paper tablecloths with crayons for people of all ages to draw on. Also, they have the best rigatoni on the westside. We got that, the chopped vegetable salad, and the simple “peace pie” izza, the basic choice that in my opinion is also the most honest. The rigatoni came out served piping hot, tossed in a generous mound of sauce and bright red with pungent tomatoes and herbs and spices. But one of my favorite things here is the room temperature focaccia with tomato sauce that’s served immediately once you sit down. You’re taken care of and made comfortable, and connect with these small rituals.

Sunday, April 28
My day of rest. I had a couple cups of coffee and drove to the Larchmont Farmers Market while Los Angeles was waking up. I picked up Honey Pacifica creamed honey, avocados, hummus, bibb lettuce, cauliflower and fresh strawberries.Then I went back home and made a picnic lunch of fresh berries drizzled with honey, bibb lettuce with avocados, sea salt, walnuts, and a dressing of lemon, apple cider vinegar, and oil.

Later that afternoon, I drove up to Mulholland Drive and went to my favorite hike spot with a friend who lives up on the hill nearby. We spent an hour on the winding trails, surrounded by the wildflowers. I drove off, but before going down the hill read for a half hour with the windows down.

After a slow Yin class at Modo in the early evening, I made a run to Joan’s on Third in the valley for dinner. Picked up a filet of salmon, farro, and their Southwest salad — half the reason I order it is because of the cilantro dressing. The salad itself has fresh jicama, red bell peppers, and sliced avocado, waiting to be blessed with some of that damn cilantro dressing. I’m serious. Anyone who knows me, knows I’m all about condiments, sauces, dressings, mustards, dippable, spreadable, pourable. A condiment of any kind, enough said.

Oh, and not to forget the gummies they make at Joan’s. As a kid I never cared for gummies or sour patch kids — but as an adult? Different story.

Monday, April 29
After my morning ritual, I got up, took a quick SoulCycle class to get some cardio in, and then stopped by Erewhon — go figure — to get some Bulletproof Coffee and drop nearly a rack on the “green goddess ice cream.”

The green goddess, let me take a second here, is an insane $20 concoction that’s essentially a smoothie without the milk and instead spirulina-infused froy-yo. It’s an emerald green color with an almond butter base, E3Live algae, maca, lucuma, mesquite, chlorella, and topped with goji berries and bee pollen. It’s frozen and smooth and crunchy all in the same blissful bowl and comes in a quart container so it’s easily split between two sessions. It does not get more health-food-obsessed-LA than this.

To do some work, I went to Chateau Marmont and drank several cups of coffee and enjoyed the stillness in the lobby. It’s one of my favorite historic landmarks in L.A., with its old tapestries and trim kitchen and bathroom fixtures. Even the old window panes speak to me. The day time is one of my favorite times to be there. There are locals eating and having long coffee meetings, tourists occasionally wandering through, and guests coming downstairs, while Sunset Boulevard is, classic, packed with gridlock traffic.

After working on photos for clients, I had a late lunch meeting. We decided to stay at Chateau. I had the little gem salad, a take on the Niçoise salad, in a sense, with a lightly poached filet of salmon on a hearty portion of lettuce with new potatoes, olives, and haricots verts. It was simple and elegant.

I headed over to Culver City for another meeting near Nike at 4 P.M.; the area is booming with change and new places, including New York’s very own Roberta’s. Traffic was gridlock to and from Culver — these are the moments where you just have to accept the flow and indulge in podcasts, audiobooks, or driving playlists — but I was so excited because I was moving apartments to join my friends Christina and May in their house. I was very thankful to migrate over to the west side and be closer to the water.

After I relocated and unpacked my bags into my new room, I did some work, gave to toast to myself in the new space, and went for a walk to grab a poke bowl at Whole Foods. Just fresh tuna with brown rice, seaweed, fresh ginger, and a ginger hot tea. This was an easy day.

Tuesday, May 30
Preparing for a shoot today I got up early, journaled and meditated, and rode my bike to Intelligentsia for a cup of coffee to start the day.

After an early spin class, I went to Uncle Paulie’s Deli for this amazing breakfast sandwich that I live for. Any east coast migrant looking for familiarity will immediately fall in love with this place, and the presence of a New York style sandwich shop in L.A. Not only because it’s a legacy institution, but also because, in particular, this is the only one in L.A. (Aside from Bay Cities Italian Deli & Bakery, which has a sandwich counter.) But Uncle Paulie’s is different. Paulie is originally from Queens, and he and his partner brought their community and hip hop appreciation. You enter the door expecting to hear Nas or Mobb Deep. I immediately wanted mortadella.

There’s a cold case stocked with prepared goods, from caponata to salads to Zapps potato chips, and various lunch and breakfast sandwiches. I love the cacio e pepe breakfast sandwich, but I opted for the classic bacon, egg, and cheese this time. The bun is perfect, the scrambled eggs soft, and the bacon is cooked just right. This sandwich is sex.

You can sit outside and people watch as cars drive by, or read the paper, and this day brought me into a scene from the Sopranos. I was channeling my inner Adriana La Cerva — with my short tennis shorts and wispy baby hairs framing my face — curling up slightly from the humidity this morning. (Next question: where is my Christopher? That’s a story to be continued.)

Called it day, and moved on to other things before a 1 P.M. meeting at Atlantic in Studio City. I made a pit stop at HVW8 Gallery, to see Eric Elms’s latest show, and did a loop at Amoeba Records. I don’t have a vinyl collection myself but it’s one of my 2019 goals.

My meeting was at Joan’s On 3rd, but I was still full from breakfast when I got to Studio City so I just had an iced latte and fresh fruit. Kept it simple. I then killed time at the Sunset Tower’s lobby and drank tea while I finished editing photos, and when I got a little hungry again ordered the tuna tartare with avocado and a wonton crisp on top.

Went to Fat Dog off Fairfix for an early happy hour drink with a creative director who works at Atlantic records. My love in addition to food and wellness is music, so this meeting was special to me. Working with artists to create their world — that’s my ideal place to be. After, we went back to visit their inconspicuous spaceship-like headquarters off of Fairfax.

For dinner, I met a friend and went to Sushi Time. It’s one of my favorite no-frills sushi spots off of Santa Monica. The dining room is probably the size of my living room, at most, and seats about 30 people, max. But the rice is just right, and the nigiri perches just on top of it so that they both surrender to gravity in sync and become one delectable bite. The fresh salad comes with that traditional house ginger salad dressing I die for every time. Bright carrots and radishes and fire engine red tomatoes on top. It’s perfect with miso soup.

We got a bunch of rolls and a sampler platter selected by the chef: yellowtail, spicy tuna, and more I ate till I was pleasantly stuffed. I love spots like Sushi Time, because it’s real community, real family, real living, and real moments not adorned with the excess. No G-wagons being valeted in the parking lot, and no hierarchy. Everyone is here.

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