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Depressing Places You Like

MarkC Feb 14, 2014 10:26 AM

You know the kind of place. Like a loser friend whose company you enjoy but would never take into respectable society. I meet periodically with an old friend for dinner, and we like these kind of places. He describes them as "David Lynch" places, by which he means artfully bleak. Of course, this is to be distinguished from garden variety crappy places.

I solicit your suggestions. Any part of town is OK. Food doesn't need to be more than good.

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  1. n
    ns1 RE: MarkC Feb 14, 2014 11:21 AM

    Izakaya bincho

    1. g
      gnarlex RE: MarkC Feb 14, 2014 02:58 PM

      El Charro in Montrose. Depressing and tight booths, so you know they haven't remodeled since humans were smaller. The kind of Mexican food best described as 'orange.' Tasty, but embarrassing in its cheesy, lardy excess. Bar full of regulars. Paper placemats have rudimentary Spanish lesson on them. Best part is it's 100% irony free.

      1 Reply
      1. re: gnarlex
        mrshankly RE: gnarlex Feb 14, 2014 05:54 PM

        What a perfect description of El Charro!! I thought I was the only one who felt squeezed in their booths. Thankfully they have tinted windows so I can't easily be spotted eating there.

      2. k
        kevin RE: MarkC Feb 14, 2014 04:03 PM

        Musso and Franks.

        5 Replies
        1. re: kevin
          wienermobile RE: kevin Feb 14, 2014 07:40 PM

          I disagree. What depresses you about Musso's?

          1. re: kevin
            coconutz RE: kevin Feb 15, 2014 04:49 AM

            Sure if OP hasn't been it is worth a trip. I think it could qualify as a David Lynch kind of place. Super old school. Sure to be some interesting characters about.

            1. re: kevin
              cacio e pepe RE: kevin Feb 20, 2014 02:19 PM

              I don't get it, either. I'm always happy to go to Musso and Frank. No shame whatsoever.

              1. re: cacio e pepe
                JeMange RE: cacio e pepe Feb 20, 2014 05:45 PM

                I don't think it's about "shame." I'd call the dining room at Musso & Frank significantly and authentically depressing whereas the bar room can be downright convivial.

                1. re: JeMange
                  cacio e pepe RE: JeMange Feb 21, 2014 07:31 AM

                  To each their own. I don't find it depressing in the least. I do recognize the place is polarizing, but I've had and will have too many good experiences in that dining room for it to depress me.

            2. Gypsy Jan RE: MarkC Feb 14, 2014 05:47 PM

              Any low rent bar place in Long Beach and San Pedro that still serves the fishermen.

              4 Replies
              1. re: Gypsy Jan
                chewbacca RE: Gypsy Jan Feb 14, 2014 07:04 PM

                Likewise, lots of places in the sf valley, in particular any of those established 1949 and still going. They usually always have original interiors as well as locations. In the valley this group includes many ethnic restaurants too.

                1. re: chewbacca
                  MarkC RE: chewbacca Feb 14, 2014 09:10 PM

                  Agreed. The Safari Room in Granada Hills is an example. I don't think the upholstery has been changed since the fifties.

                  1. re: chewbacca
                    ilysla RE: chewbacca Feb 15, 2014 09:39 AM

                    Like Mandarin Deli? Although I imagine the place was freshened up in... the 70's or 80's....

                    1. re: chewbacca
                      jesstifer RE: chewbacca Feb 24, 2014 05:20 PM

                      Tallyrand. Love their turkey burger.

                  2. c
                    coconutz RE: MarkC Feb 15, 2014 04:06 AM

                    Well where have you been going?

                    I haven't been, just peeked in but how about Chez Jay in Santa Monica. Looks a bit disreputable; I'm sure they have colorful regulars. Seriously has peanut shells on the floor. Gets decent marks for steak and seafood.

                    13 Replies
                    1. re: coconutz
                      kevin RE: coconutz Feb 15, 2014 08:35 AM


                      Chez Jay too.

                      1. re: coconutz
                        MarkC RE: coconutz Feb 16, 2014 07:05 AM

                        Gary Bric's Ramp in Burbank probably comes the closest to what we were looking for. Not so much depressing as noir-ish. An outpost at the end of the world.

