Los Angeles has a new Creole-inspired restaurant on the scene where the chef specializes in two things: waffles and grits. The opening date for the appropriately named Gritz & Wafflez is February 2, when diners can drive or walk-up to this takeout-only spot in Pico-Union for some daytime comfort food.
Gritz & Wafflez comes from chef Jurni Rayne —also a singer-songwriter and stand-up comedian — who moved to LA from Dallas with a guitar and $200 in her wallet. Along the way she has worked in a variety of high-volume chain restaurant operations, from being a manager at a California Pizza Kitchen, to the Cheesecake Factory, and finally at the Counter. Rayne began restaurant consulting before she realized she wanted to open her own place.
In October 2019, Rayne put together a business plan for a sit-down restaurant which she describes as “elevated Southern Creole cuisine” called Evette’s Bayou (a combination of her middle name and the 1997 film starring Samuel Jackson and Jurnee Smollett, Eve’s Bayou) where soul food would be the focus. She found a space on Fairfax and Melrose on March 12, 2020 but took a week to think it over; within a week, the world shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rayne believes she dodged a bullet, but still pressed forward with opening a different version of the restaurant. She reworked the business plan into a quick service operation where waffles and variations of grits could shine. Those favoring sweet or savory grits won’t have to choose because Rayne offers fried cinnamon sugar grits and fried cheese grits; or try the fried deviled eggs and cinnamon toast, which are a challenge to find in Southern California.
The grits combinations include fried chicken, fried catfish, or shrimp, while waffle combinations include fried wings, catfish, or choice of sautéed or fried shrimp. And if you only want waffles, Rayne makes both sweet bean vanilla waffle and peach cobbler waffle varieties; there’s even a savory waffle with cheddar and herbs. Peruse Gritz & Waffles’ full menu here.
Rayne operates out of Cloud Kitchen on Washington between Normandie and Vermont Avenues. She sings praises for the Los Angeles restaurant community, which she finds supportive. “LA businesses are very community-focused, which is an interesting flip,” she says. “It’s not like that in Dallas.” Rayne is operating under limited hours for now, but when fully open on February 2, will operate Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m.