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

sillygoosedown Mar 3, 2010 07:33 PM

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. ipsedixit Mar 29, 2010 03:00 PM

    After reading all these posts, I think I'm more sad about bad restaurants that are full all the time ...

    1 Reply
    1. re: ipsedixit
      aching Mar 29, 2010 03:06 PM

      But that's a whole different post (ahem, Toast!). =)

    2. DrBruin Mar 16, 2010 08:36 PM

      Baja Fish Grill off of PCH near Western in Harbor City.... the owner is nice, the prices are reasonable, the portions are decent, and the fish tastes fresh. He's been eek'ing out a living for 4+ years now, and I am hoping he is able to stay in business.

      1 Reply
      1. re: DrBruin
        annapurna7 Mar 29, 2010 02:49 PM

        X 2

        This place is great and every time I go there, there *might* be one other person eating.

      2. c
        cdub Mar 15, 2010 03:52 PM

        Tampa Garden in Reseda.

        Nice Chinese lady that makes dumplings and noodles by hand. I was there for lunch on Saturday and the only other 2 people there were ordering $3.99 lunch specials and complaining about there being nothing prepared so they would have to wait.

        3 Replies
        1. re: cdub
          bulavinaka Mar 15, 2010 07:34 PM

          I told my wife about Tampa Garden since she has been working in that part of the valley for a little while. As much as she enjoyed it and talking with the nice folks behind the counter (my wife speaks Mandarin and Cantonese), she was sad to see it so light on customers during the lunch cycle as well.

          Not having been to the place myself, I can only guess that this place partially suffers because of an identity crisis. As much as they probably want to put out more authentic dishes, they know they need to put out the standard lunch specials to pay the bills. I hope more folks who live in the valley support this place and draw toward the dishes that would really put this place on the map.

          Conversely, when my wife went during one weekend, business was up - way up. Lots of Chinese folks trying their goods. I hope they were impressed - my wife was.

          1. re: cdub
            sillygoosedown Mar 15, 2010 08:07 PM

            Will check it out.

            1. re: cdub
              Jelly71 Mar 16, 2010 01:25 PM

              i was there Saturday night getting take out and saw about 3 tables full. but it was still early-ish for a dinner rush, i think.

              and i love knowing that i am waiting because they are cooking the food that i just ordered. i have no problems waiting for that! it's worth it!

            2. SaltCod Mar 15, 2010 12:33 PM

              The Rainbow at lunch is always empty! A friend and I have business lunches there all the time because it's like a private dining room. Steak sandwichs with melted provolone, nice salads, pizza, of course, house made sausages dunked in marinara and my favorite chicken soup in town. At that time a day, the service is fast and friendly too.

              1 Reply
              1. re: SaltCod
                Ciao Bob Mar 16, 2010 11:53 AM

                Have you ever had the meatball sandwich, SaltCod? I know it is only served at lunch and I have been told its great.
                "Friendly "service is what you meant, right? Not sexy, surly, sultry, distracted, bored, stoned, angry, morose, crusty or la-dee-da service?

              2. n
                NAspy Mar 13, 2010 02:05 PM

                Koutoubia on Westwood Boulevard -- on a Saturday night they had maybe 8-10 tables going, and they have two decent sized rooms. I really like their food, though I guess the days of these Moroccan places being the go-to joints for FUN and birthdays is long gone.

                Part of the problem might be the fixed price menu. For what you get, it's very worth it, but it is about $40 a person.

                1 Reply
                1. re: NAspy
                  Sgee Mar 13, 2010 09:09 PM

                  Lum Ka Naad, Thai in Reseda. Great ingredients, presentation and authenticity. All at great prices to boot.

                  However front of house operation is a mess; the proprietor almost never acknowledges diners preferring instead to lavish attention on his few buddies when they show up. Only when the single waiter on the floor is completely overwhelmed will he lend a hand. I think they will fare better if he spent a bit more time taking care of his clientele at his own restaurant. I was there yesterday nite (Friday) and he did not even saw good nite when we left in a practically empty restaurant and even made eye contact as we were walking out.... jeeez.

                2. m
                  mc michael Mar 9, 2010 12:35 PM

                  It never seems busy at Victor's Deli (Bronson & Franklin), but I like it that way. Maybe Bill owns the building and doesn't need the place to be busy in order to make money. He charges enough though.

