Larkin's in Eagle Rock?
Anyone been to Larkin's ("A Contemporary Soul Joint") yet?
1496 Colorado Blvd. (cross Loleta)
Menu with prices follows.
After anticipating this place opening for dinner, we (my Southern born and bred wife, “CB” and I) made reservations at Larkin's in Eagle Rock.
For those of you who’d rather not read on, I'll cut to the chase. We were disappointed. I’d give the place no better than a C grade. Perhaps I’m being kind because the staff was really nice to us.
To be fair, we arrived for our 6:30pm dinner reservations at 6:30pm. It was a Saturday night, the place WAS full and according to our waiter, "Everyone ELSE arrived at 5:30 so, the kitchen is in the weeds." All the same . . .
We were started with a complimentary plate of "Southern Caviar" (nicely seasoned black-eyed peas with onions, green peppers) and a basket of toasted pita chips. Good thing because we didn't see another lick of food for nearly an hour.
Over that hour, while waiting to place our order, we watched food just . . . trickle . . . out of the kitchen. One plate of this for a table, another plate of that a few minutes later. It was odd, as though the kitchen was literally cooking it one plate at a time. I guessed there'd only be 2 or 3 folks working the stove but CB peeked and assured me there were more like 9 or 10 who appeared to be scrambling! What're the odds?
Okay, we wanted to sample as much of the menu as possible. Sure, we over-ordered but who wouldn't under the circumstances? I mean, we're talkin' SOUL FOOD!
-Blue Cheese Wedge Salad
“wedge of iceberg lettuce, topped with homemade blue cheese dressing, garnished with fried sweet onions”
-Warm Okra and Heirloom Tomato Salad
“okra seasoned, battered and fried, tossed with fresh heirloom tomatoes and topped with a balsamic and oil dressing”
-Alaskan Salmon Cakes
“Alaskan salmon, breadcrumbs, cheese and spices. Topped with homemade garlic mayo”
-Good Ole' Fried Chicken
“breaded and seasoned chicken, cast iron fried with baby red garlic mashed potatoes topped with Larkin's special gravy”
-Smothered Pork Chops
“Farm raised pork chops seasoned and seared then smothered in gravy. Served with red beans and rice”
“collard greens sautéed in a skillet with tomatoes, peppers and garlic”
-Mac & Cheese
“Three cheeses twice baked and damned good”
-Aunt Carolyn’s Potato Salad
“Inspired by my sweet Aunt Carolyn’s version. Sweet and spicy will make you slap yo’ momma!”
-Strawberry Short Red Velvet Cake
“Red velvet short bread topped with fresh strawberries, strawberry coulis and sweet vanilla cream”
-Sweet Potato Pie
“Old fashioned sweet potato pie, topped with vanilla bean whipped cream”
When our “Starters” rolled out, we fell on them like starving sailors. The Blue Cheese Wedge Salad was an ubiquitous green triangle (rather miserly sized, I thought, considering the cost of iceberg) with 2 under-ripened tomato quarters, an average blue cheese dressing and maybe 1 teaspoon of over-done fried sweet onions. The Salmon Cakes were 3 silver-dollar sized disks, fried within an inch of being over done with a dab of garlic-ish mayonnaise on top. Edible and forgettable.
The winner was their Warm Okra and Heirloom Tomato Salad. The tomatoes (although I’m unclear how 3 tomato halves qualify as “tomatoes”) were slightly seared and delicious, the okra, crisp and grease-free, the mesclun greens were fresh and the balsamic dressing brought it all together. I’ll definitely make this at home.
Our “Food” and “Seconds” arrived at the nearly the same time although we had to ask for the basket of mini-cornbread muffins which, although promised as "an accompaniment to every meal," seemed to have eluded our server and really should have been served earlier but . . . kitchen . . . weeds . . . me getting a little less tolerant . . . blah-blah-blah.
