Gastronomy 101, a blog about food and Los Angeles restaurants

RESTAURANT: Bad Restaurant! Bad! **SMACK**

Well, it's been a while since I have done a post in the "restaurant" category on here, since most of my restaurant reviews have been in the la.foodblogging category lately. But this post isn't so much of a review as a need to explain that in the past two days I have had some bad food experiences that have sapped my will to deal with food at all. Perhaps if I exorcise these demons, I can move on. I don't often write really bad things about the places I go, because often things I find bad about a place are only subjectively bad. Only if something is objectively bad do I feel like I can talk about it freely. The things that follow, I think, are objectively bad experiences and so I put them out there as a cautionary tale.

Okay, so these aren't really restaurants, per se, but I got food at them, so I'm going to allow it.

* Largo: Some friends and I went to Largo on Fairfax on Friday night to see Zach Galifianakis and some other comedians. The unfortunate thing about Largo is that in order to be guaranteed a spot, you must make dinner reservations and you must purchase at least $15 of their mediocre food. Which is what we did, and here's how it went down.

At approximately 8:45, we were seated. Very soon thereafter, a waitress came to take our orders, and we ordered both drinks and food. I ordered potato skins and mixed greens. My friend Z ordered "rustico," which was basically a plate of different vegetables and goat cheese. The waitress said she would bring us bread and our salads shortly.

Perhaps 20 minutes later, our drinks came. We had received no bread and no salads. Sometime after that, the bread came out, but no salads. At 10:00, probably an hour after I had ordered, the waitress brought out the "rustico" and at that point informed me that they were out of potato skins. I bet they weren't out of them when I ordered them, an HOUR AGO. I also didn't want anything else on the menu, but had to order something because of their dumb $15 requirement. I decided on the decidedly odd looking stuffed mushroom dish (mushroom caps stuffed with brie on toasted baguette. ????) because the waitress had suggested it and it looked more appetizing than anything else to me. What I really wanted were the potato skins I had ordered.

The rustico was missing several items that were listed on the menu. No explanation was given for this. After this, and at the same time as the other people at the table received their main courses, we received our salads. Last of all, I got my mushroom thing. It was decent enough, but it wasn't what I wanted. Throughout all this, there was no offer to compensate for any of the problems, because I believe this is the standard situation here., the reason being that they seat everyone at the same time and take food orders all at the same time, so there's basically a rush on the kitchen and the waitresses are doing all of their food service at once.

I wasn't expecting good food--I KNOW it's mediocre. But the mediocre food and terrible service (not the waitress's fault-the owner's fault) combined with the fact that you are forced to endure it if you want to sit down made the first half of the evening really unenjoyable for me, even though I was watching comedy. Once the dinner part was over and I was just drinking and watching the show, I had a good time. But I know I shafted the first comics on laughs because I was so annoyed. I don't understand why they can't serve simpler food, like fries, hamburgers, grilled cheese, etc. or scrap the dinner service altogether and just impose a drink minimum on the tables like other venues do. We all agreed we have spent nearly as much on drinks alone (and it would amount to the same if you subtract the overhead quotient for the food) and we would have had a much better time.

*USC's Galen Center: As if that weren't enough, I attended the USC-UCLA basketball game at the new USC Galen Center in order to watch my team beat the Trojans for the second time this school year. Ha! I was looking forward to the brand new snack bars, which my husband said were much nicer than the old. But after our day I definitely miss the old snack bar.

First of all, we arrived to find that someone had lost our ticket order. We were reassigned seats in the handicapped section at the very top of the arena. Unfortunately, since they don't give special numbers to wheelchair seats, the ticket seller assigned the three of us to what were actually two seats and a space for a wheelchair, so one of us ended standing for the first part of the game until we could find someone to locate a folding chair for us. Fun!

But really disappointing was the snack bar. There were certainly more options than before. In addition to the standard hot dog/nachos/pretzel, they now offered hamburgers, garden burgers, caesar salad, pizza, chicken tenders, and more. Unfortunately, each line had a different selection, so that if the group wanted different things, different people would have to stand in different lines. Also, at the old arena, in addition to the normal snack bar they also had authentic tacos and aguas frescas, and a yummy candied nuts vendor. These are now gone and the new variety of foods doesn't stand up to those at all.

I purchased a chicken sandwich, only to discover when I got to my seat that it was ice cold. Like, it had basically come directly out of a refrigerator and into my hand. When I took it back, the guy said it was SUPPOSED to be that way. ?! When I see the words "chicken sandwich," I do not prepare myself to receive something freezing cold. The sandwich was $5.50, so I asked to exchange it for a water ($3.50) and chips ($2.00). The man stood there for about a million years figuring out if that was doable, then got a manager, who allowed it and gave me back 50 cents for a reason I will never know.

Luckily, as with the Largo experience, the second half made up for the first as the Bruins came out strong in the end to edge past the Trojans in an exciting squeaker that made me actually clap and go "Woo!" (I'm not very demonstrative at sporting events, or in general).

So now I am passing along my cautionary tale to you, so that if you find yourself roped into a show at the Largo or a USC basketball game, you will know what to expect and maybe will be able to steel yourself and enjoy your time more by being prepared.


Two bad food experiences in one weekend is pretty dispiriting. I was hoping you would post about Largo because I was going to (also, remember how J. and I were eating the goat cheese by itself because the bread wasn't there yet? wtf.) Seriously, Largo owner, seriously: Just serve booze, hummus, chips and salsa, and MAYBE grilled cheese: lower your overhead, lower prep work and cleanup, maximize your profit, and maximize customer satisfaction.

I got up too late and most of the non-fruit produce was being packed away by the time I got to the farmers' market. Let me know if you are interested in any hydroponically grown hot peppers -- they look like giant jalapeƱos. For some reason, they were selling them in bags of like, five. They are really hot but seem like they woul go well with some seared tuna and, of course, Mexican food. Did you ever post on different kinds of peppers? That sounds familiar, but it may have been another blog...

said by Zee at 4:18 PM Delete

If you have extra, I could probably take one pepper off your hands.

And yes, the goat cheese thing was weird ... there was such a big blob of it on your plate!

We got some really cool stuff at the market this morning. I'm going to try to post about it, if I can remember to take a picture before we eat it. ;)

said by KT at 4:30 PM Delete

how annoying re:Largo. I've considered going to shows there before but if that's the deal, I'm not sure...loved your post on spices the other day, by the way.

said by erinskitchen at 7:44 PM Delete

It was very annoying. I would go to a show there again if it was something I really wanted to see (and also it's very close to where I live--walking distance), but would probably get a slice of pizza first and then just go for a soup and salad. That way at least I wouldn't starve while waiting for my food.

said by KT at 7:53 PM Delete

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