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Depressing restaurants you love

I stole this idea from another thread. What are some depressing restaurants that you secretly love?

I have a few:
- Any of the horrible-service Ethiopian restaurants near UPenn. When you see them, you're shocked, when you're not greeted, you're depressed, but when you receive the food you get high on the endorphin rush of injera and veggies

- Green Tea in Newtown PA. First off this is in a basement. Second, it's owned by a mom & pop who had the same Mediterranean menu for about 15 years (how depressing is that?), which they called Cafe Con Leche. The owner got fat, became vegan, and finally expanded to something else. Surprisingly good and while the servers are ditzy beyond belief, the vegan deliciousness is full bore w/o being overly oily

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  1. El Zarape.
    It's a strange place and I always feel kind of bad for them that they don't have more eat-in patrons (I think most of their business is take out). Anyway, the strange 80s styling on the walls, combined with telenovella/futbal always playing on the tv, and a family member doing some tedious restaurant task right near the kitchen (like preparing the takeaway cutlery) makes me a little depressed. But once I get that salsa on the table, I'm ready to dig in. I'll be even sadder when they move their digs farther from my house and closer to Pat's/Geno's as they plan to do in the coming months.

    1. This is a funny thread. My favorite restaurant used to be
      scary, as opposed to depressing in its original location, in a strip mall along route 130 that was basically a fire trap.
      I adored the food and atmosphere other than that, but tried to forget about the inherent danger in the site. Then the landlord got greedy, and Matt had to relocate. It took
      him over two years to finally settle in Haddonfield.

      Voila: Fuji reborn is better than it ever was in the firetrap.
      The d├ęcor is down to earth but lovely, service is great, business is good, and the food is truly heavenly.

      The moral of the story is to stay loyal.

      1 Reply
      1. The old Dim Sum Garden on 11th Street definitely fit this category!

        4 Replies
          1. re: BelgianBeerMistress

            Don't you enjoy bus fumes with your Xiao Long Bao?

              1. re: Bigley9

                Had them the other day.. pan fried xiao long bao as good as ever even without the bus fumes.

        1. Great thread. Most depressing was Barbecue USA. Went on a very hot day when I was really hungry. It was very muggy since it had just rained. I was under time constraints and needed a quick meal.
          The Children's Hospital fundraiser was playing loudly on the radio and even though we begged the one lady more than once to please change the station she refused. The barbecue was so good but a sweet little girl was reading her poem to cancer while we ate and I started crying into my barbecue.
          The food court at montgomeryville wegman's is starting to fit the criteria. We love to eat in the section behind the pub but the pub employees seem to resent our sitting there when they need to make a quick phone call, gossip or hand wipe silverware. Last time someone was crashing with the silverware directly behind my friend. He didn't seem to notice thank goodness.
          It is a lovely quiet spot and the food is tasty but I'm afraid I will soon have to give it up. One more chance maybe.

          3 Replies
          1. re: givemecarbs

            haha, wasn't expecting those but def fit the bill

            1. re: givemecarbs

              carbs, Understand your frustration with Wegmans Food Court. I know Wegmans make an effort to hire and train to their standards and have often successfully done that. What I have noticed at the Collegeville and KofP stores is that the training often does not "hold up" for long. If I were truly bothered I would make the store management aware, probably not identifying the offender as not wanting anyone to get in trouble but just hoping for a corrections.

              1. re: Bacchus101

                Thanks Bacchus. In this economy I would not want to get anyone in trouble. I rarely complain having been on the other side of the counter a lot in the past. Things really have to go to hell in a handbasket.
                Hmm I guess going to the restaurant that used to be the Astor Diner for many years tends to be a bit depressing to me. Last time I went everything was fine but a couple of owners ago, oh my gosh. It was a disaster, so much so that I made one of my very first posts on chowhound about it and my fellow hounds were so kind and supportive that I've been in love with chowhound ever since.
                I used to love to hit the Astor for breakfast after the bar when it was open twenty four hours. They did a great job.