The Fried Chicken consisted of a very dark (but moist and flavorful) chicken leg and boneless thigh next to a gluey mass of luke-warm mashed potatoes (they MIGHT have been “baby reds” but there was no way to tell) and brown gravy. Okay, the chicken WAS pretty tasty although not as tasty as CB’s. The Smothered Pork "Chops" were actually 1 pork loin chop, smothered in brown gravy. (Forgive my going on about semantics but really!) The chop was an inch and a half thick, lean, juicy and well seasoned; definitely not the overcooked piece of cardboard one might encounter under adverse kitchen conditions. HUGE disappointment; the red beans and rice were, in a word, terrible. Overcooked rice. Undercooked red beans which tasted like they’d been poured out of a can then seasoned with little more than chili powder and sugar. Nasty, actually. Nothing like the sublime, long-cooked red beans and rice we’ve learned to expect from respectable Southern-ese cuisine.
Of the Sides, the Fried Greens were good. The collards had a nice kick from the peppers and tomatoes as well as the other seasonings. The Mac & Cheese was flavored with garlic which I found . . . unpleasant. Out of place, actually. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of the stinking rose, just not in my Mac & Cheese, thankyouverymuch. The much lauded (at least on this board) “Aunt Carolyn’s Potato Salad” was also a flop. Eeew. If it weren’t for tasting like it had been prepared the day before (and from the sitting liquid present in our serving, I wouldn’t be surprised if it had been made TWO days earlier) it might have been a moderately serviceable but unmemorable side. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case and after we each had a bite, abandoned it completely.
Finally, the Desserts. Strawberry Short Red Velvet Cake consisted of a small, red-velvet muffin which was halved and filled with a couple of sliced strawberries, maybe some couli, although I couldn’t swear to it and vanilla cream, a dollop of REALLY sweet thickened cream. The Sweet Potato Pie was excellent. Nearly as good as mine although marred by that overly sweet cream which appears characteristic of so many Southern desserts. Not the cream, the overly sweet part. Ah well.
Here's the rest of the menu, sans descriptions. Last week, when I emailed the restaurant, they sent me a copy of the entire menu (it's only 1 page). Please don't hold me responsible for any typos, errors or omissions.
-Blue Cheese Wedge Salad $7
-Larkin’s House Salad $7
-Warm Okra and Heriloom Tomato Salad $9
-Chile Verde $9
-Alaskan Salmon Cakes $9
-Candied Yam Ravioli $12
-Good Ole’ Fried Chicken $15
-Smothered Pork Chops $17
-BBQ Tiger Shrimp $19
-Fried Greens $5
-Mac & Cheese $5
-Garlic Roasted Corn On the Cob $5
-Red Beans & Rice $5
-Baby Red Garlic Mashed Potatoes $5
-Aunt Carolyn’s Potato Salad $5
-Mama’s Banana Pudding $7
-Black & Blue Cobbler $7
-Strawberry Short Red Velvet Cake $9
-Sweet Potato Pie $8
There were some soft drinks, sodas, “sweet tea”, coffee and organic teas available as beverages for $2 each.
To date, Larkin's doesn't have a liquor license however, there's no charge for corkage and I watched waitstaff graciously open, pour and serve anything alcoholic brought in by patrons. A final note: If you require crystal stemware for the Chateau Lafitte, consider bringing some from your own collection. The house glassware appears to be 8 ounce jelly glasses.
re: Steve2 in LA
Many, many years ago when dining with a young lady from the South who poured my tea for me I remarked that she showed good breeding. I was taken up by the ears and told, "Sir, where I come from we breed horses and dogs, not people." The expression you used took me back many years ago to a very fine Chinese restaurant in Los angeles called Man Fook Low on San Pedro.
Been for brunch a couple of times during their preopening tastings. We've had a very good catfish dish, their very rich 3-cheese mac 'n cheese, potatoe salad, pan fried chicken with potatoes, and a nice, but not too sweet, cobbler.