                        1. re: coconutz
                          chewbacca RE: coconutz Feb 19, 2014 05:57 PM

                          Disreputable? If you call RAND think tank types and astronauts disreputable, then yes. One of those peanuts has been to the moon and back. It's still there I think.

                          1. re: chewbacca
                            kevin RE: chewbacca Feb 19, 2014 05:59 PM

                            I love chez jays.

                            1. re: kevin
                              Thor123 RE: kevin Feb 20, 2014 02:24 PM

                              Me too. That and the Galley are classic.

                              1. re: Thor123
                                kevin RE: Thor123 Feb 20, 2014 05:07 PM

                                I still haven't made it to the Galley.

                                But these days I'm bidding my time at Tana's.

                                1. re: kevin
                                  Dirtywextraolives RE: kevin Feb 21, 2014 07:27 PM

                                  I'd go to the Galley once a week, but they don't open until 5 ;(

                                  1. re: Dirtywextraolives
                                    kevin RE: Dirtywextraolives Feb 21, 2014 10:44 PM

                                    You have been ???????

                                    And it's pretty fucking goood. ?????

                                    1. re: kevin
                                      Dirtywextraolives RE: kevin Feb 22, 2014 08:46 AM

                                      No, I just remember somebody telling me they had steamers, that were kinda like the kind on the east coast. I tried to go once for lunch, but saw they were closed until 5 pm everyday.... So I have no idea if it's any good or marginal.....

                                      1. re: Dirtywextraolives
                                        JeMange RE: Dirtywextraolives Feb 24, 2014 01:33 PM

                                        They don't have steamers in the strict, Northeast sense but they do have buckets of hardshell steamed clams which are pretty tasty.

                                        I don't find The Galley depressing at all. I do, however, find the passable food a bit expensive for what you get.

                                      2. re: kevin
                                        Thor123 RE: kevin Feb 24, 2014 01:37 PM

                                        The steamed clams at the Galley are great. Its a Chey Jay vibe. A fun place to eat and drink. Been there forever.

                                        1. re: Thor123
                                          kevin RE: Thor123 Feb 24, 2014 03:00 PM

                                          One of these days I'll make it there. But for some reason, currently, you probably have a clue as to what two joints are primarily on my rotation of watering holes.

                                          1. re: kevin
                                            Thor123 RE: kevin Feb 24, 2014 03:13 PM

                                            No argument here!

                          2. o
                            OscarFox RE: MarkC Feb 15, 2014 08:56 AM

                            Great question!
                            Which leads naturally to: "Euphoric places you dislike?"
                            But better fuggetabout it, list way too long.

                            1. j
                              jesstifer RE: MarkC Feb 15, 2014 10:36 AM

                              The Kibitz Room at Canter's.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: jesstifer
                                wienermobile RE: jesstifer Feb 15, 2014 05:16 PM

                                all of Canter's.

                                1. re: wienermobile
                                  jesstifer RE: wienermobile Feb 15, 2014 07:50 PM

                                  Well, sure. But its apotheosis is the Kibitz Room.

                                  1. re: wienermobile
                                    jesstifer RE: wienermobile Feb 15, 2014 08:01 PM

                                    Plus, every Jewish deli in the world. Every Palestinian place, too.

                                    But perhaps that's off topic?

                                2. Will Owen RE: MarkC Feb 15, 2014 05:12 PM

                                  I think many of our under-50s would find the Colonial Kitchen in San Marino "depressing", since the room has received only token redecorating since the mid-1950s, the only sound track is conversation, and the clientele trends old and older. My old HS buddy and I like it because we are seldom the oldest guys in the room, the coffee keeps coming no matter how long we've parked there, and the food can be really tasty. Best tuna melt I've ever met. The only time it's depressed us is when some film crew is shooting there and we've had to default to Twohey's, though that's not an awful hardship. But Twohey's isn't at all depressing.