            2. I can't say it's depressing, just sadly and much-loved run down nostalgic - The Pub in Pensauken. You enter a time warp that has not changed since I was a little kid (six or seven; I'm now 63) with the same menu, same 1950's bar and lounge, same 1950's restrooms, same salad bar and the bronze mail boxes where you can leave a charitable donation to your choice of three organizations in lieu of a tip to the hat check girl.
              CP

              5 Replies
              1. re: Chefpaulo

                CP, I feel that way about the Candlewyck in Buckingham. Haven't been in awhile though. The A and N diner in Sellersville used to be a time warp til it got a makeover.

                1. re: givemecarbs

                  Unfortunately the Wyck has changed. Gone is the fish over the fireplace, most of the waitresses that had been there for years. The menu has been updated a little bit though the quality of the food hasnt improved.

                  The beer selection is quite good and they have a bottle shop with over 1000 different beers available.

                  1. re: cwdonald

                    Nooo not the fish! We need to start a petition to bring back the fish! Last time I went the bartender was dressed as the tooth fairy. He wore pink tights and everything. Well it was halloween at the Wyck.
                    Now I am remembering my favorite time warp story. Went back to DeLorenzo's in Trenton on Hamilton Ave a few years back. My friend and I were very pumped to be there again after many years. As he was looking at the pared down menu he laughed and said remember when the waiters had to wear those stupid little ties?
                    I had to whisper umm they are still wearing them.

                    1. re: givemecarbs

                      Yes.. now both DeLorenzo's and Papa's are gone, and soon to follow will be Rossi's. The burg has died...

                      1. re: cwdonald

                        Nooooooo. And I still miss maruca's. They bit the dust a long time ago. I used to make up songs about that place. And they were open late. /sigh
                        I also went to Romeo and Juliet's for beer and a chicken parm sandwich. Good times

              2. What I find depressing are those great little restaurants that you love, but you know that because of a bad location or just the poor business acumen of the owners, they are the walking dead (or likely to end of on Restaurant Impossible).

                That's depressing.

                2 Replies
                1. re: PhillyBestBYOB

                  On the positive side, The Pub is still alive after how many years? I remember going over there from Glenside in our 1958 Oldsmobile wagon. I loved the Hickory Barbecued Shrimp and a wedge of iceberg lettuce with Thousand Island dressing, bacon chips and croutons. I was back just a few years ago and had the same.

                  Yes, I watch Restaurant Impossible but I hope Robert helps out smaller and more struggling establishments. The Pub seems to have a lot of fans regardless of its interior and 50-year-old menu.
                  CP

                  1. re: Chefpaulo

                    I'm with you Chefpaulo. I have fond memories of The Pub. That was where I learned how to order a steak and where I had my introduction to Caesar Salad. My daughter is now 7 and I'm getting ready to take her for her first visit very soon.

                2. +1 for The Pub at Airport Circle. The place is worn but the food has stayed consistent. We always went for the chicken and rib combo and it's never disappointed. And while we did suffer a bit of culture shock when they went from a head of iceberg lettuce pp for their salad to their now long-standing salad bar, we ended up loving it. They still provide anchovies for their caesar!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Misha

                    Last time l was at The Pub l was too young to drive. l remember the three dressings in a triangular carrier on the table that came with the wedge of iceberg.
                    Drove by so many times that l decided to go on Monday and indeed a time warp, servers asked me 'if youse were ready to order?'
                    The place was a zoo, just packed, with older folks, and many very tattooed folks as well.
                    Got the salad bar with crappy shrimp, tired everything, but great marinated tomatoes.
                    Bread was hot but tres odd, we ordered steaks and came as ordered and not bad at all, tenderish and decent flavor.
                    May be another 50 years till go again, but certainly glad l went down memory lane.