                  11 Replies
                  1. re: mc michael
                    maudies5 Mar 11, 2010 02:59 PM

                    The Daily Grill in Brentwood appears to be empty all the time. It's a really big space and that space looks very big when there are so few patrons. I guess more folks would rather go to the Cheesecake Factory which is in a neighboring building.

                    1. re: mc michael
                      coffeebrownies Mar 13, 2010 04:51 PM

                      I love Victor's Deli, too! I wish it was busier...it is definitely one of those old faithful restaurants. (I was there the week it opened....) I love their breakfasts, their pastas, and especially their wonderful steak fries.

                      1. re: coffeebrownies
                        soniabegonia Mar 15, 2010 01:51 PM

                        I was there the week it opened.... >>> WOW! Were you in your diapers?!? Victor's Deli has been around since 1929. Or are you talking about a different Victor's?

                        1. re: soniabegonia
                          coffeebrownies Mar 15, 2010 07:43 PM

                          The deli/wine store, now closed or maybe reopened under a different owner dated to 1929. But the restaurant, under Bill Gotti's ownership dates to May (I believe) of 1990. In the fall of 1990, I had their liver and onions (one of my faves there) and gave birth the next day, right on schedule--it was better than the Caioti salad.

                          1. re: coffeebrownies
                            mc michael Mar 15, 2010 08:28 PM

                            Gotti owned the deli/wine store. The folks operating it decided to retire. Gotti sold that part of the property about a year ago.

                            1. re: mc michael
                              coffeebrownies Mar 17, 2010 06:10 PM

                              No,I think its the opposite. Rick, whose last name I can't remember owned the deli/wine store. Bill Gotti is the owner/host of the restaurant.

                              1. re: coffeebrownies
                                lil mikey Mar 19, 2010 09:55 PM

                                Rick Levy is the son of Victor Levy, namesake of the center. He owned, and to my knowledge still owns the center. He owned the deli/wine store.

                                1. re: coffeebrownies
                                  mc michael Mar 22, 2010 06:51 AM

                                  Rick owned the business. Bill owned the property. He sold it to The Oaks folks. Ask Bill, you'll see.

                                  1. re: mc michael
                                    mc michael Mar 24, 2010 10:13 PM

                                    But you are correct about the rest of the center. It's still owned by the Levy family.

                          2. re: coffeebrownies
                            mc michael Mar 15, 2010 02:08 PM

                            Are you talking about a re-opening after some remodeling not that long ago?

                          3. re: mc michael
                            lil mikey Mar 15, 2010 09:22 AM

                            "He charges enough though."..... That's an understatement, and probably explains why he's not busy: $7.50 for a bowl of soup; $12.50 for a turkey sandwich with cole slaw on the side; $9.75 for half a sandwich.....

                            Compare to a whole pulled short rib and french onion dip sandwich next door at The Oaks for $9.75, a BLT for $9.50 or a chicken piccata sandwich for $9.00.

                            Having said that, though, like mc michael, I like uncrowded restaurants. And the chicken soup at Victor's is a favorite despite the price.

                          4. omotosando Mar 9, 2010 12:23 PM

                            Alcazar Express on Westwood Boulevard does not seem to have found its audience, which saddens me because I think the food is excellent and certainly heads above anything else in the area (among other things, I can't stand the nasty lettuce that all the Persian restaurants in the area use).

                            Unfortunately, I think the location (catty-corner from the CVS) is not auspicious. That stretch of Westwood Blvd. does not have inviting storefronts and parking is a chore. Still, I hope they find their audience. Jonathan Gold in the L.A. Weekly just gave it a good review. http://www.laweekly.com/locations/alc... I love the borek, the fattoosh, the baba ghanoush and I have also had some amazing soups which were most definitely made from scratch.

                            Alcazar Express
                            1303 Westwood Blvd.
                            Los Angeles, CA 90024
                            (310) 914-9777

                            11 Replies
                            1. re: omotosando
                              a_and_w Mar 15, 2010 09:43 AM

                              Agreed re Alcazar Express. Please support this place, people -- it's really something special.

