Breakfast and lunch are served! For Veterans and employees on the West LA VA campus looking for a morning or midday meal, the Veterans Canteen Service (VCS) in Building 306 has reopened following a renovation, offering enticing new options.
The Medical Center (Building 500) VCS location has also added some fresh new foods.
“With the grand opening of new permanent supportive housing in Building 207 it’s important that we have this ready for our Veterans,” Canteen Chief Kyle Jewell said of the recently renovated canteen. His grandfather, great-grandfather and father-in-law are all Veterans, so he cares deeply about providing superlative service to those who served.
Building 306, aka PatriotStore/Café, is open 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. It features a grill with traditional breakfast items like eggs, sausage, and grits, as well as lunch (think burgers, cheesesteaks, fried shrimp) plus daily specials including fish on Fridays, stir fries, pastas and more.
Prices are reasonable: $8 for a bacon burger, $5 for a BLT, $2.50 for French fries or onion rings.
Two new catering companies – Westwood Eatery and Family Fusion – are handling food service and merchandise sales, Jewell said. The premises also received a “facelift.” There’s new signage, fixtures, tables, flooring, condiment stands and point-of-sale system.
Army Veteran Evan Fahy was eating at a table outside Building 306 on a sunny Wednesday afternoon. “I like the changes,” Fahy said. “I’ve been using this canteen on and off for years, maybe decades, and I like the new layout. It’s very open, lots of light and air.”
The PatriotCafé food court in Building 500 is open 6 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and the PatriotBrew coffee shop (which features Starbucks) is open 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.
In Building 500, visitors can dig into new Tex-Mex offerings like burritos and enchiladas. "We want to give a great product for our Veterans and employees," Jewell said of the changes.
Both canteens have extensive retail selections, but Building 500 has a whole separate PatriotStore that sells everything from Veteran-specific clothing to cosmetics to air fryers. Ear buds are the most popular electronics item, said Jewell. The store is open 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
VCS was created as a national program in 1946 to offer reasonably priced goods and services to Veterans, caregivers and visitors. In addition to on-campus shopping, Veterans can also register and shop online for special deals.
As far as food, the two PatriotCafé locations are trying to offer healthier options in addition to more traditional grill items.
“Be Well is of high importance to our organization,” Jewell said. (Be Well is a VA initiative that prioritizes healthy eating.)
“We want to embrace living Whole Health through the healthy food options that we provide,” Jewell said. “To note, salads are now readily available via a served salad station. Also pressed juices, acai bowls, and wellness shots are all offered at the canteen in Building 500.”
Jewell likes to order the green smoothie at the juice bar. He’s also a fan of the new Tex-Mex eatery. “I get the chicken and beef burrito and it’s a lot of food. It has the rice, the beans and all the fixings, it’s really good.”
Every month, the grille location in Building 500 will be offering a new healthy special. For April, it’s a $5 gourmet vegan grilled cheese: multigrain sprouted seed bread grilled with vegan cheddar cheese, caramelized onions, tomato and spinach.
“The selections are really good, there are a lot of healthy choices, and the prices are way improved from what they used to be,” Fahy said of the overall updates.
"We want people to know we're here, we're open, and we're ready for Veterans to come back in and experience this new dining space," Jewell said. "They're able to sit here and eat and have community with each other."