Green Tomato Grill Goes for Glory

What kind of food does Green Tomato Grill serve? Despite its Alice Waters-esque name, the restaurant explicitly admits on its website it “[doesn't] serve the healthiest food on the planet, nor do we have the best sustainable practices of any restaurant.” There's trendy shit such as flatbread melts, poke and bowls, yet the flavors—chile verde in a bowl that seems stolen from the kitchen of your pocha aunt from La Puente, a Greek flatbread wrap that's as succulent as a gyro—show the special care of chef Kyle Markt. He's a big ol' gabacho that nevertheless puts adobo flavoring on his chile lime popcorn . . . and he started his career in Cleveland? WTF?

But that's the beauty of this Orange restaurant. It calls back to classic OC curveballs such as the Gypsy Den and Break of Dawn in serving dishes that fall into no other category except delicious—a dangerous tightrope in a county that likes its chefs to stick to a genre. There's a bit of a Chipotle feel to it thanks to the simplified menu, featuring cutesy item names such as “Green” and “Red”—but, again, the rub is in the execution. That Red, for instance, is a stunning stew that cuts between Yucatán and Whole Foods with its wisp of spice among a mountain of carrots and onions. The fried green tomatoes are Southern charm at its finest, but tweaked with a crunchier panko crust and a mysterious sauce that's somewhere between barbecue and a spicy hummus. They're really into the sauces here, offering eight that span the globe from the Mediterranean to Asia to Mexico (although the habanero pepper's punch gets watered down with chipotle—do one or the other but don't blend both, kids!).

And those sauces go great with the breakfast burritos, streamlined bricks that get all the crazy Yelp kids rightfully a-flutter. Whatever Green Tomato Grill cooks, it's working—a second spot in Brea should open any month. Kudos to Markt for being one of the brave! So remember to toast him with his agave syrup-spiked lemonade, which tastes just like God's own secret stash of vino.

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