                              1. re: omotosando
                                bulavinaka Mar 21, 2010 09:47 PM

                                I was at Alcazar Express Friday night. I've mentioned this in other posts about how when we dine out, we tend to go on the early side. We went at 5:45PM for dinner, and the crickets were chirping, the kitchen wasn't going yet, and the counter person was bored as heck. I hope I'm not the kiss of death for places on this post.

                                1. re: bulavinaka
                                  coffeebrownies Mar 24, 2010 11:40 PM

                                  I've gotten lunch there about once a week and they seem to have a good take out biz, so I don't think they are doomed, yet.

                                2. re: omotosando
                                  sillygoosedown Mar 21, 2010 09:58 PM

                                  I will make a point of trying it.

                                  1. re: omotosando
                                    aching Mar 29, 2010 01:35 PM

                                    I decided to try Alcazar Express last week because of this post, and I agree on both counts - delicious food, and so sadly empty! There was only one other group in there the whole time we were (on a Thursday night), making for a grand total of six customers. And yet - the food was so good! The baba ganouj in particular - so delicate but with a distinct smokiness - yum! I also had a falafel sandwich and was impressed (the inclusion of mint was a really nice touch and should never be omitted). I hope they manage to stay in business somehow!

                                    1. re: aching
                                      bulavinaka Mar 29, 2010 02:19 PM

                                      While waiting I could hear what I would guess was the pounding of spices in some sort of mortar/pestle in preparation of our food. After being presented with the food, I know that this is what I heard. Most places don't go through these extra steps to assure this level of flavor.

                                      I still scratch my head wondering why they decided upon this space. I would think they could have opened up in a far more convenient location and with fewer food options, (particularly from that general part of the world). I'd bet they would be doing some serious business. Persian cuisine rules this part of Westwood - Alcazar might be partially suffering from what many potential customers view as being "kinda the same kind of food." Consider the Persian places that offer hummus because they've been lumped into Middle East/Mediterranean cuisine. And Sunnin has been on this general part of the street for so so long. With it being a budget eater's haven, I don't know if Alcazar will eventually overcome the issues checked off in the minus column.

                                      I applaud them for bringing on some serious efforts in this particular cuisine to the Westside, but I still think that, like many of the places listed on this thread, the location might be their worst enemy.

                                      1. re: bulavinaka
                                        aching Mar 29, 2010 02:23 PM

                                        I had the same thought about fewer offerings! I think a more targeted menu might serve them better. But the location doesn't seem so inconvenient to me - we had no problem finding parking right in front of CVS - and I would have thought it would appeal to all the students living in the area, especially since it's a good value. Perhaps a more casual approach would work better?

                                        1. re: aching
                                          bulavinaka Mar 29, 2010 02:46 PM

                                          I know that the demographics have somewhat changed since my days at UCLA, but I think the pricing is far above the average UCLA student's meal budget. Granted, Alcazar is not shy about serving sizes, but still...

                                          You snagged parking right in front of CVS? Wow - were the stars aligned for you. :) I usually spend five to 10 minutes looking for parking in that part of Westwood. A little determination and patience almost always results in a parking spot around there, but one has to read those parking signs.

                                          I will be sure to return - I think like most on this board, I am willing to deal with at least a few hurdles to have a shot at some great food. I hope enough non-Chowhounds are as well.

                                    2. re: omotosando
                                      westsidegal Mar 29, 2010 08:34 PM

                                      parking there can be more than a chore, they TOW in that stretch, and if that happens to you you are looking at a tab in excess of $300.

                                      nevertheless, i will try to go there and CAREFULLY read the signs since i'm a fan of middle-eastern cuisine/

                                      1. re: westsidegal
                                        bulavinaka Mar 29, 2010 10:10 PM

                                        I was on Abbot Kinney the other day and witnessed a guy coming out of Intelligentsia with drink in hand. He walked up to his car that had probably been ticketed no more than a minute or two. Giving his cup one stern look, he muttered, "Sheesh - you just turned into the most expensive cup of coffee I ever had..."

                                        1. re: bulavinaka
                                          maxzook Mar 30, 2010 08:53 AM

                                          The coffee would have qualified even before he got the ticket.

                                    3. s
                                      SoCal Foodie Mar 6, 2010 06:38 AM

                                      Jolly Jug in El Monte. This place serves very good French dip sandwiches but it's normally deserted whenever I go which is quite often.

