“I am beginning to learn it is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all.” – Laura Ingalls Wilder
In the crazy, hectic, rigamarole of life it truly is in the sweet, simple things that we find happiness. And if you want to find a place that lives into that philosophy, you only have to look as far as 8310 West 3rd Street in the heart of Los Angeles at a place called, quite appropriately, “simplethings.” simplethings (no capital) doesn’t have five pages of menu items or thirty different desserts. Instead, they focus on two things – sandwiches and pies, and they do those two things well.
It starts with fresh, local ingredients put together in combinations that make your taste buds dance and it goes from there. From the mouth-watering Italian Meatloaf to the new L.A.mbwich, they offer about 18 different varieties of sandwiches that will satisfy any palette. Focusing not on traditional deli offerings (although you can find a reuben on their menu), they instead look to take the sandwich to a new level. To go with it, they offer the kinds of food you would expect – soups, salads, potato chips, and even some mac & cheese.
But what will be sure to catch your eye are the pies. Yummy, scrumptious pies in serving sizes you can eat by yourself. Or share with a friend or three. From the cutie pie to the simple pie to the BIG PIE (24 hours notice please), they offer a different variety everyday. And they even bake custom pies. Just call and tell them what you’d like and they’ll make it for you. Andy Paxson, co-owner of simplethings, said that no one has ever really asked for anything outrageous, but one person did ask for a French Silk Pie… hold the crust. “This one guy called up and asked how much would it be basically for a big serving bowl of just the filling, so we did it for him.”
Andy graciously shared some of his thoughts about this amazing restaurant.
Why the name “simplethings?” – The name came from the first meeting with Ryan (Handel – co-owner with Andy). We wanted to start a better ingredient sandwich shop and serve basic things that Americans really enjoy. Simple. We wanted to go with something off the word simple like in the phrase “the simple things in life.” We wanted it to be a neighborhood place, a non-pretentious food experience.
Why do “simplethings” as one word? – A design choice. We wanted people not to think of our food as “simple things” because we really wanted to focus on the better ingredient sandwich, but hope people associate our restaurant with a concept. Instead of serving “simple things” they would instead have this association between our name and our food.
What was behind the philosophy of your place? – Well, again, we wanted to do a better ingredient sandwich concept and felt people were really ready for it. The way the culinary world is around here, people want that experience but it’s still a fast-paced town. With sandwiches, it was something people are already familiar with – comfortable, easy, not pretentious – and something they could talk to their friends about but all with better ingredients. We wanted simplethings to be a neighborhood place that you know your sandwich was worked on with human hands. It tastes good, not super heavy, and maybe something different. Like our new L.A.mbwich and we’re planning on rolling out a Chorizo Sausage Sandwich soon.
Third Street seems to be a burgeoning mecca of food, was the location purposeful? – This being our first location, it’s not an easy thing (to pick the right place). So much competition! It’s quite a process for a young company. You just have to wait and be willing to see what happens. We looked all over the city for a long time, but always liked 3rd Street. It has that New York feel in a sense – walking around town, restaurants and retail – few streets have lots of character, but this was one of them.
With so much competition, were you concerned? – Joan’s (Joan’s on Third) has been popular forever and then Toast is just down the street, but we considered that a good thing. It brings people to the street, and we’re almost located exactly between the two. We went into this place intentionally knowing it was a walking street. We wanted to be part of that community. Since the time we opened in 2010, the area has really taken off – Magnolia Bakery coming from New York, Mendicino Farms…it’s a legitimate culinary scene in L.A. Overall the street works as a whole. Similar concepts but each brings their own brand.
Why pies? – That idea also came from our first brainstorming meeting. Sandwiches was the first focus and we thought let’s pair it with ONE dessert, not a dessert menu. And pie is America’s dessert. All these questionnaires asking what’s your favorite dessert and pie would always win. But it always seemed there were hurdles to get a pie. You either needed to buy a whole pie or order a slice of pie and right now quick grab and go desserts are popular. Frozen yogurt, cupcakes, gelato – but no one had done it with pie so there would be a market for that, so we came up with the Cutie and Simple Pie. It wasn’t a hard thing to decide to do.
What’s your favorite pie? – Either banana cream or key lime. Key lime is not an easy pie to get the right combination of sweet and sour and banana cream has that cookie crust. Both are great but they’re all terrific. Everyone seems to love the mud pie.
What’s next for simplethings? – Well, we’ve always wanted to share our food all over L.A. and Southern California. It’s such a great area and we’re full steam ahead in finding a second location. Nothing to announce yet, but we’re looking for that next best thing. The reaction of people to this first location gives us the confidence that this would work!
If the taste of their pies and other great offerings is anything to measure their success by, then simplethings is going to be around for a long time. This is one of those places you’ve simply got to go there. And bring a cutie pie home with you.
simplethings sandwich and pie shop
8310 W 3rd Street, Los Angeles, CA
Andy Paxson – co-owner
Find Craig Yoshihara regularly over at his blog Disney Nerd.