                                  1. s
                                    schrutefarms RE: MarkC Feb 16, 2014 09:13 AM

                                    Astro Burger on Santa Monica. I get a hankering for their Garden Burger and onion rings every once in a while. I love it. Families, Euro tourists, trannies, psuedo-homeless and drunk twenty-somethings coming together under one roof for a shared love of griddled greasy eats and the sound of Bay City Rollers coming from the jukebox. It's an un-updated 1980's vision of a 1950's diner, and it makes me happy.

                                    1. y
                                      young_chower RE: MarkC Feb 16, 2014 12:29 PM

                                      Great idea for a thread!

                                      I love these types of places, more for anthropological reasons than culinary ones. As a South Bay native and resident, here are my top places in the South Bay:

                                      1) San Franciscan (Torrance): South Bay provincialism at its finest. It's a steakhouse (I guess) with a full bar, live music on some nights and karaoke on others. Closes at 2am. Old school south bay crowd. Friendly middle aged waitresses. A gem like no other. They also sell lotto!

                                      2) The Castle (Manhattan Beach): On Sepulveda, a slice of a Manhattan Beach long ago forgotten. They open at 6am, supposedly have a good breakfast, and close at 2am. Drinks are cheap, the clients are depressing, and they only take cash.

                                      3) The Schooner (Manhattan Beach): Across the street from the Castle, tucked away on a side street, they actually have decent tacos and some other bar food prepared by Hector (his kitchen is called Hector's Hideaway Kitchen). They also sell lotto. Avoid Tuesday when they have cheap bud light and there is a big crowd.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: young_chower
                                        Fig Newton RE: young_chower Feb 21, 2014 10:08 AM

                                        The San Franciscan came to my mind right away. We had family dinner there a couple weeks ago and I accidentally said out loud, "this prime rib is actually good!" Mom whispered to me, "try not to sound so surprised."

                                        There used to be some great ones in San Pedro -- Ante's for sure.

                                      2. c
                                        cfylong RE: MarkC Feb 16, 2014 05:31 PM

                                        Try Petrillo's pizza in San Gabriel--the tonnage of the pizza feels like a dumbell, but it's all about the people, who are well, well past their prime in life.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: cfylong
                                          bringiton RE: cfylong Feb 20, 2014 11:28 AM

                                          Not true, there are lots of people in their 20's and 30's there....and the pizza is sublime.

                                          1. re: bringiton
                                            cfylong RE: bringiton Feb 21, 2014 10:15 PM

                                            Uh, yes, like I said, people way past their prime... in their 20's, and the pizza is tonnage, not so much quality, but if you like it, kudos.

                                        2. f
                                          foodiemahoodie RE: MarkC Feb 17, 2014 01:40 AM

                                          The Pantry.

                                          1. f
                                            foodiemahoodie RE: MarkC Feb 17, 2014 01:41 AM


                                            1. b
                                              bigredd RE: MarkC Feb 17, 2014 09:32 AM

                                              El Paso Barbecue in Tarzana. It is so depressing it make us laugh!

                                              Pretty decent cue though

                                              1. wienermobile RE: MarkC Feb 17, 2014 09:55 AM

                                                Mrs. Knotts Fried Chicken

                                                1. m
                                                  maudies5 RE: MarkC Feb 17, 2014 10:36 AM

                                                  Indoors at The Buffalo Club .

                                                  1. b
                                                    bophisto RE: MarkC Feb 18, 2014 05:20 PM

                                                    Just wondering what makes the places listed depressing?... Just because they are old and outdated and "stuck in time"?

                                                    I think Billingsley's at 11326 Pico in west la might qualify for this. Not too many places on the westside like this.


                                                    I haven't been to Canter's forever , but I do want to go sometime soon. Definitely something about that place.

                                                    4 Replies
                                                    1. re: bophisto
                                                      ns1 RE: bophisto Feb 18, 2014 05:22 PM

                                                      lawry's = old, outdated, stuck in time, not depressing
                                                      honeybaked ham co = old, outdated, stuck in time, depressing

                                                      the "vibe" makes a place depressing more than the decor.

                                                      1. re: ns1
                                                        Gypsy Jan RE: ns1 Feb 19, 2014 09:31 AM

                                                        Honey Baked Ham does = depressing.

