Author: Malcolm MacLeod
By halfway through the first semester, Marketplace food can become repetitive for many students. Anyone looking for an alternative lunch spot with great value and “wicked good food” should look no further than Dave’s Chillin’ and Grillin’.
Owner Dave Evans, known to customers simply as Dave, has been in the sandwich business for decades. He managed a number of sandwich shops in Massachusetts and New Hampshire before migrating to Hawaii and then California in the 1990s. Dave’s thick Boston accent and signature Red Sox cap immediately give away his East Coast roots.
“Back East, there’s so many shops, and they’re all making food with the best ingredients, the way their great-grandfathers used to make,” he said. “Back there it’s hard to compete with those guys, but out here, I realized there was nowhere to get a good sandwich. So if you can make some really quality food and sell it at a good price, it’s easier to make it to the top of the food chain.”
Dave’s shop is certainly at the top of the food chain for many Occidental students. The restaurant offers a student discount: $11 for any combination of a sandwich and smoothie. However, Dave would be willing to knock off another dollar for Occidental students.
“The best sandwich in Eagle Rock—they always hook it up,” Nick Descamps (sophomore) said. “I’m on the golf team; all the guys love it here. Good food, good atmosphere.”
The “Rosemary’s Turkey” sandwich is Dave’s signature dish, with avocado, tomato, mozzarella, Monterey Jack cheese and turkey on toasted bread with spicy mayonnaise and mustard. He came up with the recipe when his bakers accidentally sent him rosemary bread instead of sourdough.
“At first I was a little upset they sent me the wrong bread,” Dave said. “But then I smelled it and said, ‘Man, I can work with this.'”
Another popular item is the “Hodge Podge,” a beast of a sandwich with meatballs wrapped in roast beef and pastrami, with onions, mozzarella, parmesan and Dave’s Hotts spicy pepper sauce, which is made in-house.
“Before summer break, we get Oxy kids coming in here to buy four, five jars at a time so they can bring it home and cook with it over breaks,” Dave said.
Despite Dave’s Chillin’ and Grillin’s positive reputation, Dave said it is difficult for the shop to break even in a community so saturated with restaurants.
“Eagle Rock has a population of 32,000 and 74 restaurants. Normally a community that size would only have 20 restaurants. So we’re looking to expand, maybe open up shops in Alhambra and West Hollywood,” Dave said.
As part of that expansion, Dave’s Chillin’ and Grillin’ will apply for a wine and beer license in the coming months. Dave hopes to install a bar and big-screen TV in the restaurant, to add to the homey atmosphere that already exists in the Eagle Rock staple. In addition, he plans to add outdoor seating to enhance the restaurant’s appeal.
In addition to creating a comfortable atmosphere for his customers, Dave also ensures they get only the best ingredients when they come to his shop.
“I got only the highest quality here––we don’t do any processed food, none of that SYSCO crap,” he said. “We get our bread baked fresh every day, no acid preserves, only salt. Just really good, healthy stuff.”
Dave’s sandwiches are a testament to his ability to invent and prepare delicious food. He hopes to impart that knowledge to his customers with a cookbook that he has been working on for over a decade.
“It’s called ‘Half Way to Bed’—you know, basically it will teach people how to cook for their date,” Dave said. “Anybody can take someone out for a $100 dinner, but if you can go out with $40, buy all the ingredients you need and spend two, three hours cooking for someone when you invite them over, you’ll get a lot more love that way.”
For those interested in trying more of Dave’s cooking, the shop will host an all-you-can-eat turkey and pot roast buffet around Thanksgiving. It will cost $20 for Occidental students and $25 for others.
In the meantime, students looking to broaden their sandwich horizons can easily walk, drive or bike to Dave’s Chillin’ and Grillin’. Miriam Hamburger (sophomore) went to Dave’s for the first time on Friday; as she finished her meal, she gave a thumbs up and nodded her head with a full mouth.
“This definitely gives Cathy a run for her money,” Hamburger said.
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