                                      1. katydid13 Mar 5, 2010 05:39 PM

                                        Whenever I go to Marouch (Lebanese) on a weeknight, I'm one of just 2 or 3 parties, it seems. I love the food there! And I also love Cafe Verona on 2nd & La Brea, which only seems to be busy on Sat. & Sun.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: katydid13
                                          lil mikey Mar 5, 2010 06:52 PM

                                          I've had the same experience at Maruouch for lunch.... mine is one of only a few tables occupied. And the same thing for Cafe Verona for breakfast.... very poorly attended.

                                          But they both have great food.

                                          Same goes for Crown of India on a weeknight...No one in there. But I understand they have a good lunch crowd from the studios.

                                          1. re: katydid13
                                            sillygoosedown Mar 5, 2010 07:19 PM

                                            Great call on Marouch. Marouch is underappreciated on this site too. The food is really good. The muhamarra is spectacular--one of the most exceptional things I've eaten in LA.

                                            While I agree with some posters that usually it's the restaurant's fault that it's empty, I don't understand why Marouch isn't more popular. The atmosphere is reasonably nice.

                                          2. y
                                            yogachik Mar 5, 2010 02:10 PM

                                            Bar Hayama on Sawtelle and Monte Alban. Sadly, Cynthia's on Montana would have been on my list, but it just closed.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: yogachik
                                              mollyomormon Mar 5, 2010 03:18 PM

                                              Maybe we'll have to meet up and check out Stefan's!

                                            2. s
                                              sillygoosedown Mar 5, 2010 05:40 AM

                                              My next choice: Yoma on Garvey in the SGV. Another Burmese restaurant. Arguably as good or better than Golden Triangle. Definitely has a more interesting menu.

                                              Burmese cuisine is a final frontier. Even to those experienced with the cuisines of all the surrounding countries, Burmese cuisine is exotic and takes some getting used to. Nevertheless, many dishes at Yoma are instantly delightful despite their strangeness (e.g., tea leaf salad). Moreover, virtually all the dishes will be intriguing, if not delicious, to this sites' hardcore ethnic-restaurant-hopping chowhounds!!

                                              5 Replies
                                              1. re: sillygoosedown
                                                banjoboy Mar 6, 2010 06:52 AM

                                                I play poker sometimes with a Burmese man (his family is of Chinese descent) and he's always telling me to go to Yoma. Thanks for the reminder, Sillygoosedown. I think I will try it out now. Any dishes that you recommend in particular?

                                                1. re: banjoboy
                                                  sillygoosedown Mar 6, 2010 07:00 AM

                                                  Try tea leaf salad, Burmese tofu salad (which is made from chickpeas somehow, not soybeans), samosa salad, and the monhinga (fish noodle soup). If you're with others, I would try a large variety of the salads since they all tend to be enjoyable and they're all cheap.

                                                  You can see some photos of the menu and many dishes here: http://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/eqELXi...

                                                  Note also that the restaurant has an interesting whiteboard of specials (which one person describes as "the only menu that matters").

                                                  1. re: sillygoosedown
                                                    TonyC Mar 9, 2010 12:31 PM

                                                    ^^ Hehe, that'd be me. Majority of the Yelp pix posted was from a 30-person dinner I hosted nearly 1.5 years ago. Yoma, sadly, is still very quiet, but it's cuisine is so far and above Golden Triangle it's not funny.

                                                    1. re: TonyC
                                                      SauceSupreme Mar 13, 2010 01:52 PM

                                                      After having recently had a positive experience at Burma Superstar in the Bay Area, I can't wait to try out Yoma.

                                                      1. re: TonyC
                                                        sillygoosedown Mar 15, 2010 01:41 PM

                                                        I agree regarding Yoma being better than Golden Triangle. I've never understood why it doesn't get more attention here. Thanks for your contributions to getting it attention!

                                                2. omotosando Mar 4, 2010 10:23 PM

                                                  The late great Sushi Tenn on Sawtelle. The food was amazing, but the place was always empty and sadly one day it was gone - the chef I assumed decamped back to his native Hokkaido. Still miss the place.

                                                  1. DrBruin Mar 4, 2010 09:43 PM

                                                    Bombay Tandoori and Banquet off of PCH in Torrance.

