If there's one thing döner is famous for, it's crossing borders. Turkish in origin, the beloved dish migrated to Germany and became the country's most popular fast and street food. The diaspora continues in our neck of the woods via Los Angeles, thanks to Spitz, which opened in Hillcrest this year.
Having just returned from three weeks in Europe, it was time to check it out. I'd devoured more döner, gyros and shawarmas than I care to admit in print. But I confirm that the craving for a good kebab is fierce after taking down the real deal.
When meat rotates on a vertical spit, juice drips down the side and stokes the flame, which singes the meat. The genius technique, when done right over a long period of time, results in heavenly, moist slices for plates, wraps (most common), salads and sandwiches.
You can get all of the above, including loaded fries, at Spitz. All of their döner wraps come with a choice of beef and lamb, chicken, mixed meat, vegetarian or falafel and are wrapped in a thin lavash. The big differentiator is sauce. They do have a proper Berliner-style (Berlin Döner) with traditional spicy ketchup. The most popular order, Street Cart Döner with beef and lamb, has a garlic aioli and lavash chips in addition to romaine, cabbage, tomato, onion, green pepper, cucumber and tzatziki. I opted for this, figuring the masses can't be wrong.
It was by far the tidiest döner I've ever eaten. The thin lavash is held together by brown paper to keep sauce and pieces from going haywire. It was not overly sauced and the meat was generous, although I didn't really notice the lavash chips inside. Didn't matter ... delicious. I'm eager to stick a fork into Street Cart Fries (basically my döner with optional meat on fries with feta) next time, but I will say that the falafel side order was a little bland.
Dining enhances the Spitz experience. The founders, who came up with the concept after a semester abroad at college, want their restaurants to be neighborhood hangouts. Colorful street-inspired wall art and other decor, including giant blackboard walls near the bathrooms, is sure to liven up an Instagram feed.
Address: 3515 Fifth Ave., Hillcrest
Phone: (619) 326-8556
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday
Outside is where the restaurant transforms into a SoCal playground-meets-beer garden. Guests can play Candyland, outdoor Jenga, corn hole, and hopscotch. It's the kind of space that would be fantastic for lazy, lengthy weekend afternoon libations with friends. It triggers an, "OMG, we need places like this in town ..." kind of reaction. Dogs are welcome. Spitz also has a decent selection of craft beer, cocktails, housemade sangria and wine.
Just remember that while late-night kebabs are a worldwide post-bar-binge necessity, Spitz closes at the civilized hour of 10p.m. But rest assured you can opt for weekend hair of the dog at brunch with $12 champagne bottles, a Breakfast Döner Wrap or the aptly named Hangover Basket.
Katie Dillon is a lifestyle and travel writer who believes that one of the best ways to explore a city is through its food and drinks. Follow her adventures on social media at @lajollamom and send any tasty ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.