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Aug 1, 2001 12:54 PM

Mysterious Cachet

  • m

Ace's cupcake response wondering about the fuss over Sweet Lady Jane prompts Mr Grub to muse again about a question I recently raised in a buried response: What restaurants top your list of places with unexplained cachet?

Submitted for your consideration:
Tito's Tacos -- Maybe if standing on line outside for mediocre Mex-Amer is your thing.
Krispy Kreme Donuts -- Even when hot out of the lard, deep-fried cotton candy.

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  1. I second the Krispy Kreme. I disagree with Tito's, but I think that's a product of growing up in that area and making Tito's the first stop on the way home from LAX during college breaks.

    To me the cachet of all time is Starbucks. Any Starbucks. If you consider that having cachet.

    Other on my hit list is: The Pantry.

    13 Replies
    1. re: Muhlyssa

      Can't say I'm with y'alls on Krispy Kreme. But maybe that's because I like "hot cotton candy." (Sounds sexy anyway!) As for the Pantry, yes, way overrated! Eating there is like getting socked in the stomach. True, you could say that about any number of my favorite places, but then they aren't owned by...Oops! No politics!

      My mystery cachet vote goes to an entire neighborhood -- mine! That is the too-too-trendy Los Feliz/Silverlake area. A friend of mine who made the mistake of going to the new Hwd Hills Cafe location recently complained that you couldn't get a good meal on Vermont. It's true! Vermont and Hillhurst account for nearly all of my most-hated restaurants in town. Fred 60-whatever -- okay, they have good pancakes, but I'm not backing this place til they take those evil noodles off their menu. Mexico City -- they call this Mexican? yuck! Electric Lotus -- Indian food without butter?!? No way! Vida? It should have been a flash in the pan...when are they closing their doors?

      In other parts of town...El Coyote! Okay I liked this place in hi-school but why are all those people still lining up for that swill? Canters? Another hi-school favorite I won't go back to. And not just cause they tried to bust a union. Ooops, politics again!

      In an equally-controversial-but-only-to-a-chowhound vein, I have to say my last trip to Casa Bianca Pizza was disappointing. After my first, I waxed semi-rhapsodic on this board. But the second time left me thinking...too greasy...too salty...not worth the wait... I know, I know, grease and salt are good things.... But...hmm...well, one more try before I really decide it's a case of mystery cachet...

      Chow, Rafi

      1. re: Rafi
        Mike Kilgore

        The one place I have eaten in your part of town that I really liked was Millies on Sunset. Don't know if it's still there but if I was in the neighborhood I would look for it. Vida I also do not understand how it has lasted so long? Went for dinner and wondered what the big deal was supposed to be. Certainly put me off of even thinking about going to Fred 62. Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.

        1. re: Mike Kilgore

          To be honest, I think I over-stated the case a little. (Apologies to all my neighbors!) There are plenty of places I like around here -- including Millies -- although not any on Vermont that I can think of....

          As for Starbucks, it goes without saying that it is to good coffee houses what the Death Star is to the Force. I recently made the stupid and totally inexplicable error of ordering a drink there called "teaberry" something or other --some kind of patented invent-a-flavor I think. It was, well, as bad as it sounds...That one I won't do twice!

          1. re: Rafi

            i think some of the food at Fred 62 is really good (though i know I'm in the minority). Anyways, here goes. The burgers are good, so are the french fries, and the meatloaf and schnitzel are really good and seem to be made of good quality ingredients, although the prices are kind of high for what is basically a trendy,faux-diner. and i must admit the service is usu. pretty bad.

        2. re: Rafi

          What about vermont, the restaurant, on Vermont Ave.? I love Vermont! They're very friendly, I arranged and enjoyed a friend's wedding dinner there (very accomodating and a delicious dinner although her budget was relatively small), and have eaten lunch and dinner there several times (though it's been a year -- must rectify!) and I remember very fondly everything I ate. Every experience there has been a very good one. My only complaint has been that the portions were too big to fully enjoy all three courses! But I've never had anything but truly delicious, well-prepared, pleasantly-served food there, and last I checked it is right there on Vermont! And the crowd seems discriminating and slightly older (over 30).

