When I think about my favorite childhood food, peanut butter and jelly is the first thing that comes to mind. Imagine a restaurant that reinvents the way we think about peanut butter and jelly. Meet, PBJ.LA, an all organic, vegan restaurant that makes sandwiches with homemade, healthy nut butters and artisanal jams.
PBJ.LA is located in the Grand Central Market where there are over 30 restaurant venders in the open warehouse space. PBJ.LA catches your eye as it is right in the center of the market with a modern white and purple logo and design.
In 2013, Payvand Salehi and Brad Greenberg came together with celebrity trainer, Jimmy Franklin, to create the original idea of a restaurant based on the nostalgic snack. Adam Fleischman, the founder of Umami burger, joined the trio to make this idea become a reality and took it to the current location at Grand Central Market five months ago.
I recently had the opportunity to speak to Fleischman.
“We wanted to expand the brand of the sandwich and modernize it with organic ingredients,” Fleischman said.
There is a section of the menu almost entirely dedicated to gourmet, non dairy drinks, such as vanilla lavender almond milk, Peruvian cacao milk, strawberry almond milk, and coconut milk. From traditional peanut butter to salted pecan or curried cashew butter and apple jam with angostura bitters, there is something for everyone.
The sandwiches even have eye-catching names such as the “Old School” which is traditional peanut butter and jelly, the “Red Eye” which includes espresso peanut butter and dark chocolate raspberry jam, and the “Italian” which has toasted pine nut butter with sage, basil cherry tomato jam, and a choice of mozzarella or vegan smoked provolone. For those with a sweet tooth, the “Chocolate Haze” with chocolate hazelnut butter and dark cherry chinati jam is perfect for you.
A highlight of the restaurant is the Hawaiian purple potato chips that are made with pink Himalayan salt. Together, the tasty chips, milk, and the sandwich create the perfect, nostalgic childhood experience.
All of the different sandwiches are made right in front of the customers. The sandwiches are then put into a unique press that squeezes the two pieces of bread together around the filling and produces a perfectly round pocket without the crust.
A fun fact about PBJ.LA is that the name has two meanings. The most obvious being Peanut Butter and Jelly Los Angeles, but the underlying meaning is the names of the owners and the people who worked hard to make this restaurant happen. The letter “P” stands for Payvand, “B” stands for Brad, “J” stands for Jimmy, “L” stands for Lee Weinberg (the previous lawyer), and “A” stands for Adam.
The creative restaurant is worth the trip to downtown to sample the delicious food.