Cinnamon vegetarian restaurant in Highland Park-Its day hath come!
The most anticipated resaturant in Highland Park History? The Snakes on a Plane of Latino-vegeto cuisine? Well, the wait is almost over as CVR is apparently opening on Saturday September 23. This place promises to be unique, to say the least (anyone for soy protein carnitas or wheat protein in adobo sauce?). Like I say, promises to be interesting! See you there at 8AM!
I ended up here on Wednesday, expecting the worst. I did not get the worst. It was fine. I lived, and here I am, writing about it.
That said, I would not go expecting a great Mexican meal - go with your favorite vegetarian to make up for all those times they settled for side dishes.
I was meeting two others, one a veg. Service was fine, and we were served fast. The server was a woman, who was efficient and attentive, but seemed slightly confused by non-menu English, so I switched over to Spanish (but consider that the neighborhood is 80% Spanish-speaking...).
I started w/ a glass of carrot juice, which was good, normal carrot juice. Not being veg myself, I opted for the only lunch item that looked unadulterated by gluten/soy products (personal bias, sorry!). This was the enchiladas suizas. They were cheese-filled, topped w/ a tangy salsa verde and served with a small serving of shredded lettuce and avocado slices, plus a bit of "Spanish rice". The cheese inside wasn't melted, but it was sorta warm (remember - low expectations). The plate didn't include beans, so I ordered a side, which was pretty bland but otherwise not lard-filled for those who keep track of such things. The whole thing was under 10 bucks.
With respect to the "sterile" atmosphere, I dunno - it felt a whole lot better than most of the joints along Fig (consider the pupusa place next to Payless, or the fish taco spot across from the carwash...). It's clean and calm. Would I go back? With a vegetarian in NE L.A.? Sure.
I've been there a few times, each time with the hope that things have improved. I really WANT to like it - it's close, vegetarian with vegan options, one of the guys from Luna Sol Cafe (RIP) was doing consulting for them, as mentioned in the comment above. But the food has been inconsistent, the service not so great, and the atmosphere not always the best either (went in there once and there was a LOT of incense or something in the air - maybe they were just trying to get rid of a bad smell, but...).
The hash browns are pretty good. I had the "carnitas" tacos a few times, and once they were really good; the other times kinda mediocre.
I'll probably still go here sometimes because it's close, convenient, and different from my normal spots, but I would be hesitant to recommend it to almost anyone.
The taco spot on Colorado in Eagle Rock isn't totally great either, but I think it's maybe a better bet for veg Mex in that general area.
My daughter and I gave it a try and will never go back. what a shame! Horrible food. How can you ruin rice for heavens sake? The fajitas were inedible. The shrimp cocktail was edible but not good, except for the tomato sauce itself. The soy tacos--yikes. Very, very bad. Bland. Tasteless. Weird textured. My daughter is a vegetarian, I'm not. But, I've gone to many veg restaurants with her and the food is good. Not at Cinnamon. And, the service is very very slow. We'll never go again.
I did try it within a few days of opening, and while my experience wasn't nearly as bad as yours, I wouldn't call it inspiring either. I decided to give it at least another month or two to work out the kinks before trying again to form any kind of comprehensive evaluation (see Oinkster threads for an illustration of the disastrous consequences of expectations). I will say that my meal, soy carnitas and chorizo were about what you would expect from a sort of macrobiotic soy pork plate, take that as you will. The service was confused, but not hostile and certainly within the realm of expectation for a new place, especially realizing that you're in Highland Park here, not Beverly Hills. FWIW, my wife really liked her mushroom soup. Will definitely comment again when I have more data.
Tasted some of the dishes yesterday afternoon......
Overall it was very good.....
Shrimp Cocktail - excellent flavor, usually have to do some major doctoring to get it to the point that they serve it.....mushrooms in place of shrimp.
Ceviche - did not like it at first bite, but after a few more it became addicting.....a nutty flavor...sounds weird but really good.....soy protein in place of fish...
Chorizo Taco - good, texture is not too far off from the original....better than soyrizo.....hints of cumin flavor.
Milanesa - "Happy Bread Steak" as it appears on the menu....this was my least favorite.......appearance was just like the real deal but it was kind of spongy and did not have much flavor. Made w/Gluten wheat protein.
Posole - so - so......I did not add anything at all though......no lime, onion, cilantro etc..........maybe that would have helped.......it was still okay but could be better w/all the 'accessories' ........ Made w/soymeat.
