About a year ago, I stumbled across a quaint restaurant that was fresh meat on Greenleaf Avenue in the heart of Uptown Whittier. The small establishment blended in with the brick-and-mortar look of the many shops that come and go over the years in this part of town. Yet the antique patio set up on the narrow sidewalk caught my attention. I peered through the windows to see a welcoming cafe with rustic decor and an impressive coffee counter. I had never seen a cafe this refined and blatantly hipster in Uptown before, and the minimalist sign on the door gave me a giggle: “Forkin Good Cafe.” Intrigued and hungry, I gave it a shot.
After studying the ambitious menu that strove to serve American classics with Latino flair, I ordered the chile verde chicken pizza. The chile verde had a nice tomatillo undertone that complimented the chicken-topped, personal-sized pizza. I never thought I’d say, “Me enchilé” after eating a pizza, but the classic Italian-American pie never tasted so oddly and genuinely Mexican (no Pizza Loca derivatives here). The dish showed that chef-owner Denise Portillo’s honest Latino flavors were on the right track.
Because Forkin Good was the new kid on the block, I forgave its awkwardly positioned tables that kept wobbling throughout my meal and the long wait for my food to be served. The check, however, has taken me time to get over. The bite-sized-yet-damn-good pizza was priced at $12. I counted my pennies, paid, and left feeling poorer and still hungry. Is this what subtle gentrification tastes like?
In the year that’s passed, I kept hearing Forkin Good’s name thrown around in conversations. Nowadays, they’ve amped up their presence by putting humorous chalkboard signs in the middle of the sidewalk, and I’d say most of the wandering foot traffic around Uptown is looking for the cafe with the enticing food they saw geotagged on Instagram (Hint: it’s right by that Italian restaurant with the random statue of the Capitoline Wolf. You’re welcome).
My visit this time around was much more comfortable. I sat in the same spot I did about a year ago. A more simplistic and non wobble-y wooden table replaced the odd one from before. The wait time, however, has not improved: still half an hour. My frothy horchata latte (strong, with a spicy cinnamon after taste) had become cold by the time my meal arrived.
The eclectic breakfast menu consisted of frittatas, french toast, croissant sandwiches, breakfast pizzas and chilaquiles. I went with the smoked salmon lox breakfast pizza. The menu described the breakfast pizza as having heirloom tomatoes, pickled red onion, shaved parmesan and egg baked on top (hence making it a breakfast pizza), yet after a few bites it was noticeably missing or had the most covert egg I’ve ever eaten. Perhaps the cook forgot? The crust was deliciously crispy around the edges and soft in its core. An abundance of capers brought a piquant, salty taste. I picked the capers off but that didn’t improve the pizza’s overly seasoned flavor that could’ve possibly been a great mix with the missing eggs.
The prosciutto, fig & chèvre croissant lost me with its clash of peppery arugula, sweet fig jam and tangy goat cheese. The lavender latte tasted like I took a sip out of a liquified bouquet.
I began to remember the delectable Mexican pizza from last year, and I started to regret not ordering the chilaquiles. I also heard the pozole is amazing. My eyes widened as I came across a churro latte option on the drink menu. Seems like keeping your order on the Mexican side is always a safe bet here—and anywhere else for that matter!
As I waited to pay my bill, I noticed two young ladies having a photoshoot behind me. Literally: they posed with their food and snapped away. The aspiring food models began thinking out loud of witty captions for their photos. No throwing stones here: I’m guilty of that, too. But it’s an apt metaphor for Forkin Good: creator of aesthetically pleasing dishes that sometimes you like, other times you should just keep scrolling along.
Forking Good Cafe, 6744 Greenleaf Ave, Whittier, (562) 696-4107 www.forkingoodcafe.com