At SPITZ You’ll Swallow!
Spitz — Home of the Döner Kebab
by Ewan Chung
When you hear the word kebab, what do you think of? If you’re an American, chances are you’ll picture skewers of meat. The new Los Feliz location of the L.A. döner kebab joint Spitz is out to prove otherwise.
A cursory examination of the word kebab (thank you, Wikipedia) reveals that it is a broad term for grilled meat. The Turkish word döner refers to the method of cooking – “turning,” as in a rotisserie. For some reason, the Greek version (gyros) became more popular in America, and kebab ended up becoming mainly associated with shish kebab. Spitz capably shows you what much of Europe has been consuming as street food with the quality and comfort of a sit-down establishment.
Co-owner Robert Wicklund (along with business partner Bryce Rademan) first discovered the kebab while he was in Spain. There was no late-night equivalent of this classic post-drinking European food staple here, and thus Spitz was born. The first shop opened in Eagle Rock and conveniently services his alma mater, Occidental College. Next came the Little Tokyo location with an edgier, urban feel. And now our neighborhood!
This Spitz inhabits the space at the corner of Hillhurst and Kingswell, formerly occupied by Amwaj, a Mediterranean restaurant that didn’t quite have the right character for a neighborhood mainstay. Spitz easily remedies this with a relaxed, airy atmosphere. The artsy graffiti outside belies the interior, which has a touch of what I would call “bunker biergarten chic” but with a warmer, rustic charm and a side of Edison bulbs.
Spitz’s take on the döner kebab is Californian, in the best sense of the word. They use quality ingredients, including fresh breads and local vegetables. Their self-prescribed “California twist” guarantees a clean, non-greasy experience. It’s the perfect (what Wicklund calls) “fast casual” food. Where many restaurants attempt to cover too many territories, this menu is simple. It’s better that way. This allows for various minor permutations to cover most preferences, all the while staying focused on the specialties. Their star item is the Street Cart Döner. For a perfect mix of flavors, try the chicken in a lavash wrap. It comes fully packed with lettuce, tomato, red onions, bell peppers, cucumber, and a rich garlic aioli. If you want to be more European, get the heartier, traditional beef/lamb mix sandwiched by foccacia bread. For a spicier kick, order the Döner Lite or the Spicy Döner—the tzatziki and chili sauce are surprisingly perky. Yes, Los Felizians, vegetarian/vegan and falafel editions are also available. Non-meat versions of their kebab can include hummus, feta, olives, or even fries inside.
Speaking of fries, another signature item is their Street Cart Fries. It’s a wonderful mess that’s like a cross between a poutine and nachos. The fries are crispy; and the layers of aioli, feta, mixed vegetables, olives, pepperoncini, and chili sauce can make it a meal in itself. If you want to take the Californian twist further, go for the Döquitos, the “fried kebab” in a lavash roll.
You say you want a deal? Spitz offers their “Not Unhappy Hour” from 3 pm to 6 pm on weekdays, with specials on certain beers, chiladas (a kind of beer margarita, if you will), and sangria. The Fried Pita Strips with Hummus or the Crispy Garbanzo with Fried Olives might go well with your drinks. Like its Little Tokyo counterpart, the Los Feliz location offers a wide selection of 12 California craft beers on tap and homemade sangrias (red/rosé/white/sake).
Spitz by day is certainly more casual and light. Spitz by night has the potential to be a decent watering hole or gathering place. There’s talk of getting a full liquor license and hiring DJs. For you sporting types, there’s a shuffleboard table. Just don’t put your drinks on it, please.
While the kebab experience here won’t be the same as when you’re stumbling out of a bar or club in Europe between 2 and 4 am with a raging hunger, you’ll actually be able to taste how good it can be without prior inebriation.
Thank you, Spitz, for educating Los Angeles on what a true kebab is. Plus, it’s much easier to pronounce than gyros. Welcome to the neighborhood, guys!
Spitz is located at 1725 Hillhurst Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90027. Call-in orders: 323.522.3309. Open Sun-Thurs 11am-11pm, Fri-Sat 11am-midnight. www.eatatspitz.com