(PHX) LGO: Why all the haters?
I happen to enjoy all of the LGO restaurants: La Grande Orange, Postino, Chelsea's Kitchen, and Radio Milano. I was even impressed by their catering at a recent party (at which I was a guest). I am usually pretty critical of restaurants, so I am curious to learn why others may feel differently.
I'm not a "hater" by any means. My take -- the pizzeria is very, very, good -- good food, good value, reasonably good experience. The salads are also good and I hear the burgers are bueno. I don't dig Postino at all. Liked it the first time, but after that, the reality -- ordinary wine, mediocre food, lovely building, way too much scene for its substance. The grocery? Paltry. Not much there. Hanging over all this is the general hassle dealing with it. It's in a neighborhood, like mine, so I'm reluctant to impose, but then I can't see doing valet -- it's not Westwood or Russian Hill, y'know? The hearsay I've had on Radio is negative, FWIW -- haven't sampled it; the hearsay on Chelsea's (haven't sampled it) is divided. Do they really need valet parking out there? Really ...
I don't think of their valet service as pretention, rather a neccessity. They DO have limited parking, and valet seems to be the best way to deal with it. On a few occasions, when I didn't feel like walking the mile from my house, or paying for valet, I have parked on the street about a block away. And there is parking available in the lots at many times of the day.
At 40th and Campbell, it is necessary to manage the surplus of vehicles since the transit options aren't very attractive for most of the people who choose to drive there, I would prefer pay parking to the valet thing -- I'm a city boy from way back, having paid for parking, trains, buses ... I cheerfully (er, semi-grudgingly) pay for parking and eat frequently in downtown Tempe. But there is no justification for valets at Chelsea's! That's what many find objectionable. Half of a half-empty parking lot roped off -- just another disengenouus way to seperate a hungry hombre from his cash ...
I appreciate the valet option. It makes it pretty effortless to stop by. You think -- you could have a more expensive meal elsewhere, but even factoring in the $5 to valet, the pizzas are still a great value, for the ingredients they use.
I think some people have a mental block when it comes to paying for parking, I know I used to. Now, If I can street park without imposing, I'll do it, but I don't borrow pointless aggravation if it looks full. Life's too short.
i happen to really like the food of LGO and Postino. Cheleas and Radio... eh. But the thing is this: the no reservations/no viable parking thing is out of hand.
We like breakfast at LGO. We've been for the pizza as well and thought it was pretty good.
We don't live in the neighborhood though, or even central Phoenix for that matter. We've stopped going. Driving up from Chandler and then not being able to find parking anywhere is too frustrating. I've tried stopping in for lunch on weekday afternoons when I've been in the area for tennis matches...and had trouble with parking even at that time.
Haven't tried any of their other ventures. Can't say we hate LGO either...we've just pretty much given up. It's good but not good enough to be worth the distance from home or the difficulty parking.
i like lgo and postino. haven't had a good meal at chelsea's kitchen since it opened, and radio milano is just meh.
after having spent a ton of time at the three fountains, the al beadle condo complex, with an s.o. for several years, we gave up going to postino unless it was an off off off hour because you'd never get in. even if we walked from 3 fountains. same for lgo - i'm glad you're able to get a parking spot at 8 am, but that hasn't been our experience for the last 3 years.
Parking is a pain but we love LGO and having Arlecchino's right there. Breakfast, pizza. Happy to fight the parking anytime.
I think this topic may forever be mired in controversy based on the parking situation, similar to how PB is scrutinized for it's long wait times. There is also the critique that it's trying to be something it's not, and it should not be praised because it reminds a lot of people of somewhere else. Aside from all of that, I've rarely heard many critiques on the FOOD, which is what I'm most concerned about. As a local, I've actually never really had a problem with parking at LGO, and if I do anticipate it's going to be a problem, I won't go or I'll take my bike; simple as that. Now, if it required a 30 min drive, I would probably be annoyed at another possible 15 min parking dilemma.
Postino doesn't do much for me, Chelsea's seems to generate mixed reviews although I've enjoyed most of the meals I've had there, so it's LGO for breakfast/lunch or the pizzeria for me. So while I understand some of the gripes by "the haters", I just don't listen until I start to see a decline in the quality of offerings.
