At Larchmont Village, it’s out with the old and in with the new.
Faced with an increase in rent, chicken restaurant chain Koo Koo Roo closed its doors on Oct. 18 after occupying the northwestern corner of Larchmont and Beverly boulevards for seven years. However, Chipotle Mexican Grill plans to fill the vacancy: with construction currently underway, officials say that consumers should expect the business to open sometime in the first quarter of 2013. Similarly, Chef Alan Jackson’s Lemonade signed a lease in mid-Oct. for the 626 North Larchmont space— formerly occupied by Larchmont Larder, an artisanal bakery. Lemonade will open in early 2013, marking the franchise’s eleventh restaurant location in Los Angeles. Although some Windsor Square residents bemoan these changes, claiming that chain restaurants co-opt the authenticity of the Village, I, a Hancock Park resident, welcome Chipotle and Lemonade.
I must admit it: like those of the critics’, my heart too ached when I initially received news of Koo Koo Roo’s closure. But my sadness stemmed not so much from the loss of a savory chicken dinner but from an unsettling sense of impermanence, that went beyond all intellectual understanding into a deeper, more visceral place.
From 7th to 12th Grade, Koo Koo Roo had always served as my family’s pick-up restaurant of preference. Its mouth-watering pot pies had long provided solace (albeit an irrational relief) during crunch weeks. Koo Koo Roo therefore served as an emblem of tradition and security in my family; accordingly, its loss was disheartening.
Nevertheless, I believe that Chipotle is a much-needed addition to the Larchmont strip for two chief reasons: convenience and diversity. As a Marlborough girl with a 40-minute lunch period, Chipotle’s quick-service is an appealing prospect. With Chipotle at our fingertips, we could perhaps avoid long lines and wait times at Café M and instead order, pay, and eat a breakfast burrito with time to spare. Secondly, with the closing of Avocado Grill last spring, Mexican-food options vanished from the neighborhood. Personally, I’ve always had a sweet spot for traditional Mexican dishes–and, I think it’s safe to say that the Village misses the cuisine. Chipotle would thereby contribute to the revitalization of a large and heterogeneous collection of restaurants and shops that make Larchmont Boulevard unique.