Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Los Angeles Area >
Mar 3, 2010 07:33 PM

Good restaurants that make you sad because they're empty all the time

You know the ones. The waitstaff stare out the window longingly like dogs waiting for their masters. You feel depressed eating there but go anyway because the food is so good. Name them so we can keep them in business!!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. It's not always empty, but I've had some really lovely meals at Izakaya Bincho when no one else stepped into the restaurant whatsoever. Such a shame because the food and the people there are so good.

    9 Replies
    1. re: noahbites

      We've been when it's crazy busy, and other times as you mention. And when IB is light on guests, the lookie-loos that poke their heads in assume that the place isn't worth trying and just keep walking. I have to shake my head, knowing that they just passed on a golden opportunity.

      1. re: bulavinaka

        I'm ecstatic to hear that they are still in business.

        1. re: bulavinaka

          Done the same thing but I admit, in all the times I've gone, it's been fairly busy (or as busy as a tiny place like that can be) in fact, I've seen them turn REGULARS away because they were just overwhelmed (Which they happily chirped that they'd back tomorrow... it really made me proud of our laid back South Bayers... ;D)

          I think because the Izakaya is such an evening thing, that the crowds turn out later... I've closed the place down and the energy in there was just as if they party was ready to roar for another 2 hours... LOL!!


          1. re: Dommy

            I'm so glad to hear this. We're usually the early birds who come in around 6PM.

            1. re: bulavinaka

              Okay, we went last night - again, early-birdish at 6PM. Aside from one lonely eater at the counter, we were it - a party of four gorging ourselves for almost two hours. I think we had 14-16 plates, beer and sake. By the time we left, still no one. What time do folks start showing up here?

              1. re: bulavinaka

                Sounds great. What sort of per person cost did your feast end up tallying?

                1. re: Servorg

                  About $30 less tip - left $40 on the tip.

                  1. re: bulavinaka

                    33% tipping...Now that's a tip! Thanks. That is such an inexpensive price for what sounds like a true revelatory meal.

                    1. re: Servorg

                      >>33% tipping...Now that's a tip!<<

                      Based on your post on Junior's, I learn quickly. :) We always enjoy the food there - it's always top notch - and the service is always very attentive and helpful. I have to admit that there was a bit of a pity factor in there because the place was empty.

                      The tab can vary quite a bit because the prices per dish range from a few bucks up to around $15 for the nabe dishes and of course drinks are the wild card. Here's their website - the menu is relatively abbreviated.


                      We've been absent from IB for a while, and Megumi-san wasn't there last night - the first time I'd been where she wasn't around. The lady subbing for her was very nice, but Megumi-san is just a gem. She has a fantastic intuition for what customers there want and need, and her interactions with us have been nothing but endearing.

                      IB really needs to move out of this space - I think it's killing there potential. Because all sorts of folks show up at the pier - and I do mean all sorts - people who have no business here drop in trying to sell mangos, toys, etc., and some even come in trying to panhandle. Tomo-san handles them with as much respect and restraint as he can, but I can tell it's wearing on him.

      2. Well, I'm not sure that it's good because the menu was so limited (because the restaurant was so empty) but La Luna Negra on Green in Pasadena.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Jodie

          Service is HORRIBLE and the food isn't very inspiring and expensive. I don't know if they got their liquor license back but the last time we were there they couldn't serve alcohol. Tapas without wine just doesn't do it for me.

          1. re: dkawai

            they had their ABC license revoked for non payment but now have an active license...but, agreed, i'm not sure that helps in improving the service...incredibly slow, with long waits in between items, and sometimes a bit confrontational (insisting it was what you ordered when they bring the wrong item...i think we can tell eggplant from tomato.)

        2. I feel this way about Golden Triangle in Whittier. Part of the problem is that the restaurant is ridiculously big.

          5 Replies
          1. re: sillygoosedown

            Golden Triangle surely wins for square-footage-to-occupied-table ratio - I agree, if it were in a strip mall with 10 little tables, it would probably be packed. Hope it's not off-topic, but anyone know what was there before?

            I'm not sure I've ever seen an actual diner inside Shalimar (Overland/Jefferson in Culver City) but I imagine people get take-out since I've seen some reviews on this board saying it's ok.

            I'm always sad by the sight of the empty El Rincon Criollo (Sepulveda in Culver City), because Cuban places seem like they should be bustling.

            People were recently pleading for Sazon on Washington near Centinela to be "saved" - I was actually back since then, and it's exactly as I remembered.

            I wonder about Mariscos Chente actually - each time I've been in there - usually for lunch, it seemed there were a couple tables of non-locals (maybe read the reviews?) and lots of friends of the owners just hanging around, walking in and out. Can this last forever?

            Hard to remember others, since that's the thing about empty restaurants - they tend to close fast, and usually for a lot of good reasons.

            1. re: cant talk...eating

              You're right about the last point.

              Obviously the food at Mariscos Chente is very good, but it should be more popular. Imagine diners' delight at being served the pescado zarandeado plated elegantly in a quaint little restaurant. Atmosphere counts.

              And if the problem with Golden Triangle is this obvious to us, you have to wonder why it's not obvious to the owners.