                                                    10 Replies
                                                    1. re: DrBruin
                                                      mstinawu Mar 14, 2010 12:21 PM

                                                      I've concluded there there is no decent Indian food in the South Bay. Is that place any good? I've never tried it.

                                                      1. re: mstinawu
                                                        Das Ubergeek Mar 15, 2010 07:48 AM

                                                        Indian food in the South Bay suffers from what I know as "Little Saigon adjacency syndrome"... meaning the Viet places just outside of Little Saigon are pretty uniformly awful (couldn't compete in Little Saigon but didn't want to be far away), and Indian restaurants seem to suffer the same problem with Artesia so close by.

                                                        1. re: Das Ubergeek
                                                          westsidegal Mar 15, 2010 08:36 PM

                                                          i LOVE your turn of phrase, das.

                                                        2. re: mstinawu
                                                          Bradbury Mar 15, 2010 08:33 AM

                                                          For Southern Indian food, I'd agree. For northern Indian/Punjabi/Pakistani, you should try (if you haven't already) Al Noor on Inglewood & Marine. Their paneer tikka masala is a thing of hallucinogenic beauty. Great nehari, haleem, karahi, and tala gosht too.

                                                          (As regards the subject of this thread, now that Al Noor has taken over the property next door, they look emptier than they used to...)

                                                          1. re: Bradbury
                                                            sillygoosedown Mar 15, 2010 01:44 PM

                                                            Al Noor is very good. It's probably the best northern Indian/Punjabi/Pakistani in Los Angeles. However, it doesn't seem like the South Bay to me, it seems like the ghetto. But that's OK. I didn't know they took over the property next door. I am pleased to report that every time I went to their tiny little location before there were plenty of diners.

                                                            1. re: sillygoosedown
                                                              Peripatetic Mar 16, 2010 03:39 AM

                                                              "it doesn't seem like the South Bay to me, it seems like the ghetto"

                                                              Out of curiosity, what's your definition of South Bay?

                                                              1. re: Peripatetic
                                                                sillygoosedown Mar 16, 2010 08:37 AM

                                                                Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach, Palos Verdes

                                                                1. re: Peripatetic
                                                                  Peripatetic Mar 16, 2010 10:42 AM

                                                                  "Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach, Palos Verdes"

                                                                  I think you may mean the Beach Cities:

                                                                  - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beach_Cities

                                                                  Even a restrictive definition of South Bay includes Lawndale:

                                                                  - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Ba...

                                                            2. re: mstinawu
                                                              DrBruin Mar 30, 2010 07:51 AM

                                                              I've liked it whenever I've gone. The owner is nice. I think it's location (i.e. being the restaurant associated with a chain motel) is the problem. This is actually part of a small chain that has a location off of Wilshire in Westwood area called India's Tandoori.

                                                              One of my coworkers who was born in India went there and stated the food is good.

                                                              Wilshire Restaurant
                                                              2454 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA 90404

                                                              1. re: DrBruin
                                                                a_and_w Mar 30, 2010 08:36 AM

                                                                India's Tandoori on Westwood is very solid, so that bodes well for the place you mention.

                                                          2. a
                                                            arisp Mar 4, 2010 06:22 PM

                                                            This is what I used to think regarding Kiyokawa, until JGold destroyed the calm, quiet and perfect atmosphere. Good luck getting a reservation now, not to mention being able to eat a meal in less than 2.5 hours... I'm sad that it's packed all the time (not to mention the smaller pieces and portions now)...

                                                            1. raytamsgv Mar 4, 2010 01:47 PM

                                                              There are too many places to list. Usually, it's a small mom-and-pop restaurant that has some very good items along with some average items.

                                                              5 Replies
                                                              1. re: raytamsgv
                                                                JThur01 Mar 4, 2010 04:34 PM

                                                                ray, give some specifics...if they're in the SGV, I'll try and give them a visit.

                                                                1. re: JThur01
                                                                  raytamsgv Mar 4, 2010 08:05 PM

                                                                  Sorry, they're closed down. One of them was particularly heartbreaking because I walked in as the guy was closing down. It's sad to see someone put so much heart into their small restaurant only to have it fold.