My dislike of all restaurants owned by LGO Hospitality has nothing to do with the food, which has always been reasonably good. Instead, it is derived from the policies, practices, and attitudes of LGO's owners and fans. Specifically:
-- No surprise here: the parking. The orignal duo at 40th and Campbell, LGO and Postino, were more popular than expected, creating a parking crunch. That's entirely forgiveable. What is less understandable is the reckless expansion. It was simply irresponsible to open Radio Milano on the same corner. Moreoever, there are even long-rumored plans for a taco stand on the postage stamp lot between RM and 40th St. It's amazing to me that the City of Phoenix hassles Downtown business owners, who have access to ample street parking and garages, over not having enough spaces while allowing this reckless expansion to occur at 40th and Campbell.
Yes, the valet is helpful and worthwhile if I'm going to spend $50 on dinner and drinks, but is it worthwhile for a $10 breakfast or lunch? In addition, the proliferation of overcrowded valet lots in front of Postino and RM has had an aesthetic impact. The whole stretch of Campbell just west of 40th now looks like a big, jumbled parking lot on both sides. The original charming look of LGO / Postino is marred by the car chaos.
To make matters worse, LGO ownership has never displayed any contrition about the parking situation and some LGO fans claim limited parking is actually a feature that makes LGO more "urban." Nonsense. If LGO wants to be "urban," it should open a business Downtown rather than in a neighborhood of single-family homes. Of course, it is possible to avoid the parking hassle by taking Valley Metro Route 60, which passes right by 40th and Campbell, but given the number of luxury cars and SUVS in the valet lot, I think relatively few LGO customers would deign to take the bus.
-- The no-photography policy. Want to take some photos of your food your use on this site, a blog, or just for personal enjoyment? Doing so is not allowed -- even without flash -- without advance permission of LGO management. Such an unusually restrictive policy is rare, but when it is exists, it is found more often in big corporate chains than in local independents. Of course, with five restaurants in Phoenix and expansion to Pasadena, LGO is looking more like a chain all the time.
-- The no-reservations policies. I can understand not allowing reservations for inexpensive pizza and sandwich meals, but reservations should be taken at RM and Chelsea's. The refusal to do so is just needlessly unfriendly to customers.
-- Unimpressive merchandise in the grocery part of LGO. Sure, there's MJ bread and some good wines, but there's also a lot of self-promoting LGO-branded bric-a-brac. The kids table seems full of the same candy I'd find in a convenience store rather than unique hard-to-find items.
-- I dislike the reasons why many people like LGO restaurants. Often, praise of LGO -- on this site and elsewhere -- contains some mention that LGO makes customers feel like they are in another city. If the city is named, it's usually San Francisco. Otherwise, it's some nameless "other city," "real city," or "normal city." This reasoning suggests that Phoenix is somehow "unreal" or "abnormal." As a proud Phoenician, I find this thinking offensive. If I wanted to eat in a restaurant that simulated another city, I'd go to Las Vegas rather than Arcadia.
-- Finally, LGO defenders sometimes dismiss criticism of the restaurants with insulting comments along the lines of "Go eat at Applebee's." No thank you. Read any of my postings here, on other sites, or on my blog, and you'll see a keen appreciation of local, independent, customer-focused restaurants. Unfortunately, I no longer consider LGO within that category.
I may have been guilty of saying that it made me feel like I was "somewhere else," but you are totally right. I don't know where I was thinking of, and now that I don't live in Phoenix I long for those casual mornings with a commuter sandwich that felt oh so Phoenician for me.
Perhaps most of the locals aren't ready to admit that phoenix IS a real city. It's like Boston having to give up on the curse. The only thing more pleasing than genuine goodness is something to complain about.
I'm speaking only of LGO, as I've never eaten at any of the other branches. I always thought that the quality I got there was good for the price, but I had a hard time imagining that they were going to put out something that qualified the prices at Chelsea's Kitchen.
I LOVE Postino and the LGO, but went to a birthday party at Chelsea's Kitchen and the service was absolutely horrible. Had to send my food back twice, also...
Thank you for initiating this topic, as I have often wondered the same thing. We recently ate at Chelsea's Kitchen with a group of 6. The service was very friendly and knowledgable, the food was delicious and we had a great time. I like a casual restaurant where people seem happy to be there, and they are having a good time. We have found both Chelsea and Radio Milano to fit that mold.
