Medusa Lounge--Tears and Beers
I was never a regular at the Lowenbrau Keller but once in a while, when in the mood for kitsch, I would surrender to the Nazi plunder décor and beefy serving wenches. The Keller is no more but has been reincarnated into the Medusa Lounge and the new management has replaced the dirndl skirted waitresses of yore with gothic waifs and the marching tunes with bland alternative rock. The mature gent seated next to us blanched when his server’s belly button jewel grazed his entrée. Some cushiony bar loungey sort of furniture has been added to the front of the house but the restaurant itself, even the crappy uncovered Formica tables, seems largely unchanged.
We arrived on time for our 7:30 reservation and there was another party of four seated and the rest of the tables were unoccupied. The hostess offered us a drafty tiny table between two pillars, stating that it was all she had available as it was a busy night. I moved to leave and we were offered a nicer table. When we finished our meal, one other large party had been seated but the other tables were largely empty.
The good news is a selection of more than half a dozen really excellent beers on tap and reasonably priced--$16.00 for a 60 oz. pitcher. This might be one of the great bargains in the city. There was also a menu of those high falutin’ cocktails that other people seem to like, all at $12.00 a crack. The menu is not ambitious. There are a few German type dishes—a pork loin and a sausage platter, as homage to the former incarnation. Other entrees are wild salmon, kobe beef and the usual suspects. There were no specials but Himself ordered the soup of the day, a bland corn chowder without much flavor and a sort of gnarly corn that either came from a can or was cooked in such a way as to approximate that taste and texture. I started with a Caesar salad which had impeccably fresh and perfectly cut hearts of romaine, a workaday dressing, boring croutons and (surprise!) capers, a clever innovation certainly worth trying (only) once, but alas, a caper is not an anchovy.
The service is genial, if immodestly clad, but our main courses were just dropped willy nilly in the middle of the table and our appetizer plates were left in front of us. I asked the server to recommend between the vegetable platter and the vegetable burger. The website menu indicates that the burger is made from scratch in house. The menu on site that I ordered from did not indicate this. The burger suspiciously looked like the preformed packaged variety and the taste was acrid and the texture mealy. It was served with garlic fries which were the o.k. coffee shop sort, sprinkled with parsley and with no discernable garlic. I asked the server if indeed the burger was made in house and she assured me it was. She asked me if I’d liked it and I replied that I did not and no conciliatory gesture was made.
Himself, also at the server’s recommendation ordered potato gnocchi which were dense and leaden and murky tasting. The dessert offerings were limited to mango ice cream, chocolate cake and bread pudding, none of which appealed so we just ordered some coffee. But, and I am still reeling in shock, and had it not been for a hearty consumption of excellent fairly priced beer I might be completely apoplectic, The Medusa Lounge does not serve coffee or tea. This would be sort of weird if it was a beer bar that served bar food only but this place purports to be a real restaurant and has a menu with entrees, that at least based on the menu description, reach far beyond the realm of mere bar food. Is there another restaurant in the universe (except perhaps in areas where there is a religious prohibition against the consumption of caffeine, but they probably would not have beer either, let alone our patronage) that does not serve coffee? Sheer lunacy! But the beer was delicious.
Great review - I haven't been there for 20 years but can't wait to go back. Regarding the lack of coffee/tea - it may be a lease restriction. Horrible, but it happens. WineWorks is a delightful wine bar with full dinner menu including dessert in O.C. (I-5 at Oso Parkway east.) The Owner is an Irishman named Darren. He told me his lease restricts him from serving coffee/tea because Starbucks is next door and they demanded it from the landlord. So he or is staff will go to Starbuck's and purchase whatever the diner desires, bring it back and serve it, until he renegotiates this insane term of his lease