          In fact, I'm taking my extremely picky uncle there this weekend. This will be the test.

        3. re: Muhlyssa

          The old Spago's on sunset. We had a drunken celebrity spill red wine on a white cashmere sweater, and the fuss was to the drunken celebrity. No mystery here. The food was always average, service snotty, Flowers very pretty, and celebrity quotiont, who cares??????

          1. re: Ginger Wolf

            Alright! I'm glad someone started this thread, I was actually thinking about it:

            Starbucks- I second that emotion. WTF?? Since when did something as ubiquitous (and as bad) as McDonald's become such a hit with the brand-dropping crowd? Seems like everyone needs to be seen with the green cup in hand. Starsucks are not great study locations, it's so damn loud and crowded. I don't get why the students go there. If you need to go to a chain go, to Peet's. No where else are you hit with such a fragrant aroma of coffee!

            Pink's- Sorry, I know many Hounds swear by it. I like the snappy dogs, I really do... I just don't want to wait half an hour outside for one. But for a satisfying hot dog, Costco. $1.50 and all you can drink soda fountain. 2 minute wait at the most.

            El Cholo (Pasadena) - I'm not sure if the other locations are as hot, and I've only been to the one on Western. I don't get it. It's poor combo plates. You can get one anywhere.

            Cheesecake Factory - Dosen't take reservations, always a 30+ minute wait. For what? Rock hard frozen cheesecakes trucked from a "factory" in Calabasas?? And the food isn't worth sneezing on either.

            Crustacean - If there's any place that is meant for the see and be seen folks and not Chowhounds, this is the place. Bad food, high prices, snooty help, lots of hype, tons of people.

            Ahhh... now that I've vented, I feel better.

            1. re: Panoz

              Thank you for the rant on Starbucks. I have yet to find out what is the big deal on their overpriced coffee. There is a corner in a Vancouver shopping district where there are two Starbucks kitty-corner from each other. I don't know if it was for competition or collaboration. For good coffee, I personally vote for Coffee Bean. The original ice blendeds are often imitated (Frappucino? Yuck!) but never duplicated.

              1. re: Can

                Fourbucks, opps, Starbucks. Students drinking green cup coffee, on whose dime anyway?! I second the motion on Peets, it's richer, darker, more flavor less acid.

                1. re: Ginger Wolf

                  Crazy Fish sushi restaurant on Olympic in Beverly Hills - lemmings city!

                  1. re: M.O.E.

                    ugh! here, here! i do not understand the cachet of crazy fish at all, or any of the others mentioned above and below. i mean, i love the look of the pantry but the smell and actual feel of the place kinda gives me the willies. i definitely would have put el coyote in here, too, before last week. i wrote the place off as disgusting and mysterious about seven years ago, but my friend talked me into stopping by early on a weeknight (a bearable crowd), and the margaritas were great and the food just about edible. I was shocked, but the quality of the food still does not warrant the crowd.
                    the mysterious cachet list could go on forever - especially in this town, where mysterious cachet seems to prevail.

              2. re: Panoz

                Bravo to you for mentioning Crustaceans in your thread....all flash and no can add Indigo to this list as well

          2. 1) Don't mess with Tito's, man.

            2) The sudden hipness of Krispy Kreme can only be due to evil genius marketers. I don't have a time machine, but these small dense super-sugary things that you get nowadays seem to have little to do with what I grew up with in Knoxville, TN. And whats the point without geriatric waitresses bringing coffee at 2:00am anyway?

            3) My nomination for this category: Apple Pan... the old school atmosphere and paper cones are great and all, but the burgers look like a glorified version of what you get at In & Out.