Obviously, everyone would prefer a popular restaurant take reservations, but why would owners do that when the place is packed. Reservations only reduce the number of diners every night. As much as we like to romanticize food and restaurants, these folks are trying to make a living. Besides, why not just show up, put your name on the list and chat over a glass of wine or a cocktail while you wait.
These folks have created five great places for all of us to enjoy, and obvioulsy they are doing something right. I, for one, celebrate the success of independent restaurants, and look to the positives they bring our community. I am constantly suprised at the level of dislike shown for these restaurants on the board. Is it because they are too "cool"? Should their ability to attract the Scottsdale or Arcadia crowd be used as a weapon against them? I don't get it. The food is good, the service is friendly, the place is fun...what is there not to like.
I never see anyone say Mary Elaine's is not worth going to because you have to stop at the guard house first, and then either park far from the hotel entrance or valet your car to dine there. Parking at Cowboy Ciao for the last year has been a very difficult, and yet I've never seen one word on here about not going there or Sea Saw because of that.
Sorry for the rant, but this is something I've thought about before. Perhaps giving LGO restaurants another chance with an open mind might be a good idea.
Scottsdale has wanted to be LA for the past 15+ years, so that works for Cowboy Ciao and Sea Saw. Arcadia doesn't fit that mold. Mary Elaine's is at a resort, and people expect what they get when they go there. No comparison.
I think Silverbear hit the nail on the head. I love East Phoenix just the way it is, and dread the thought of it taking on the Scottsdale mentality. LGO seems to have begun this trend.
The positive of LGO is that it has revitalized the neighborhood of Arcadia and brought along other investments into the future of this area.
Don't shoot...but I think LGO is overrated. The pizza is good, don't get me wrong, but it's nothing I would go out of my way for. I found it to be overly greasy, and the quality is that of a chain restaurant. To me, it's on par with Oregano's pizza--not bad at all, but nothing unique; I don' t get the hype. I will say that I do enjoy the breakfasts and breads there.
I guess the attention and fervor just goes to show that we need more quality restaurants in central Phoenix.
Thanks for raising an interesting topic. I'm not a big LGO fan, but I'm not a hater either. And, I must add the caveat that I do live in Scottsdale so - based on other responses here - it's presumed that I must be an "LA wannabe." Actually, to the contrary. I have lived in LA , San Francisco, London and have spent a considerable amount of time in New York City, and I'd take Scottsdale over all those places. The burgeoning LGO empire doesn't make Arcadia akin to Scottsdale, San Francisco, or any where else for that matter.
They have reasonably good restaurants with quality ingredients; nothing more, nothing less. Sure, the parking is awful but we're all spoiled here because the Phoenix metro is basically one big parking lot with only a few exceptions, so any time we have to look for a parking space we complain about it. People from London would think that the parking at LGO is bountiful, so it's all relative.
I think that what it all boils down to me is one thing: attitude. Sure, there are lots of Scottsdale "scene" restaurants that deal out the attitude in spades, but it's pretty easy to laugh at and ignore. The problem with LGO is that they really mean it. Like they really think they're a cut above the rest. LGO serves good ingredients prepared well, and that's about it. I don't think it's really any better than a lot of other similar places.
I don't mind waiting, I don't mind a bit of attitude, and I don't mind looking for a parking space. But I do mind arrogance. And their draconian policies exhude attitude.
It's funny: my wife and I will leave Los Angeles - - - errrr....Scottsdale - - - - and drive to the far west side for food. We'll go south. We'll actually go anywhere if the food is worth it. But we NEVER find ourselves leaving our neighborhood for an LGO restaurant. There are simply too many other great places that don't come with the nonsense that LGO does.
I agree with another Hound's comment that it's nice that LGO has brought investment and rebirth to Arcadia but, let's face it, Arcadia has become stuffier than Scottsdale and I think LGO followed that trend, not started it.
Just my $0.02......
I don't want this to turn into a turf war :-) but "Scottsdale" doesn't just refer to North. South Scottsdale is also Scottsdale and meets the same description you give of Lower Arcadia. I see your point completely regarding LGO; I just think that people tend to define the Scottsdale nightlife/culinary scene based on a very small sampling which isn't reflective of the total picture.