Folks running it have ran or worked at Luna Sol, Blue Hen and are involved w/the Int'l. Yoga House on York Blvd.
Menu looks really good.......salmon, greek salads, smoothies, full breakfasts........
More testing to occur tomorrow (wed.) - will report back.
And yes, it will open the 23rd.!
Terrible service, sterile and uncomfortable atmosphere, and poorly prepared food are the impressions I left Cinnamon in Highland Park with. Initially starving when I came here with a friend one weekend, I left angry and with an empty stomach.
We were seated promptly enough as there was only two other tables occupied with a family of eight and two other guys. That said, once we were half way seated, the waiter who handed us menus immediately asked us what we wanted. Being that we just got the menus and had not even had a chance to crack them open (not to mention we weren't even comfortably seated yet) there was no way we were prepared to order. So, asking for a minute, we were left alone to get acquainted with our options but not before my friend decided to order a Coke. A second later, the waiter returned to ask if it he wanted Diet Coke or regular Coke. Seeing that my friend didn't say "Diet" when he ordered a Coke, this appeared rather strange and unnecessary. Off hurried the waiter again.
We made our choices and had to wait twenty minutes for our waiter to come back and take our order. Seeing that the practically empty restaurant only had two other groups of people who were already eating, I couldn't understand why our waiter was trying so hard to ignore us. In the meantime, we had plenty of time to enjoy the ghastly decor. The restaurant's interior - with its Pepto Bismol pink and marshmallow green walls, it's overly bright and eye searing overhead hanging lamp, and a vase of real mixed with fake flowers perched on the table - failed to please. The place felt like a hospital waiting room and dental office all rolled into one. Also, two little girls (I assume they were the proprietor's daughters) were running circles around the area and playing tag when they weren't gawking at us while an old grandmotherly woman sat at the far end glaring at us. To say the least, this was quite an uncomfortable wait.
Finally, after making us wait 20 minutes, our waiter reappeared and took our orders while a few more customers trickled in. I asked the waiter about which one out of two particular dishes he would recommend ordering. Instead of answering my question, he decided to ignore the two choices I pointed out and just tell me he would order a different item listed on the menu. Then, as if he realized that this did not sound too good, he kept insisting everything was delicious. My friend also had to ask for his Coke again as we hadn't gotten anything yet aside from some pretty foul tasting tap water in glasses. He was handed a small glass along with the Coke and a ridiculously long and unwieldy straw.
As we sat there waiting another 35 minutes for our food, watching people who came in after us get theirs, we got very impatient and I was starting to feel a bit angry as we were supposed to go somewhere and our food didn't look like it would be coming soon. Finally, after being seated for approximately 55 minutes, our food came. Lo and behold, the waiter had got my order wrong and tried to pass off a dish neither of us ordered. At this point, I was no longer in any mood to eat and asked to have my order canceled - but not before a woman who barely spoke any English came out to contest my order for 5 minutes and not understand a thing I was saying.
My friend got his burrito, which was poorly made, being that it was exceptionally bland and two bites in, unraveled and dumped all the remaining filling out onto his plate. The waiter apologized for messing up my order and made up a totally implausible excuse for it. Five minutes later, he had the cook cook up my original order and delivered it in record time. This added fuel to the fire as I couldn't understand why I had to wait 55 minutes to get what was served to me in five minutes. Pressed for time, upset at how much time had been wasted and the terrible service and unimpressive food, I left Cinnamon vowing never, ever to return there again. Even though the waiter insisted we didn’t have to pay, another of the workers didn’t understand and we heard muffled protests in the back. We left money for the food that did come and left swiftly.
In his/her Sept. 14th comment, slowrider mentioned, "owner/s have never run a restaurant before" and I heartily agree. My one disappointing visit really illustrated this fact. Though I don't doubt how very tough it is to run a restaurant, there are many restaurants that out there that do do a good job. In the future, I'll stick with them instead.
We had a very similar experience we went on Opening Day. It sounds like they have not improved much. A full detailed review can be found on Yahoo reviews titled NEVER AGAIN. It was a long and fustrating affair to just get dinner. We havent been back yet. We thought we might give them another try - but it sounds like its way too soon.
If all goes very well that will be the opening date........
Robert Lopez who used to run the Luna Sol Vegetarian Cafe by MacArthur Park is their consultant and advising them on every aspect of running the restaurant (owner/s have never run a restaurant before)tells me they are not quite ready.....
They are only starting full cooking/dish tests this wknd. (which I am going to get to sample - will report back)so it may or not be the 23rd. Keep the fingers crossed.