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Cafe Nine opens on 9th floor of Crocker Building

May 14, 2009 |  1:35 pm

French toast made with Hawaiian bread that's battered, coated in Cap'n Crunch and drizzled with butterscotch sauce. Credit: Elina Shatkin / Los Angeles Times. When we stumbled upon Charles "Captain Chuckie" Hsieh's food cart in early January (on his first day in business, no less), it was a treat just to find pulled pork within walking distance of The Times building. Since then, things have moved fast for Hsieh. After two months parked in an empty storefront in the Crocker Bank Building and three additional weeks dishing out his signature pulled pork sliders on Hawaiian buns at the Downtown Independent Theater, Hsieh quietly opened Café Nine on the ninth floor of the Crocker Building (also home to the Crocker Club).

Cafe Nine in the Crocker Building in downtown L.A.

For the past two months, Hsieh and executive chef Helen Lu have been expanding and refining the café's small menu of breakfast and lunch dishes. Café Nine prominently features the pulled pork sandwich, but it also serves creative additions like French Toast to the Holy Ghost — French toast made with Hawaiian bread that's battered, coated in Cap'n Crunch and drizzled with butterscotch sauce. The Mora Club sandwich gets kicked up a notch with basil-avocado mayo and the Seven Seas Tuna sandwich features wasabi cream tuna salad, olive tapenade and a hint of mint.

Hsieh and business partners Calvin Lo of Gogo Asian Bistro in Gardena and Paul Su of Spring Center Inc., the company that owns the Crocker Building, have kept things quiet until now. So far most of the café's clients have been people who work in the Crocker Building, which is home to production offices for "Top Chef" and "Project Runway." Hsieh is hoping that after Café Nine's hard opening on May 27, the ninth-floor location won't be a deterrent to a broader clientele.

"I'm trying to make this a divine place to eat at a café price," Hsieh says. "I want this place to be a hidden, tranquil oasis."

Café Nine: 453 S. Spring St., L.A., (213) 622-3888. Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Closed Saturday and Sunday.

— Elina Shatkin

Photos: Elina Shatkin / Los Angeles Times.