CC Foodie – Yalla Opens Downtown

o-1Eating out and eating clean do not have to be mutually exclusive. Add in eating inexpensively, and it’s a winner.  Yalla Mediterranean is now open in downtown Culver City, and the flavors and aromas all come across as both healthy and delicious. The space formerly known as Daphne’s is now featuring a fast & fresh concept with the choice of style (wrap, salad or plate) for an entree and selection of sides.

At an ‘invitation only’ soft opening for the benefit of the Culver City Education Foundation on December 4th and 5th the crowd was treated to a wide variety of mediterranean dishes from Israeli couscous to Turkish Carrot salad. The center of the plate is open to falafel, keftah, steak or salmon.  Pomogranate lemonade and mint tea are beverage options if you want to step away from all the usual soft drinks, and alcohol is available if you want beer or wine with your basmati rice and stewed lentils.o

Open for business this week, it’s a welcome addition to the “we can feed you lunch in half an hour for ten dollars”  list on Culver Boulevard.

So what turned Daphne’s into Yalla? Daphne’s Greek Café was founded in 1991 by George Katakalidis as a chain known for its classic pita sandwiches with various grilled meats and spicy feta dip.

The chain grew to close to 80 units in the West pre recession. But after the economic downturn took a toll, Katakalidis put Daphne’s into Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2010. A few months later, it was acquired by banking firm Trefethen Advisors LLC, led by Bill Trefethen, who attempted a brand revitalization, changing the chain’s name to Daphne’s California Greek.

In 2014, however, Daphne’s changed hands again, this time acquired by investment firm Victory Park Capital Advisors. Wolfgram, the former chief executive of Black Angus Steakhouse, was brought in as CEO. So, we’re not talking mom-and-pop cafe here. This is corporate restaurant, but well thought out, and following the successful Chipolte and Panara Bread idea of leaning into local and clean.

The salmon is advertised as wild, and the menu designates GF as gluten free for those who have not yet mastered the art. There is a list posted of local suppliers, so you can figure your meal has a light(er) carbon footprint. The Fire Feta, that tongue-tingling spicy cheese dip, is the only menu holdover from Daphne’s. Keeping a taste of Greece on the menu  should bring back the folks who were lining up for pita sandwiches under the old signage.

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