If you drink good coffee and spend time in Los Angeles, you're no doubt already acquainted with Go Get Em Tiger. Charles Babinski and Kyle Glanville’s mini coffee empire has been well-covered on Sprudge, and for good reason. Featuring some of the best roasters in the country at the G&B and GGET shops, along with a creative menu of insanely tasty and popular holiday drinks every year, these cafes walk a fine line that's hard to achieve: beloved neighborhood haunts that are also on the national radar. With the opening of the newest location in Los Feliz earlier this year, GGET took the opportunity to greatly expand its food menu, and chef Ria Dolly Barbosa is at the helm, combining a French culinary education with the Filipino flavors she grew up eating. Sprudge sat down with her to dish about food, LA, and GGET Los Feliz.
How did you meet and start working with the GGET crew?
Ria Dolly Barbosa: I first met Kyle and Charles when we all opened up G&B at Sqirl together. I was chef de cuisine and the guys ran the coffee and front of house portion of the shop. Kyle approached me about opening up the newest Los Feliz location earlier last year and the opportunity was too good to pass up, so I jumped on and never looked back.
Where do you find inspiration for your dishes?
As of late, I've been inspired by the Filipino comfort food I grew up eating. One of the things I've come to realize is when we cook for people we care a great deal about, it really comes through in the food. So when we train new cooks, I like to ask them to prepare the dishes like they're making it for their mom/dad/grandparents/significant other/etc. That, in turn, inspires all of us to put out the best possible iteration of the dish every time.
I came from the world of very fine, very French dining the first five years of my career, and while I learned so much technique, speed, and discipline, at the end of the day there's nothing quite like being satiated by a dish that's warming and welcoming. Something a loved-one would make for you. Moving back home here in Los Angeles opened my eyes up to seasonal cooking with a warmer, rustic touch thanks to Chef Corina Weibel of Canelé. From her, I learned how to loosen up and take a more casual and familiar approach with food.
So when you combine a traditional French upbringing, casual and rustic California seasonality with riffs on Filipino flavors that are in my blood, you get some of the offerings we have at GGET—my interpretation of old, rustic, organic, and new.
Good coffee bars and roasters are focusing more and more on seasonality these days, which is well-established in food. How do you incorporate seasonal changes in your menu?
We'll update ingredients on dishes such as the chopped salad and the soccatta [a garbanzo bean flour-based frittata]. But I think the seasonal changes shine the brightest on our ever-changing specials board.
Can you give us a rundown of what's on the menu right now?
We've tightened up quite a bit since we first opened but now we seem to have a good grasp of crowd favorites. We've got the sweets that our Pastry Chef Chelsea and her team prepare, veggie friendly menu offerings that can more often than not accommodate our vegan guests. It is LA, so naturally we are conscious of our gluten/dairy/etc. free guests as well. We like to take care of everyone that comes into our doors so it's a rare moment when you'll hear us say we can't accommodate requests.
Think of it as like a picnic or dinner party that you invite your friends and family to and how you'd naturally try to provide something that everyone can enjoy. It's about caring for and feeding your guests the same way you'd make dinner for your loved ones. That said, we've got a variety of sandwiches that we'll rotate with the seasons, a fresh salad, porridge, mung bean pancake, breakfast sandwiches with a twist, and our menu wouldn't be complete without our version of avocado toast and a grain bowl with a Filipino twist.
What's your favorite dish?
That's always a hard question for me to answer. I can only imagine it’s similar to asking a parent who their favorite child was. Although with the weather we've been having lately, the most comforting dish for me right now is the savory rice porridge that I like to add shredded roast chicken to. It's very warming and is very reminiscent of a dish many Filipinos grew up eating called arroz caldo.
Since it's a coffee shop, how do you come up with a menu that pairs well with coffee? Is that a priority, or does the food stand on its own?
For the most part, everything is able to stand on its own. We also have a great variety of teas that are delicious with the food. I think it would be fun to try to pair dishes and drinks down the road.
With the advent of Instagram, a lot of eateries place emphasis on presentation. Do you think there's a challenge when it comes to presentation versus how the food tastes? Is that something you think about when creating your dishes?
It's not difficult at all to factor in functional garnishes, different textures, and height into each dish. Our focus is flavor first and foremost. Playing with presentation is the fun part and creates intrigue. After all, you eat first with your eyes.
What's on the horizon for GGET's food program?
Now that we have a better grasp on a solid all-day menu, the exciting part can soon begin. Rotating specials! We encourage our cooks to come up with a special. It's great because it encourages experimentation and also fosters a supportive teaching environment. That is something we are all looking forward to.