                                                                  1. re: raytamsgv
                                                                    TonyC Mar 9, 2010 12:28 PM

                                                                    Speaking of Mom/Pop in SGV, if ANYONE knows what happened to Railroad Bento, please let me know.

                                                                    1. re: TonyC
                                                                      raytamsgv Mar 9, 2010 12:37 PM

                                                                      Where was it located?

                                                                      1. re: raytamsgv
                                                                        TonyC Mar 9, 2010 01:00 PM

                                                                        311 E Valley Blvd San Gabriel, CA 91776. "Formosa" Railroad Bento has been replaced by a really bad noodle shop. The owners took my email 2 months or so before they closed, but this was nearly a year ago. I have heard naught.

                                                                        Also curious where the Pho Le Loi folks went. Major bummer. Granted, Yu Garden is great, but Le Loi had really good pho ga.

                                                              2. c
                                                                Clyde Mar 4, 2010 09:29 AM

                                                                Sushi Nisha-Ya was always empty when we went- sometimes we were the only ones in there our entire meal. It bummed me out b/c i want them to stay in business! Last time we went we couldn't even get a table or a spot at the sushi bar! The time before, we got there early, had a table, and then watch it get packed throughout the evening to the point where people were waiting. i guess that's awesome for them- but i always loved knowing that we'd always have a table there.
                                                                Another place that is usually empty when i go is Joom - my favorite neighborhood thai place on Beverly/Orlando. i think they do a lot of delivery/take out... they are always packing stuff up.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: Clyde
                                                                  Das Ubergeek Mar 4, 2010 10:05 AM

                                                                  You mean Nishi-Ya on Victory in Glendale? I've always only gotten the last available seats there. The couple of times I've been to Golden Triangle recently it's been hopping too.

                                                                  La Huasteca never has enough people in it for the size of the place... it's weird. And the Stanton Thai Nakorn is always packed but the Garden Grove one, despite being better, is often just empty.

                                                                  Until the OC Register reviewed it, Mariscos Puerto Esperanza was always as dead as a doornail despite having really good food.

                                                                  La Luna Negra is empty because tourists don't want Spanish food and locals have already been burned.

                                                                2. j
                                                                  Jelly71 Mar 4, 2010 09:23 AM

                                                                  There is a little Mexican fast food type place in Reseda called Enchilada Grill. It is on Reseda and Vanowen.I have eaten there twice and loved their food. the first time i got Huevos Rancheros and the 2nd time I got Chilaquiles. both times they asked me how i wanted my eggs done and made them perfectly.

                                                                  The food is really good, but both times I was the only one there. I think their proxmity to Melody's and Las Fuentes hurts them. Also, they are in a strip mall and the parking is a total nightmare.

                                                                  1. mollyomormon Mar 4, 2010 08:34 AM

                                                                    Agree on many of these. Mariscos Chente and Izakaya Bincho were actually the first the lept to mind which always seems so strange to me in light of the buzz they get here. The other board favorite that has been fairly empty most times I've gone: Monte Alban.

                                                                    12 Replies
                                                                    1. re: mollyomormon
                                                                      sillygoosedown Mar 4, 2010 06:38 PM

                                                                      I got takeout from Monte Alban today. First time I'd been. It was empty and made me sad. I thought the flavors were generally good in my meal. I was disappointed by the chicken breast in the amarillo de pollo. It tasted grainy and tough and dry. I think it wasn't fresh. Maybe a sign of a downward spiral. But besides the chicken itself, everything was good and I'd go back.

                                                                      1. re: sillygoosedown
                                                                        cant talk...eating Mar 5, 2010 07:29 AM

                                                                        Just a thought on Monte Alban - the times I've gone, they've been about half full but the staff seemed totally overwhelmed at that (super-slow service). Maybe related?

                                                                      2. re: mollyomormon
                                                                        New Trial Mar 4, 2010 10:33 PM

                                                                        That reminds me of the Yogi Berra quote: "Nobody goes there anymore; it's too crowded."

                                                                        1. re: mollyomormon
                                                                          RicRios Mar 5, 2010 09:57 AM

                                                                          "seems so strange to me in light of the buzz they get here"

                                                                          The reach of sites like CH is way smaller than board members imagine.
                                                                          Not to speak of the infinity of food-related blogs around.