                                                        O.J. Simpson owned some of the franchise stores and he may still be involved or receiving revenue.

                                                        Honey Baked used to be one of corporate clients at The LA Times.

                                                        Knowing the parents of his murdered wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, I have made sure that I never have gone there again.

                                                        1. re: Gypsy Jan
                                                          wienermobile RE: Gypsy Jan Feb 19, 2014 09:44 AM

                                                          I doubt OJ still owns any Honey Baked Ham stores or anything else at all like that. Be careful not to hurt any businesses with unknown facts.

                                                          1. re: wienermobile
                                                            Gypsy Jan RE: wienermobile Feb 19, 2014 09:49 AM

                                                            Okey Dokey, just relating my historical knowledge and I am not claiming to have current knowledge of any facts.

                                                            I made a personal decision to not patronize Honey Baked anymore, but I am not badmouthing the product.


                                                    2. x
                                                      Xan7hos RE: MarkC Feb 18, 2014 05:27 PM

                                                      Marie Callendars. Pies...always to go. *shudders*

                                                      7 Replies
                                                      1. re: Xan7hos
                                                        Gypsy Jan RE: Xan7hos Feb 19, 2014 09:44 AM

                                                        Try Polly's Pies if there is one in your area.

                                                        Started by a former employee of Marie Callender's, (maybe stealing recipes), but they always have done better in the pie category and serve decent diner-ish food.


                                                        1. re: Gypsy Jan
                                                          schrutefarms RE: Gypsy Jan Feb 19, 2014 05:48 PM

                                                          Polly's Pies is the BEST!!! THE BEST!!!! (I grew up in Long Beach and we ate at Polly's almost weekly growing up.) The backburner soup, with their rolls and butter, is one of my favorite meals of all times. Might be my death row meal. And their pies are great--the Marionberry and Chocolate Silk are my go-to's. I almost cried when the one in Santa Monica became a Panera, even though I didn't live close, it was still nice knowing that there was one in my city.

                                                          1. re: schrutefarms
                                                            kevin RE: schrutefarms Feb 19, 2014 05:50 PM

                                                            That place was way way way way way depressing, and one enter a state of perpetual despondency when going there.

                                                            1. re: kevin
                                                              schrutefarms RE: kevin Feb 19, 2014 05:52 PM

                                                              I enter a state of blissful happiness when I go to a Polly's. (I actually have two quarts of backburner soup in my freezer right now.)

                                                              1. re: schrutefarms
                                                                kevin RE: schrutefarms Feb 19, 2014 05:53 PM

                                                                I want to jump off an excessively short bridge when I go there. :(

                                                                1. re: kevin
                                                                  schrutefarms RE: kevin Feb 20, 2014 09:50 AM

                                                                  Ehh, you're just bitter because they dont have a full bar :)

                                                                  1. re: schrutefarms
                                                                    Gypsy Jan RE: schrutefarms Feb 20, 2014 10:18 AM

                                                                    YOU ARE FUNNY!

                                                                    I may have peed in my seat because I am laughing so hard.

                                                                    That is all, GJ

                                                      2. cinefoodie RE: MarkC Feb 18, 2014 05:43 PM

                                                        Great thread. Bulgarini Gelato on Washington Blvd. in Culver City. I think they're easily the best gelato in LA, everything is made with tremendous love and care, it's incredible, obviously well loved for their Altadena location, but that large empty room...

                                                        On the flipside, sometimes, when they're empty and near-closing, you get enormous portions of ice cream at such incredible quality it's almost dreamlike, yet heartbreaking that there aren't gelato and granita fans crowding the place...not that I really want them to...

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: cinefoodie
                                                          bophisto RE: cinefoodie Feb 18, 2014 05:56 PM

                                                          Both locations seem pretty popular on yelp...so it's interesting that they wouldn't have fans crowding the place.



                                                          I've never been there.

                                                          1. re: bophisto
                                                            Sgee RE: bophisto Feb 18, 2014 09:16 PM

                                                            Birria Apatzingan in Pacoima.

                                                            Mariachi band at 8am in tight quarters filled with steaming offal and goat soup....

