Wahine and I have always loved this B&L place in the Ballard-Fremont DMZ. We hadn't been for about a year, but the stars and an errand trip aligned yesterday and we stopped for a bite.
We were sorely disappointed, I'm sorry to say. There were still patrons standing outside in the cold like the old days, and many of the servers are the veterans of the original ownership, but the food was of substantially lesser quality. I had a half order of Biscuits & Gravy, and Wahine had what was once one of her all-time breakfast favs, the Slacker Special (Dish's version of chilaquiles). Both were soggy messes, without even a show of garniture. The Special, in fact, could not have had less texture had it been run through a blender. The B&G's gravy had a strong, sour cream-like *whang* to it, but the server informed me that no sour cream was used. The roast potato dice was also sodden and crispless (We were seated at the counter where you could see the line cook draping tortillas OVER the 4-inch-thick layer of cold, pre-roasted potatoes, in an effort to reheat/steam them faster. The end result was, if you closed your eyes, you might as well be in any military chow line.
Am I just slow on the uptake, and the talent and quality moved with the original owners to Icebox four years ago? I hope my disappointment there was an anomaly, but I'm curious if other fans of Dish have had similar letdowns. Without hearing disagreement on that, I'm not likely to eat there again.
Nothing lasts, particularly in restaurants. However, I used to go often in the 1970s to a little Greek place on "The Ave" for a feta cheese omelette with fries. Sometime around the end of the millenium I went back and the only change I noticed was that they moved the cash register. The same woman was running it.
I had another regular breakfast place in the early 1980s which was just right for me at that place and time. One day I went in and I immediately sensed the change. A new owner seemingly had taken over and the staff were uptight. That was the last time I went thete.
In the restaurant business, an on-premises owner is essential to maintaining the character and quality of a place.
You wrote well about something we hear a lot: the most important part of cooking is the love. (Love of customers, love of food).
Without it, you can go through the motions and still not produce a dish people want to eat.
And the tricky thing is that love can not be bought or sold. It has to be given with an open heart.