            2 Replies
            1. re: C. Sprouse

              1) Don't mess with Apple Pan, man! Granted, it's just a burger with red relish (I never order the Hickory Burger - blah), but it's all about sitting at the counter with the fries coming up first, coke in a paper cup...

              1. re: Joe Blowe

                AND the burger has FLAVOR. AND the fries are super hot and crisp.

            2. I have a fear, sometimes, that sometimes I accuse something of being trendy and supported for not-really-food-worthy reasons because I don't get it.

              Except for the Wolfgang Puck restaurants. I'm sure those are just trendy and unworthwhile.

              But, for example, Tito's Tacos. I think that's all context. A bunch of people I knew kept talking about it, so I drove cross-town to get some and I was horrified. What the hell was this, right? Simple, greasy, Americanized. A few months later, I'm on a wander waiting for somebody. I'm a little cold and hungry, and I stop in at Tito's and - whammo - the stuff slides down like greased gold. I'm in love.

              I think there are some places whose primal glory is best experienced unthinkingly. When you're going to a place in chowhound mode, your critical faculties are on, you're searching for complexities and nuances and originality. When you're tired and hungry, you're open, maybe, to some very direct pressures - the flavors of burned meat, a good amount of grease, a good zing of saltiness. And some places orchestrate those direct pressures a lot better. Tito's. Apple Pan burgers, whose goodness, I think, lies in the exact ratio and saltiness of meat, onion, lettuce, and their weird relishy condiment.

              Krispy Kreme too - once I established it as something glorious in my mind and travelled across town to get some, I was disappointed. But the first time I stopped off at a KK in NY, and just wolfed it down - like I'd treat any other doughnut - I was just hit by how much goddamn better it was than any other doughnut. But it's only better in its broad strokes - in the fluffiness of the Kreme.

              Which is not to say that all greaseball places are actually just unappreciated gems of primal goodness. Most aren't. But a few of 'em - I've felt the hunger for Tito's at three in the morning. (I *want* to eat at a fine restaurant. I *relish* the idea. I appreciate it's *greatness*. But Tito's, I *hunger* for deep in my gut, and on my tongue where it tastes salt and nothing else.)

              Final note: I'm tired of people attacking Starbucks. In defense of Starbucks - I defend Starbucks the same way I defend Barnes & Nobles. Yeah, big city folks can complain and complain about how they're putting better independents and all out of business, and sure it's makings worse for the cosmopolitan elite, but grow up in some medium sized town or suburb outside of the big-10 cities, like most of the people in this damn country grow up in, where the only bookstore in town is a mall Waldenbooks and the only coffee you can find is undifferentiatable from actual honest-to-god stewed *dirt* - grow up where I grew up - and the arrival of Starbucks and B&N is like the first touchdown of an advance army from heaven.


              8 Replies
              1. re: Thi Nguyen
                Richard Foss

                I was in England last month and after a couple weeks without a single cup of iced tea, that Starbucks in Oxford Street looked sooooo good. It was the first time I had been glad to see one. I think it was only the second time I had ever patronized the place, save for airport locations where nothing much else was offered. Still, I see your point even though I don't happen to like Starbuck's or Krispy Kreme for that matter. If it's downtown Barstow and the choice is Starbuck's or Denny's. I'll bet the place looks like civilization.

                Tito's is another matter. Considered as Mexican food it is pretty pathetic, but it does satisfy something primal, something teenage in all of us that is still beneath the surface and likes fast cheap food that hits the gut. Considered as fast food, measured against the competitors in the I'm-in-a-hurry category, Tito's place rules.

                I disagree with some of the other comments in this thread because they are holding places to a standard that I don't think they are trying to achieve. Fred 62 should get some credit because while the place does exploit its trendiness and there is a considerable flaky factor in the service, it's the best food you're going to find at midnight in a wide radius. Besides, anyplace that can serve their pancakes and that tofu scramble can't be all bad. The vegetarian BLT with crispy fried onions instead of bacon is pretty good too. I wouldn't go there for anything more complicated, but keep it simple and they do a good job.