                                                        2. s
                                                          Sam D. RE: MarkC Feb 19, 2014 08:57 AM

                                                          El Atacor on N. Figueroa near Ave. 26. Their Mexican food is quite good but the ambiance reminds me of a labor camp.

                                                          Also the Chowder Barge at Leeward Bay Marina in Wilmington. Decent diner food, beer & wine but the surroundings are not too cheerful. A lot of the boats docked nearby in the surrounding harbor are barely one step up from being junkers. The restaurant is housed in an actual barge. It was originally used as the support vessel for filming of the 1935 movie, "Mutiny on the Bounty" with Charles Laughton and Clark Gable.

                                                          2 Replies
                                                          1. re: Sam D.
                                                            JeMange RE: Sam D. Feb 20, 2014 05:42 PM

                                                            I gotta agree re: El Atacor. Some of the best carnitas I've ever had anywhere but the buzzing fluorescents, the blaring, staticky Mexican soccer on outdated tube TVs, it's like something out of an existentialist short film.

                                                            1. re: JeMange
                                                              cacio e pepe RE: JeMange Feb 21, 2014 07:33 AM

                                                              This. Now that is Lynchian, particularly the harsh flicker and buzz of bad fluorescent bulbs.

                                                          2. WhatThePho RE: MarkC Feb 20, 2014 10:28 AM

                                                            Oh my gods, I love this. But I don't know how I got here. L.A. board sucked me in all the way from Fargo. :P

                                                            Wow I may continue to lurk, this is just such a fabulous topic. I am loving everyone's descriptions.

                                                            1. b
                                                              bringiton RE: MarkC Feb 20, 2014 11:29 AM

                                                              Mongols Mongolian BBQ in Westwood Village.

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: bringiton
                                                                J.L. RE: bringiton Feb 25, 2014 12:28 AM

                                                                UCLA undergrads can afford the food there, so not as depressing...

                                                                1. re: bringiton
                                                                  beaubourne RE: bringiton Feb 25, 2014 11:37 AM

                                                                  totally agree with this! good call! i've been going since high school (i'm 24 now) and i've always got the sense that it's JUST been scraping by...

                                                                  every time i go though, there seems to be some sort of upgrade, so maybe they are in fact doing alright--maybe even better. in any case, love that spot.

                                                                2. orythedog RE: MarkC Feb 20, 2014 02:45 PM

                                                                  Kathleen's in Pasadena...

                                                                  To clarify, it is depressing, and my sister likes it.

                                                                  1. perk RE: MarkC Feb 24, 2014 04:55 PM

                                                                    There's a place on Moorpark in Sherman Oaks called something like Ocean Grill. Very dark. People at the bar all day. Decent bar food. There was just something fun about it. (I haven't been in ages.) Kind of like Cheers....with a bit more of an edge. The owner would always come over at the end of the meal and give customers a homemade peach schnapps.....which was awful, but part of the experience somehow. Big cocktails....reasonably priced...and it seemed to be a "down low" spot for celebs. Saw Clooney there once (he sat next to us....it was in the TV days) with someone I think he would not take to an awards show. Just a fun neighborhood spot. Gee....I kind of miss it. Maybe I'll have to go back and check it out!

                                                                    11 Replies
                                                                    1. re: perk
                                                                      kevin RE: perk Feb 24, 2014 05:04 PM

                                                                      Wow, thanks Perk. It sounds like my kind of joint.

                                                                      So its still there ????

                                                                      You had me at awful tasting peach schnapps.

                                                                      1. re: perk
                                                                        kevin RE: perk Feb 24, 2014 05:29 PM

                                                                        Can you check up on the name perk ? When I googled it I couldn't find it.

                                                                        1. re: kevin
                                                                          JAB RE: kevin Feb 24, 2014 05:34 PM

                                                                          Kevin googled!

                                                                          1. re: JAB
                                                                            kevin RE: JAB Feb 24, 2014 05:35 PM

                                                                            I was hoping Sevrog would step in and do it for me.

                                                                            1. re: kevin
                                                                              JAB RE: kevin Feb 24, 2014 05:44 PM

                                                                              I thought that perhaps he had provided you training.