              1. re: cant talk...eating

                ICTE, I know what you mean about Mariscos Chente on Centinela. The Lennox (or is it Inglewood?) one is pretty slow whenever I pass by that one too. I usually notice that when I'm cruising back from Don Rogelio's further south on Inglewood Avenue. One day Viola, owner of Don Rogelio's mentioned how slow it's been there. The food there is straightforward tex-mex, but it's done nicely and the folks are super nice. Even "streetgourmetla" has given them a shout out. Yes, and Claudia at Sazon is another one. One thing that bothers me too is these are really nice, hard working and sincere people who should be on the receiving end of our hard earned money. "Sillygoosedown" good topic, I've thought about this myself. These places deserve our support and appetites!

                1. re: Feed_me

                  Thanks for the tip on Don Rogelio's - I'm up and down Inglewood a lot these days and wonder about those Hawthorne/Lennox places I pass. They all look so sketchy from the outside but I was sure there were some gems in there!

              2. re: sillygoosedown

                I went there this last Saturday for take out. There were a few people in there. I ordered the special goat curry with coconut rice, salad and homemade ice cream. The goat curry was delish and the coconut rice was sublte. I was worried that the coconut would overwhelm the curry but it did not. The salad's dressing was a tad too sweet but I loved the concept of a cooling, crunchy slaw to compliment the heat of the curry. The ice cream was a cooling end to the meal. It was bright green and I couldn't define the flvor. Green tea? Vanilla?

                I will be going back to Golden Triangle to try other things on their menu.

                Golden Triangle
                7011 Greenleaf Ave, Whittier, CA 90602

              3. Toshi Sushi, excellent and a great deal. 1st and Central downtown.
                Sadly, most restaurants are empty for a reason though.

                1. I have one for you, sillygoosedown - Le Chalet Basque in Old Towne La Puente. It’s quaint, old school, as authentic as it gets and, yet, very lonely. I’ve been the sole patron in the restaurant proper during my last three dinner visits over the past year. There were a couple of die-hards in the bar room – they probably could lift themselves from their seats due to the lethal power of the drinks they serve. Try the Long Island Iced Tea – “where are my damn car keys? … Oh.”

                  A true take back to another era, the 1940’s when it opened, to be exact. It appears that nothing has been changed or updated. Same family ownership. Even the original cash register still stands. As for the food – hearty, delicious lunches and dinners prepared and served in true Basque tradition. Escargot, Frog’s Legs, Duck L’Orange, Stuffed Cabbage Rolls, Lamb Shank, Veal, Pork, wonderful soups, all served family style. The food and service are excellent. Open daily, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.

                  I know ... it is a bit off the beaten path and in an area that time has seemingly forgotten.

                  Le Chalet Basque
                  119 North Second St.
                  La Puente, CA 91744
                  (626) 330-9033


                  5 Replies
                    1. re: degustateur

                      Your post piqued our interest and we headed east to Le Chalet Basque. Le Chalet Basque was like going into a time warp with the quaint downtown neighborhood and old school decor. The menu was interesting and the place was as empty as described; no other patrons in the dining room the whole time we were there. The family style portion of the meal included soup in LARGE tureen that could have served 8, spaghetti, thinly sliced and lightly dressed beef tongue, Tolosa style beans, and ham with tomatoes and peppers. All hearty and palatable, but we weren't careful not to fill up before the entrees arrive.

                      Pan fried chicken, lamb chops, and sliced roast beef were our entrees for the night. A half chicken came nicely cooked, but on the salty side. Lamb chops were a bit pass medium rare, but flavorful. Not sure about the sliced beef, but it must have been OK since it was completely consumed. Boiled green beans reminiscent of grade school accompany the entrees along with a choice of twice baked potato, frittes, or rice. Sated with plenty to take home, we finished off the meal with a refreshing salad of iceberg and romaine in a light vinaigrette topped with bits of blue cheese. Overall it was a quaint and enjoyable meal. Hard to say if we would have ever found this place without Degustateur's post, but we're glad we came and tried some Basque(-ish) food. Definitely off the beaten path and empty as heck with the sounds of KUSC permeating the dining room. According to our server, after Lent the patrons will flock back to LCB.

                      Maybe a road trip to Bakersfield for more Basque cuisine is in order, but that's for another post.


                      Le Chalet Basque
                      119 N 2nd St, La Puente, CA 91744

                      1. re: mpken

                        Hello, mpken

                        I am so glad that you visited Le Chalet Basque and liked it. I thought of it immediately when I read sillygoosedown’s post. I’m heading back there soon to get my frog’s legs fix. Thanks for taking the lead in giving them a try.

                        1. re: degustateur

                          Recently saw frog's legs on the menu at the Dal Rae in Pico Rivera, fwiw.

                          Dal Rae
                          9023 E. Washington Blvd., Pico Rivera, CA 90660

                          1. re: carter

                            Thanks for thinking of me, Carter. I’ve had them at the Dal Rae a couple of times. Very good, but I prefer Le Chalet Basque’s version – a bit less oily. In fact, I just had them there last Saturday.

                            Your mentioning the Dal Rae calls to mind another old school restaurant, The Golden Spur, up in Glendora. Solid food and service, very good frog’s legs and, unlike the Dal Rae, somewhat lonely.

                            I would really love to find a place that serves frog’s legs fresh, never before frozen. I’ve encountered them once before on a blind tasting menu at The Golden Truffle in Costa Mesa. Wow, what a treat!

                            Dal Rae
                            9023 E. Washington Blvd., Pico Rivera, CA 90660

                            Le Chalet Basque
                            119 N 2nd St, La Puente, CA 91744

                            Golden Truffle
                            1767 Newport Blvd., Costa Mesa, CA 92627

                            Golden Spur Restaurant
                            1223 E. ROUTE 66, Glendora, CA 91740