I love all of our local farmers' markets, of course, but the market I visit the most is the one held every Sunday morning in Hollywood, on the corner of Ivar and Selma avenues. My chica volunteers there, so I usually spend my time eating: pad Thai from the Thai stall; an ensalada drink from the pupusa lady; a bowl of yellow rice topped with plantains, black beans and Jamaican-style habanero sauce. But the most famous food vendor there is Gourmet Grill Masters, a truck that's really just an engine, a cabin, and long poles from where hens twirl and twirl, their drippings cascading onto the potatoes below them, to create the best rotisserie chicken in Southern California. Although the company travels elsewhere, that was where I got my Gourmet Grill Masters fix, where I looked forward to spending my mornings slowly peeling off the crackled, caramelized skin as though it were a Fruit Roll-Up and chomping on tender meat fragrant with vaguely Middle Eastern spices.
It's a Los Angeles institution, so I was flabbergasted when word emerged earlier this year it was opening its first restaurant—in Irvine?! As it turns out, the family behind Gourmet Grill Masters is actually from Orange County, and its new location "makes it an easier commute for us," one of the owners told me with a laugh the last time I visited. It's a large, immaculate spot in a shopping plaza, frequented by blue-collar stiffs and office drones alike, all lining up for that wonderful rotisserie chicken, a full or half-order of free-range beauty. But Gourmet Grill Masters has also boldly ventured into further experimentations with a menu that spans from the Mediterranean to the subcontinent, excelling at every step.
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There is the rotisserie chicken, of course, but the bird also makes appearances as kebabs and tikka—more savory in the former, wonderfully spiced in the latter. It takes a different spin in the shawerma, shaved into almost-translucent petals. Combo plates arrive on a flatbread that's thicker than a pita, puffier and slightly fried, the better to soak up all the meat juices; wraps are as fat as a wine bottle. Indian touches also include samosas and naan, while the Pakistani influence includes luscious seekh kebabs and Peshwari naan, an alluring version containing dried fruits and nuts. Lamb is also available, as is beef and a couple of salads that, while excellent, are beside the point: This is a meat emporium, so eat meat.
Honestly, the only problem I have is the pomegranate lassi, an elixir like no other in Orange County, a tart, sweet symphony of Iran and India. It always runs out, damn it!
Gourmet Grill Masters, www.ggm-irvine.com.
This column appeared in print as "Chicken Don't Stop."