                  2. I haven't been inside the Century House in Hatfield in a while... but that place is kinda depressing

                    it's pretty bad that you take your 75 year old Dad for dinner and he's the "young whipper snapper" in the restaurant

                    I don't think they've redecorated in about 30 years (with the exception of the new awning out front)

                    BUT... they have an excellent steak and sometimes you just gotta love the "old school" dinner experience

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: cgarner

                      Have not been to the Century House in 30 years. I wouldn't have expected it to have survived. Back in the 70s, it was one of our family's Sunday dinner preferences along with the Hotel Tremont, Springhouse Tavern, The Vineyards, Dori's, The Inn of the Raven, McPhee's and The Blue-Haired Belle Inn.(The William Penn Inn was Held in some kind of reverence and reserved for Thanksgiving and Easter only.)
                      CP

                      1. re: Chefpaulo

                        Dori's and their fried long hot peppers on the table, McPhee's serving sour cream in plastic "bake potatoes", Tremont's overly garlicky escargo (my Step Dad would roll his eyes at me for getting them) and the chicken liver pate at the Blue Bell Inn
                        I was taken out to eat often as a VERY young child...
                        ;-)
                        hahahahah

                        1. re: cgarner

                          Do you mean the Tremont Hotel in Lansdale ?
                          Loved that place as a kid.

                          1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                            None other. That was a truly hidden gem - especially owner Marcel wobbling around with his goblet of red wine kissing the ladies' hands and patting them on the butt. But the food that came out of the kitchen was superb. And where else could you go to get a burger and fries or escargots and salade Nicoise? A true French bistro with an astounding menu that is sorely missed.
                            CP

                          2. re: cgarner

                            Yes, Dori's peppers. And they had great calamari. I remember mom and I going there for dinner back in the 80's only to find the doors sealed and some legal notice tacked on the plywood.
                            If Marcel's (Hotel Tremont) escargots were too garlicky, you could have fooled me. I got them all the time and, to this day, have never encountered a vampire.
                            Thank you, Marcel.
                            CP

                            1. re: Chefpaulo

                              Remind me is the Tremont where the Right Aid is now? at the corner of broad and Main?

                              Depressing restaurant I like right there in lansdale is Chong's dumpling house, though I only get take away from them. Best dumplings I have found in the burbs.

                              1. re: cwdonald

                                that is EXACTLY where The Tremont was, it was a beautiful building and now... it's a RIte Aid
                                Oh, Mr. Ron's Public House another grand old building which is now a pharmacy

                                do we really need a 24 hour pharmacy on every corner?
                                I digress...
                                I loved the escargot, at The Tremont... the "overly garlicky' was tongue in cheek, I'm pretty sure that's what my Scottish-heritage-Step-Dad's opinion was LOL

                                1. re: cwdonald

                                  LOL, me too. Never even been inside Chong's (delivery).

                        2. I used to love Strolli's in center city. It was underground. Very cheap, and almost completely communal seating. Anyone remember where that was?

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: JanR

                            Not quite Center City. It was near 15th & Dickinson Sts.

                              1. re: Philly Ray

                                Thank you Philly Ray! Really enjoyed the article. Now that you mention the address, I remember it wasn't far from Victor's.

                                1. re: Philly Ray

                                  So interesting to read this article. I have no recollection of prices anywhere close to those listed anywhere I have ever been; a real trip to a simpler and less expensive time.

                                  I did not set by calculator in inflation mode so I have no hard numbers regarding a conversion to todays prices. Just curious as to how much is pure inflation and how much is that we have gentrified ourselves to todays high prices. Sort of like the $28 hamburger or mutts becoming designer dogs at high prices. Our vanity has a cost, doesn't it?

                                  1. re: Bacchus101

                                    Sure does for those who remember Tad's Steak House and the H and H cafeteria in center city. I'm still missing the Two Big Pixie locations in the Lansdale area.
                                    Now does anyone remember the diner that used to be next to the Tremont on the same side of the street> It had big windows. My cousin Eddie was such a punk. He used to stand there and stare at the people eating. Thought it was hilarious.

                                    1. re: Bacchus101

                                      Bacchus, even back in the eighties, Strolli's was ridiculously cheap. The prices cited in the article are the prices I remember but I don't know how they did it.