My husband and I went here last night and really enjoyed it. We started the evening early at Colorado Wine Company where we tasted a Shiraz. As always, CWCo is the perfect Eagle Rock way to relax into an evening. We both tasted a South African Shiraz which was flavorful yet smooth. Sometimes Shiraz is to peppery for me but this wasn't. We bought a bottle and headed for Larkin's. I warned my husband that they had only been officially open for a couple of weeks so we might encounter some fumbling and awkwardness which is to be expected when a restaurant first opens. I usually wait at least a month of an opening before trying a place but we have been anticipating this opening for so long that we simply couldn't wait--and upon arrival it was clear that other Eagle Rockers and foodies felt the same. We got there about 6:30 (super early) and the place was packed. We had a twenty minute wait which was fine and I took as a good sign. Since the resataurant is a converted bungalow, the wait is kind of like hanging out in someone's back yard before the cook calls you in for dinner.
The waitstaff is wonderfully sweet and the interior of the place is warm and relaxing. The meal begins with black-eyed pea caviar and toasted pita. I love this opening. It is fresh and piquant and sets the stage for the food to come--updated soul food interpreted through a California palate. We started with the blue cheese wedge salad. The fried onions really worked well with the blue cheese and the tomato wedges were perfectly ripe. There could have been more onions and my husband thought a little more dressing but the wedge was just the right size. I had the barbeque shrimp and I absolutely loved the sauce. It has that perfect mix of sweetness coupled with a hot kick. The potato salad was good and the portion was fine but I almost think there could be a better side dish to accomany the shrimp or one more item on the plate (maybe the greens). I suppose you could order the sides seperately. My husband had the fried chicken and said it was good but the portion could have been a little bigger. They serve minicornbread muffins. These are delicious but again could have either served a few more or made them a little biggger. We had sweet potato pie for desert and this was perfect, creamy and well spiced.
All in all, the food hit all the right notes and I am sure will only improve. The place exudes warmth and really does feel like a restaurant you would find in the South. This is such a wonderful addition to Eagle Rock and to Los Angeles.
Three of us went last night after finding that our initial choice (The Spot, in Pasadena on Lincoln) is no longer serving dinner. We arrived later in the evening, which might well have accounted for some of the issues we experienced - it seemed like they were really in the weeds.
Pleasant dining areas - warm and comfortable - hostess and servers were all friendly, cheerful, welcoming, and really pleasant (like we wanted to hug them when we left - they were that kind of comfortable). Atmosphere fairly relaxed - lots of laughter from other tables.
Food: complimentary southern caviar and pita chips - fresh and flavorful, though not enough chips for the amount of topping. Anyway, our table had one salad (I think it was the house special salad), two orders of fried chicken, one of jambalaya, side of mac and cheese, two desserts of the cobbler, one order of lemonade (we'd brought a bottle of wine, since The Spot was also a BYOB place), and a cup of coffee. Salad was fine but small and lacking some of the toppings that were listed on the menu (no pears, no cheese). All of the entrees were okay - smallish-sized portions but served piping hot. The chicken was moist and flavorful, though I didn't care much for the breading/coating. Mashed potatoes were bland and while mine had gravy the other person who'd ordered the fried chicken, their potatoes had no gravy. Jambalaya was (again) a smaller portion than the prices would lead one to expect, but the flavor was fine. The side of mac and cheese was quite good, though not what I'd expected (I liked the addition of garlic, though it was a surprise). The two cobbler desserts were a disappointment - cloyingly sweet and lots of sauce/juice to actual fruit ratio.
Service was friendly and earnest, but really slow and our server was horribly forgetful (had to ask twice for the lemonade, had to ask once for the mac and cheese which eventually arrived after the entrees were finished, no mini corn muffins [though the server offered them twice and both times we said yes], no additional pita chips [again, the server offered a refill and we said yes], also had to ask for water refills - cream for the coffee didn't arrive and we ended-up scooping off some of the cream topping from the cobbler to add to the coffee). The entrees arrived within minutes of the salad. When our plates were cleared we asked for the leftovers (two chicken legs and most of the mac and cheese) to be boxed to go - never did get them by the time we left (after asking three times, we gave up). We'd been looking forward to the dessert offerings, but by the time we ordered the only thing left was the cobbler and the server told us that they'd just made a fresh batch (which is likely why it was so juicy - it hadn't had time to set-up).
