There’s an old adage, “Don’t go grocery shopping on an empty stomach.” Actually, I’m not sure if it’s an old adage or I made it up night shopping hungry at Albertsons. (Which became Haggen and now will become Gelson’s) But here’s another adage, “Don’t visit Thyme Café & Market’s website after business hours.” That is, unless you have some of their delicious take-out waiting in the fridge.
Thyme Café is the highly popular gourmet eatery on Ocean Park Boulevard in Sunset Park. Their food is so mouth-watering, the website photos alone could keep you up at night. (One night, I dreamed about Thyme’s gorgeous entrees for so many hours I woke up thinking it’s a good thing their food is so healthy or I might have gained weight.)
Maire Byrne is Thyme’s owner, operator and driving force. Thyme Café offers fresh gourmet foods, delicious baked goods, and fine food to-go in a warm, charming and communal environment. And this past Tuesday, Maire opened a second culinary establishment.
“Local Kitchen & Wine Bar,” also on Ocean Park Boulevard, offers a casual dining experience that pairs small plates (including wood-fired pizzas!) with exceptional wines and beverages. Given Maire’s unique family legacy, nobody’s more “local” than she is.
You see, Maire’s great-grandfather, Herman Michel, emigrated to Santa Monica from Switzerland in the 1880’s. He even became our city’s first mayor! A dairyman by trade, he purchased Santa Monica Dairy, which was later known as Edgemar Farms. Located along Rose Avenue and Main Street, his dairy delivered milk and dairy products to all of Santa Monica, Venice and Marina Del Rey for the next 100 years.
In a world of texts and drones, I’m particularly fond of Santa Monica history. But Edgemar Farms is of special interest to me for other reasons. As a teenager, my father worked there as an egg-candler. (Holding eggs to a candle to make sure they weren’t fertilized.)
The late and legendary UCLA basketball coach, John Wooden, also worked at Edgemar during a few off seasons. (Despite 10 national championships, Wooden’s highest UCLA salary was $35,000!)
If Herman Michel was an example of achieving success through hard work, then the DNA passed down to his great-grand daughter, Maire. She’s a wife, mother of two young daughters and now she’ll be running two restaurants. Just typing all this makes me want to take a nap. I don’t know how Maire finds the energy and talent, but my palate is glad that she does.
Maire was born in Los Angeles into a family of five brothers and sisters, where great food and family gatherings were dynamic and frequent. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in New York, Maire went on to work with culinary luminaries at various acclaimed restaurants, including Chez Panisse in Berkeley, The Ajax Tavern in Aspen, and Aqua in San Francisco.
But it was cooking alongside her mother in their family kitchen where Maire grew to understand and appreciate home-cooked food that inspires delicious memories. In 2004 she boldly launched Thyme Catering where she quickly found success in creating New American food to enhance unforgettable moments. The popularity of Thyme Catering led her to expand the company as she launched Thyme Café . And now there’s Local Kitchen.
Maire, her husband Tim, and their two adorable daughters (who are as pretty as their names, Bridget, age 4, and Quinn age 2) all live in a house in Los Angeles. (Along with 500 cookbooks and an endless supply of chocolate chip cookies. How do I get adopted?)
About her legendary family, Maire says, “I feel grateful to follow in my ancestors’ dreams, working in the food business in Santa Monica.” (Many of her hungry customers are also grateful!)
Even though Local Kitchen has only been open a few days, there’s already a buzz in town. Both Thyme Café and Local Kitchen offer casual dining in a charming, cozy environment; and both have take-out. As for home delivery, Thyme has it, while Local Kitchen is working on it.
As I mentioned drones earlier, instead of “Home Delivery” maybe one day there will be “Drone Delivery” Of course, that raises the eternal question, “How much do you tip a drone?”
Jack is at email@example.com.