Joan's on Third Owner-Chef on Repeat Customers, the Absence of Gluten-Free Bread and Changing Tastes

Courtesy of Joan's on Third

Joan McNamara launched the beloved casual-chic restaurant 20 years ago this year.

This story first appeared in the Jan. 30 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Casual-chic, industry-beloved Joan's on Third turns 20 this year. First launched by owner-chef Joan McNamara as a catering company in 1995, Joan's added a cafe and gourmet marketplace three years later that has been thronged ever since for its high-end comfort cuisine. Today, Joan's — where A-list spottings include David Lynch, Eli Roth and Katy Perry — serves a staggering 1,000 customers in the course of a typical day at the Third Street store. (Last year, McNamara opened a second location in Studio City.) Daughters Carol and Susie hold down the catering and operations, leaving McNamara — a New Jersey native who calls customers "family" and is given to whipping up off-menu items like biscuits and gravy on a whim — to do what she loves best: preparing and serving "really very simple food."

Are there really people who come here every day?

Every day. And if they're not here, they call me up. It's designers, writers, travel agents. We had a screenwriter, David Sussman, who moved to New York. He wrote every day at his certain table near the front. We called it his office.

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Are a lot of assistants coming in to pick up for their bosses?

Some of them must be, because we get large orders for, like Family Guy, a lot of the TV shows. I don't think the writer runs over here to pick up.

How do you respond to changing tastes?

We're continuing with the food that we opened with. If there are trends, we stay on top of them. We have a wonderful kale salad — we never had kale salad before because I don't eat kale. We have a sushi station now. It's new!

You don't offer gluten-free bread, though. Why be a holdout?

It's just so specific. We offer so many wonderful things that a person will come in and find something else.

What's on the menu today that always has been around?

The macaroni and cheese. That was my mother's — I grew up with that as a child. The BLT sandwiches. I feed those to my family.

How did you get started in food?

I ran a cooking school in New York years ago, and I had a little omelet restaurant. They're the same omelets I do now on weekends.

Who are some of your Hollywood customers?

I tell you, I don't remember anyone's name.

Is the Studio City location similar?

Yes. I even designed it so there's a David Sussman table up front. Someone asked me, "Well, isn't he in New York now?" And I said, "Don't worry, there's going to be another David Sussman."