Would we go back? Maybe, after they've had time to work out the kinks. The service really was charming, if somewhat ineffective, and nothing was terribly wrong with the food (though I'd like to see larger portions that are more in line with the prices) - we left a 20% tip because the service was so friendly and it seemed like they were really trying, just having an overwhelming night.
1496 Colorado Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90041
LA Times had a review of this joint on Thursday, July 12th. If you read between the lines(actually outside as well,) it seems that Irene Virbila had similar experiences to the rest of us but was gracious and forgiving about the flaws. I still can't get past the red beans and rice. Of course, that's just me.
I had been to their "tastings" dinners before they had really opened and I loved the meals/service/overall experience...but then, they did everything for a set amount of reservations...most likely, they are not comepletely prepared for the huge numbers that have ben coming..blessing and a curse, I guess.
I still have not had a chance to go for a dinner since they have been opened to the public, I've chosen to wait a few weeks before going so I wont have a bad experience.
I have been for lunch twice since they opened to the public and I LOVED IT!!!
I had a meatloaf sandwhich that I ate the hell out of! I loved the potato salad! Another solo diner shared his side onion rings with me and they were amazing!!! I had their homemade fruit punch that was SO REFRESHING!!! I went this week and had the Corn Dog!!! Holy Cow!!! SO SPICEY and SO GOOD...again, I had a side of potato salad and it was the perfect antidote for the yummy spicey-ness of the weiner/link of the Corn Dog. The chef, Larkin, was experimenting with some new pickles for his "deep fired pickles" that he will be serving as a side dish..he brought some out and let us try some...I have never had a deep fried pickle before, but I know I'll be having plenty more in the future if they put them on the menu...yeiks...gotta work out some more! We're gonna be going for brunch on Sunday and I can't wait since I've been to their brunch 3x and they were amazing!!! THE PANCAKES!!!
I'm chiming in only because I'm having such sympathy pangs. I used to own restaurants in Minnesota and have been through the "you think you're ready then a million people discover you overnight" thing a couple of times. Our first place got a four-star review from a big critic one month to the day after we opened & we went from slow business to 3-hour waits every night -- it was frickin' brutal.
There's nothing, nothing, nothing worse than a failure to control the pace of seating in brand-new place. All the little problems stack up, the kitchen melts, and the death spiral sets in...
I have to say it sounds like they're at least TRYING to do things right, so I hope people will have a heart and give 'em a month or so to train up and work out the bugs. Who knows -- they may actually know how to make red beans & rice but have had to slap together the short-order version because they were overwhelmed (though they should 86 'em rather than put out a weak version, but that's a lesson to learn, too...)
Glad to see so much happening in Eagle Rock lately. I hope they get their act together.
I second your post...I can tell these guys must have been crazy overwhelmed...a few of my friends have just informed me that they have been recently, and they said thay had a great time but that it was as if they needed "crowd control"...lots of people on the patio waiting, but happy and friendly...one of my friends said it was fine since the host was very apologetic and checked in on them often...there were a couple of disgruntled-postal-type people who were complaining about the wait...what are they supposed to do, kick people out who had the good enough fourtune to get there early...C'mon, it's a southern place...it's supposed to be a "take your time" kinda place....sit, relax, and enjoy the company of the people you came with.
I can imagine how hard it must be since during the "tastings" days, they were very proud to say that they make prep EVERYTHING fresh the same day...what are they supposed to do when they expect at the most 40 people and wind up with over a hundred...start all over again and hopefully have more grub preped the next day.
I wish these guys well cuz I've enjoyed their food and want to have more in the future.
Have you had any of their lunch items yet? I'd love to hear what you think.
My life is currently piloted by a not-quite-two year-old: plunging into restaurants known to be struggling with long waits & a slow kitchen is, well, suicidal.
I am hoping that things chill out a bit in the month or so and I can talk my wife into giving 'em a shot, but it'll be awhile. I wish 'em luck, too.