Restaurants with Chalkboards

Since I’m no longer working 15 hours a day, I’m free to do all the things I used to enjoy so much.  Like read about restaurants on the internet, and then go to them.  Also, watching Top Chef, including the dreadful but still watchable third season of Top Chef Masters.  Side note: what the hell is up with TCM?  How did it become chefs-you’ve-never-heard-of-except-through-other-reality-shows-cooking-for-frodo, as was clearly the case in the last episode? Anyway, one can only watch so much of this show before becoming interested in “new american” cuisine, specifically in Los Angeles.  These restaurants tend merge plutocratic gourmet aesthetics with American casualness, a style that condenses into the term “gastropub“.  These are places where the menu of mid-teen $ entrees is displayed only on a central chalkboard, the ingredients are organic, local, and artisanal, the dishes whimsical and accessible and including mac and cheese, the chefs up-and-coming, and the people hip and drunk.  I’m thinking of: The Gorbals, Food+Lab, The York, and Forage.

notice the chalkboard

Normally I would be disdainful at this sort of phenomenon, because of its very Americanness, that is, something about the occlusion of obvious class stratification with the mere outward pretension of equality.  That is, even the upper class doesn’t want to be ‘snobby’ in this country.  But, as you may know, while I aim for aristocratic Adornianism in all things, I am still basically a person with a blog that likes to watch Top Chef.  So whatever, the truffle oil grilled cheese at The York is awesome, as is the hippie-gourmet a la carte menu at Forage.  I can’t throw too many rocks from this glass house.  Or, to quote Eddie Huang talking again about the last TCM episode:

Curt Stone tries to son Hugh asking if he cooks down to people. STONE, the whole network is dumbing things down to people, how the fuck else would you have been hired? YOU MADE A MUSSEL SPOON.

New host and take home chef Curtis Stone did make a spoon with his mussel shell.  And while I think it’s ok for chefs to cook down to people like me, I do have standards.  I would never debase myself by eating my mussels with a mussel shell, or by having breakfast in burrito form, or by drinking wine in a glass without a stem, or by going anywhere near an egg salad sandwich.  I’m not a barbarian.

This is (barely) relevant because my most recent gastropub outing was to The Kitchen in silverlake.  They have a chalkboard.  They have a build-your-own grilled cheese (because it’s a dish with so many elements).  The people who go there…well, it’s in silverlake (albeit next to a McDonald’s, but that’s LA).  And yes, I had the mussles and frites.

Not a great picture, sorry.  But does it show me eating these mussels with a mussel shell?  No, because I didn’t do that.  Anyway, it was….good!  I mean, it’s sort of hard to mess up this dish, unless you have a bad mussel and give someone food poisoning.  The mussels soak up the butter-white wine-herb liquid, and all of those things are good.  The fries were a little limp but definitely passable.  The service was good as well, but I am unable to be really objective here, because the waitress reminded me of someone who I had just met 30 minutes before in a different context, and it kind of freaked me out.    Overall the food exuded competence, if not brilliance, which is good because I wouldn’t know brilliance if I saw it.  Unless it was written on a chalkboard.

Overall the dish was very similar to this.  What is this?  It’s Antonia’s winning mussel dish from…Top Chef!.  Made by an awkwardly frenetic Rick Moonen, who was on…Top Chef Masters!  See, it all comes back to reality tv.  Because it’s real.


3 Responses to Restaurants with Chalkboards

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