TUCKED AT THE END OF A QUIET RESIDENTIAL STREET NEAR THE BANKS OF THE LA RIVER, THE FROGTOWN SANDWICH SHOP WAX PAPER IS A LEGITIMATE LABOUR OF LOVE.
The place is owned and operated by Peter and Lauren Lemos, who fell in love in 2012 while working at a downtown LA restaurant and then transformed their shared affection of sandwiches, and each other, into one of the area’s most charming indie businesses. This all came after Peter worked his way through the LA food scene, with stints at some of the most high-profile restaurants in town.
The decidedly more down-home Wax Paper opened in December 2015, with the pocket-sized shop – roughly the size of a shipping container – quickly making a name for itself with the help of a few other names. Indeed, this sandwich emporium is known for naming its sandwiches after famous NPR hosts, but the real claim to fame at Wax Paper is how ridiculously good the Kai Ryssdal and Terry Gross are. And not to forget their best seller – Ira Glass – made with avocado, cheddar, alfalfa sprouts, pickled and raw red onion and garlic aioli. The sandwiches are healthy and hearty (plan to take home leftovers), with the bulk of ingredients sourced from local vendors including Continental Gourmet Sausage and GrowGood Urban Farm, which provides employment to the residents of an adjacent homeless shelter.
Proving themselves to these long-standing local businesses was important to Peter and Lauren, but instead of announcing themselves to Frogtown with a splashy opening party, they just kept their heads down and worked until the neighbourhood caught on. “We didn’t come in like a wrecking ball,” Lauren says. “We respected our community’s history and feelings and slowly earned our neighbours’ respect.”
She’s not kidding – the entirety of the nine-person Wax Paper staff started out as regulars who enquired about working at the shop. They all love music, Lemos says, “to an abnormal degree” with the “non-discriminatory music environment” pumping everything from metal, new wave and 90s rock to early-2000s emo/punk and pop classics.