                                                                              1. re: JAB
                                                                                Servorg RE: JAB Feb 24, 2014 06:15 PM

                                                                                He's trying

                                                                          2. re: kevin
                                                                            perk RE: kevin Feb 24, 2014 05:57 PM

                                                                            Wow....I told you it had been a long time since I'd been there. It's called Oyster House. Moorpark near Woodman I think. Last time I was there, the smokers were bemoaning the fact they couldn't smoke inside. I think they were relegated to the patio. They used to have decent quesadillas. I've had a couple of seafood dishes....they were all fresh and pretty good. Again, don't know how it is now and or it's owned by the same guy. If you go, please report back.

                                                                            1. re: perk
                                                                              ns1 RE: perk Feb 24, 2014 06:01 PM

                                                                              I drive by the joint all the time and the exterior looks sooooooooooo dated. They advertise something like "BEST SEAFOOD IN TOWN" in faded ass blue paint; I'm too scared to enter to try their oysters.

                                                                              I yelped the place and told myself "nah that's ok".

                                                                              1. re: ns1
                                                                                kevin RE: ns1 Feb 24, 2014 06:03 PM

                                                                                It looks dated ?????

                                                                                That's my kind of joint.

                                                                                Thanks Perk.

                                                                                1. re: kevin
                                                                                  Piggyinthemiddle RE: kevin Feb 24, 2014 11:20 PM

                                                                                  Kevin, I have gathered from other posts that you aren't too far from Covina. Have you ever been in Hamilton's (was Blake's until 4 years ago, and The Velvet Turtle in the 70s), next to the Park Inn (it was a Radisson - also changed!) off the 10 freeway at Holt. Great oldtime vibe (built in the 1960s) with original stamped tin ceiling and HUGE mahogany bar with brass fittings.
                                                                                  As for food - go for Happy Hour (5-8 every weekday) - great sliders (3), ceviche (generous), open beef tacos with all the timings (3), spicy buffalo wings with two sauces, etc - all at half price (around $5).
                                                                                  If you want the old-style feeling, with only a few regulars about, go Mon-Thurs. Not truly depressing - it's only that you wish a few more sociable folks lived nearby.Friday and Sat are party days for the office crowds and way over the top (that's when they make their money).
                                                                                  Try it - I would be really interested in your feedback.

                                                                              2. re: perk
                                                                                brwencino RE: perk Feb 25, 2014 01:38 AM

                                                                                Yes, it is owned by the same guy.--a very friendly guy who greets all the customers. It is a classic. It gets a very diverse crowd--old timers who have been going there for 30-40 years, hipsters and a boisterous sports crowd (usually in the patio) during playoff games when the place is packed. The bartenders are long timers and the drinks are very generous. The waitresses have been there for years and are the "what will you have hon?" types. The food is certainly not gourmet and does not compare to micro pub food of these days, but it is decent enough for a Cheers type bar. I go there about once a year for old times sake--too much of a Cheers type place (i.e., yakkity, yak, or yadda, yadda, if you will) for me to take more often and I am not really a bar type person--but for those who are, give it a try.

                                                                          3. iheartcooking RE: MarkC Feb 24, 2014 06:31 PM

                                                                            Katella Deli in Los Alamitos. Everyone in there is 100+, the faux flowers everywhere not only make one think about a funeral but also are covered in dust that seems to be about to fall into your food at any minute. Waitresses look suicidal. Salad bar makes me want to cry.
                                                                            Food is good though.

                                                                            1. c
                                                                              cacio e pepe RE: MarkC Feb 24, 2014 08:02 PM

                                                                              Do I like Mae's Cafe in Garden Grove just next to Brodard Chateau?

                                                                              Let's just say I enjoy the experience. I think it fits the "depressing" and "Lynchian" aspects of the OP.

                                                                              1. b
                                                                                brainfood RE: MarkC Feb 25, 2014 09:56 AM

                                                                                Yes! The 1881 Club in Pasadena is like walking into the 70s, maybe in Wyoming. I'm pretty sure beers are that cheap too.

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