                1. re: Richard Foss
                  R Gould-Saltman

                  Re The evil S empire: Those of us who rag on Starbucks don't do it because they are bringing coffee to the great wastelands, but because they have a nasty tendency to wait until a local yokel tries to break into a local market with a espresso place, whether in Kansas or West Covina, and when and only when the location and market are "scouted" on someone else's dime, move in across the street (some times literally).
                  Same-o with B&N books.

                  1. re: R Gould-Saltman

                    I'm realizing that my notes in agreement are getting all too frequent, but I think number one, Thi expressed his thoughts eloquently and number two R G-S is absolutely right about Starbucks. I worked for the company when it was small, in Seattle, before it's evil world takeover. I've been horrified over the years to watch them sprout up on every corner ESPECIALLY across the street from indepently owned coffee houses. It's disgusting. I make an effort to cross the street. The coffee is generally better at a place like the Green Room in Hollywood anyway. Or at least a tad less acidic!

                    1. re: julia
                      Mike Kilgore

                      "You don't know what you lost till it's gone, pave paradise and put up a (Starbucks) parking lot"

                      1. re: Mike Kilgore

                        Why do we go to Starbucks? Because it's there. It's everywhere. If we could only get a Peet's down here in LB, and get them to stay open late . . . I think we'd all dump Starbucks in a caffeine-accelerated heartbeat.

                        1. re: Mike Kilgore


                  2. re: Thi Nguyen

                    "Eating" is different than "dining" and both have their place and purpose in my mind. While it is easy to be "enlightened" during a great dining experience, it is infinitely more difficult (and rewarding) to appreciate the everyday act of eating. Hmmm, maybe that's too philosophical - anyway, if you liked Tito's Tacos, go around the corner (on Sawtelle) to Don Felix and be "enlightened"......!!

                    1. re: Thi Nguyen

                      Tito's Tacos!

                      I do not care what anyone says! I have traveled he world and Tito's Taco is just simply the very best! Just go there and you will see, mexican people do not flock there in groves because the food is bad. Those who say Tito's is bad, well you are just sad, or you own a looser taco bell......LMAO!

                    2. Boy, you guys are a tough crowd...Casa Bianca, Krispy Kreme, The Pantry? Well, I'm with ya on Fred 62. The food is good, but the quality-to-price ratio is just ridiculous! I do take out-of-town visitors there sometimes, they usually have fun, but the novelty has long worn off for me. Krispy Kreme is what it is. As for Starbucks, yeah, I think it belongs on the Mysterious Cachet list, but when I hear people call it "the worst coffee I've ever tasted," I kinda think "dude, have you ever tried Folgers or Maxwell House?" You can always find a better cup in LA if you look. But to reiterate Thi's idea, just try to find a better cup in rural North Dakota or Alabama!

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: chris o

                        Speaking for myself I think I was in kind of a pissy mood when I posted below. (kind of embarrassed about it actually.) As it happens, I wound up at Fred 62 late last night -- figures! -- when I found myself waiting for a movie at the Los Feliz 3 with an out-of- town cousin. I can say this much, the brownie sundae I ordered was considerably better -- better ice cream, tastier and fresher brownie -- than the one served at Swingers on Beverly, a similar retro-trendy-diner for those who don't know it. Also, I have to admit, my wait-person was friendly and fairly attentive, not usually the case at Fred's. Nonetheless, I can't help finding Fred's annoying -- the more so because I tend to wind up there on nights like last night. Maybe it doesn't belong in the "mysterious cachet" category but rather the "can't help going but resent it" category. Same category you might put, say, Starbucks in, if it were the only place to get a latte in your neighborhood... Anyway, only positivity from this chowhound from now on... at least for a while...


                      2. I don't get the fuss over LaSereneta. A tiny piece of fish in a pool of sauce that costs more than 3 trips to a real down home Mexican place.