                                                                          1. re: mollyomormon
                                                                            sillygoosedown Mar 7, 2010 05:38 PM

                                                                            I'm happy to report that Mariscos Chente was very busy today for lunch. All the patrons were Mexican. Honestly, if they turned on the lights, they might get more customers.

                                                                            Marlin tacos: Quite good but not nearly as good as the pescado zarandeado.
                                                                            Coctel de camarones y pulpo: Fine. Not really my thing. Maybe this would work for me served very cold on a hot summer day sitting on the beach.

                                                                            1. re: sillygoosedown
                                                                              liu Mar 15, 2010 10:22 PM

                                                                              Regarding Mariscos Chente, we were there recently on a Saturday night. Although they appeared to be doing a good take-out business, the place was about half full.
                                                                              Although the food was good, the place has a strange vibe. There was one busy table that appeared to be the owner and her family or friends. The woman who appeared to be the owner kept going into the kitchen, and then she would settle back in at the table. Truly, she did not seem to care about the patrons -- nor did our waitress. And that was the problem...service was careless.

                                                                              1. re: liu
                                                                                sillygoosedown Mar 16, 2010 08:36 AM

                                                                                Aside from the food, Mariscos Chente is an awful dining experience.

                                                                                1. re: sillygoosedown
                                                                                  Jase Mar 16, 2010 09:06 AM

                                                                                  And what makes it awful in your opinion?

                                                                                  1. re: Jase
                                                                                    sillygoosedown Mar 16, 2010 11:55 AM

                                                                                    Every time I've eaten there for lunch they've had all the lights turned off (even though there were many tables of diners). The only light generated in the room itself comes from a small cathode-ray-tube TV playing sports. I find the TV too small to watch. In terms of atmosphere, there really isn't any. Service has always been fine for me, however.

                                                                                2. re: liu
                                                                                  Jase Mar 16, 2010 09:06 AM

                                                                                  I have a different take on the service. The first time I went there before the LAT review and right when SGLA had mentioned it, I was more puzzled than anything else. I think their service is more of a relaxed they don't want to bother you style.

                                                                                  We walked in on a Friday evening and they were very friendly with the menu explanations, helpful since it was all in spanish then. We settled in with beers and chips, chatted away, ate our food and finally realized we never got our bill. She just would swing by, top off our chip basket and grab us fresh beers. I had to actively flag her down and get our bill. She actually seemed surprised that we wanted it and not nosh some more. And we had been there for well over 2 hours at that point.

                                                                                  All the other times I've been there, it's been like that. They don't really rush you out but they're also not going out of their way to check on you every second. I was just there this past week with a group of 6. She was attentive in getting us fresh cubetas but that was it. We were there for over 3 hours talking and drinking and never got a rushed feeling.

                                                                                  I find it a very relaxed and enjoyable dining experience. Attentive to chips and beer but otherwise you're left alone. You will need to be active in asking them for anything else beyond that once you've placed your initial order.

                                                                                  1. re: Jase
                                                                                    Dommy Mar 16, 2010 10:45 AM

                                                                                    Great discription... I REALLY was trying to resist chiming in because I understand the point of people, especially non-latinos about the rather brusque service, but as a coastal Mexican girl, this is JUST the type of service I love and come to expect from the lazy botana shacks that tourists would never step foot into (thank GAWD)

                                                                                    You sit down, order beer, order food and move at your OWN pace. So many times I've been there, there is this group of guys there just walking soccer matches. There for hours, ordering cubetas and the occassional coctel no more than 10 words exchanged at a time... Lemme tell you, finding a place in L.A. that will allow you to do that, is heaven sent to some of us...

                                                                                    The truth is that La Suegra is usually in the dining room looking over things. That is why the waitresses are often sitting down at one of the booths with her, you can't ignore La Jefa. And as a guest to her 'home' it's really up to you to come over to the booth and thank her for the meal. She often has a line of those same cubeta men do that as they stream out when the soccer game is over... LOL!

                                                                                    For me, the RARE time I want fawning service I go to Metro Cafe or Sazon. But most of the time I'm happy that MC shows their love and respect for the guests where it really counts... in the kitchen...


