Thursday, November 26, 2015

Run Away

I normally don't blog on Holidays, knowing offices are closed, web traffic is down and the 14 people who regularly read this tripe are probably already soused and napping on the couch.

But today, Thanksgiving, when we celebrate the bounty, the harvest and the best damn food Mother Earth has to offer, I thought I'd leverage the irony to discuss the worst.

Every month or so, we get together with friends on a kitschy exploration of LA's not-so-Yelped about restaurants. We purposely go in search of run down joints that have seen better days. It's far too easy to plunk down a couple of C-Notes and dine at the city's numerous 5 star eateries, with their multipage wine lists and their artisanal selection of handpicked arugula salads.

It's much more challenging to seek out a long lost treasures of culinary delight. Last Saturday we discovered just how challenging that can be.

We found ourselves downtown, where, just a few urine-soaked blocks east of Bottega Louis, stands the famed 5-story Clifton's Cafeteria.

I'm only 44 years old so I was unfamiliar with this Southern California stalwart, but apparently Clifton's was a staple of good home cooked comfort food for millions of Angelenos. Sadly, it fell into disrepair, until some investors sank $5 million dollars to bring it back to its former glory.

They probably should have saved some money in the budget for silverware. You see, as a $9.63 an hour full time employee stood at the front of the restaurant to point out where we pick up our cafeteria trays (and that's all she did), we encountered the first of many signs of our poor dining decision.

The cutlery bin had an ample supply of metal forks. Incredibly thin, cheap metal forks stamped from sheets of cheap metal in a Taiwanese factory manned by hungry child laborers with no foot coverings. The knives did not come from the same place. They were plastic. And probably retrieved from the recycle garbage bins at a picnic at nearby McCarthur Park.

Spoons? There were no spoons.

Again, at this point we should have bailed and caught the first train back to Culver City, where at the very least we could have gotten some crappy fare at the highly overrated Titos Tacos.

But we pressed onward to the carving station, where three guys who looked like they had just been released from San Quentin, greeted hungry diners with all the hospitality of an angry porcupine. They hacked away at the Grade C Prime Rib and reluctantly dished up the macaroni and cheese which also doubles as spackling compound.

With our food (?) secured on our dirty cafeteria trays with half a set of necessary silverware, we went in search of an empty table. To our collective surprise we were able to find one. Ironically, this was the only component of our dining experience that went according to plan.


I had hoped to flag down a waiter or waitress to secure some much needed alcohol in order to take the edge off this journey to Dante's Inferno, but I believe the waiter was in the alley shooting dice with the just paroled Maitre D'.

Apparently the busboys were also in on the action. Because they too were conspicuously absent. As evidenced by the abundance of dirty dishes as far as the eye could see. On the table next to us. On the table behind us. On the seats in front of us. There were dirty dishes stacked on the artificial stone sculpture expensively made to look like the interior walls of the Grand Canyon.

Which I am now naming Clifton's Faux Fountain of Post Digestive Gloom.

Note to Management: dirty dishes should be removed from the eating area and not left in plain sight where they only serve to remind diners that they are not alone in their poor choice of restaurants, there is no God and we're all going to die.

But today is all about gratitude..

Let us all rejoice in the fact that we are NOT eating at Cliftons. That there is enough bourbon in the cabinet to get through two Armeggedons. And that we are not fans of the Detroit Lions, who will no doubt fulfill the long tradition of losing on Thanksgiving Day.

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