                                                                                    1. re: Dommy
                                                                                      liu Mar 16, 2010 03:27 PM

                                                                                      Hi, Dommy and Jase! I am glad you posted; it is interesting to read your take on the service...and I do understand completely.

                                                                                      My use of the term "careless" did not imply sloppy; rather, the service came across as a "couldn't care less" feeling. In our case, we needed some of the basics: a set up and some napkins and a check. It was difficult to engage our server. However, having been to Mexico, I can completely appreciate another interpretation. Do keep in mind, of course, that I posted under a title: "Good restaurants that make you sad because they are empty..." We thought the food was extremely good, so I was trying to understand -- through our experience -- why it wasn't more crowded.

                                                                            2. m
                                                                              mrhooks Mar 3, 2010 11:51 PM

                                                                              Ortolan. I know some people have had really bad experiences, but mine was fantastic.

                                                                              Also, many of the Japanese places I frequent in the South Bay - Asa, Ramen California, Izakaya Bincho, Gardena Ramen, Horon - they aren't necessarily empty, but they aren't too busy either. At least, not when I'm there. Which is good in that I don't have to wait to get a table, but I want the places to do well too.

                                                                              Even Shibucho in Costa Mesa, the last couple times I went, the counter was barely half-full. Maybe I just lucked out on the days I went.

                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                              1. re: mrhooks
                                                                                Bobthechow Mar 4, 2010 07:15 AM

                                                                                Sona fits this criteria perfectly. Food at Sona is good now but it used to be great. Every time I have been at Sona the ratio of staff to guest is 2 to 1 and it's very uncomfortable to be dotted on too much because no one has anything to do. I have been in for dinner on Thursday nights when our party was the only table for the entire evening. Sad:(

                                                                              2. d
                                                                                degustateur Mar 3, 2010 09:16 PM

                                                                                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
                                                                                  sillygoosedown Mar 4, 2010 05:38 AM

                                                                                  Interesting. Maybe I'll try it.

                                                                                  1. re: degustateur
                                                                                    mpken Mar 5, 2010 09:00 AM

                                                                                    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
                                                                                      degustateur Mar 5, 2010 02:28 PM

                                                                                      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
                                                                                        carter Mar 18, 2010 10:34 AM

                                                                                        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
                                                                                          degustateur Mar 19, 2010 10:22 PM

                                                                                          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

                                                                                  2. c
                                                                                    cls Mar 3, 2010 08:10 PM

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

                                                                                    1. s
                                                                                      sillygoosedown Mar 3, 2010 07:59 PM

                                                                                      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
                                                                                        cant talk...eating Mar 3, 2010 09:03 PM

                                                                                        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
                                                                                          sillygoosedown Mar 4, 2010 04:59 AM

                                                                                          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
                                                                                            Feed_me Mar 4, 2010 10:13 AM

                                                                                            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
                                                                                              cant talk...eating Mar 5, 2010 07:26 AM

                                                                                              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
                                                                                            SeaCook May 11, 2010 11:09 AM

                                                                                            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. j
                                                                                            Jodie Mar 3, 2010 07:53 PM

                                                                                            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
                                                                                              dkawai Mar 14, 2010 06:46 PM

                                                                                              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
                                                                                                Local Mar 21, 2010 08:34 AM

                                                                                                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. n
                                                                                              noahbites Mar 3, 2010 07:49 PM

                                                                                              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
                                                                                                bulavinaka Mar 3, 2010 09:38 PM

                                                                                                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
                                                                                                  ns1 Mar 5, 2010 07:23 AM

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

                                                                                                  1. re: bulavinaka
                                                                                                    Dommy Mar 5, 2010 10:03 AM

                                                                                                    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
                                                                                                      bulavinaka Mar 5, 2010 08:28 PM

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

                                                                                                      1. re: bulavinaka
                                                                                                        bulavinaka Mar 21, 2010 07:40 AM

                                                                                                        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
                                                                                                          Servorg Mar 21, 2010 08:06 AM

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

                                                                                                          1. re: Servorg
                                                                                                            bulavinaka Mar 21, 2010 08:39 AM

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

                                                                                                            1. re: bulavinaka
                                                                                                              Servorg Mar 21, 2010 08:43 AM

                                                                                                              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
                                                                                                                bulavinaka Mar 21, 2010 09:11 AM

                                                                                                                >>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.

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