8.72: Café Feliz

If you are going to Café Feliz, prepare to perspire. Photo by Dan Johnson.

If you are going to Café Feliz, prepare to perspire. Photo by Dan Johnson.

by Dan Johnson

Café Feliz is the hottest restaurant in town.

Despite an array of fans and what appears to be a serviceable hood, the aggressively modest grill top at 8th St and Towne Ave is a blast furnace that makes that sunny eighty-six-degree day outside feel like an Antarctic vacation.

Café Feliz works on an unorthodox system by which whosoever happens to be behind the counter at any given moment takes your order and then cooks it up. This is a testament to both the versatility of their staff and the extreme discomfort of standing in their fire and brimstone kitchen area.

Both employees are drenched in sweat. There is a dehydration threshold at which a person can still function effectively, but the niceties that lubricate social grace are greatly diminished. The woman does not fawn over me. Nor does she seem excited to tend to the creation of my $2.50 breakfast burrito.

Bless her buttons, the cellophane shrouded assemblage of cheese, egg and microwave-warmed tortilla comes with all due alacrity. For an extra $1.50 I pick up a Mineragua and adjourn outside to the makeshift table that is actually a (rare) functioning payphone.

Even the burritos are sweaty at Café Feliz. Photo by Dan Johnson.

Even the burritos are sweaty at Café Feliz. Photo by Dan Johnson.

Above the restaurant comes the churn of dozens of sewing machines. The building is home to a plethora of textile and clothing manufacturers. This is bedrock Americana. Even despite the glut of factories that have become maquiladoras in other countries across the globe, America’s need for inexpensive garments outweighs the fiscal convenience of advantageous import markets.

For over a century and a half, the barren districts of American cities have been festooned with these no-frills establishments. To be fair, the term “sweatshop” is a neologism dating to mid-19th century London. It may as well have been coined this year in reference to the host of anonymous semi-industrial spaces north of 9th St where the chatter of trotting needles and whirling bobbins nearly outweighs the Doppler roar of the passing buses the staff uses to arrive at our modern-day Lowell.

The demographic is working class and largely Latino. Low wages exacerbate low social agency. This is, by and large, a cross section of voiceless people who rarely appear in history books. They meet a very real need in our economy and fill in vast, undocumented plots of land in the metaphorical tapestry that is America.

Café Feliz exists to serve these people. The food is priced relative to low wage labor. The menu is compiled with an eye toward a certain no-frills sensibility. They sell Aspirin and Tylenol in the space other places reserve for their “People Love Us on Yelp” sticker.

Don’t get used to it. Here in the Fashion District, the times they are a-changin’.

A few hours before I popped into Café Feliz, the fine folks at Urbanize announced a sixty unit live/work adaptive use project for the building at 8th St and Towne Ave. This should be considered de rigueur for the foreseeable future. Textile factories are nowhere near as alluring to building owners than the prospect of covetable housing bulwarked by ground floor restaurant/retail space.

This too is America—the constant reworking of existing landscapes to the gain of some, the detriment of others and the possible apathy of those who are completely disgusted by the prospect of sweating through another day making four dollar huevos rancheros.

You needn’t wander more than a block south of Café Feliz to really get a good glimpse at the future. The zone of fashion retail beneath 9th St is the Downtown equivalent of stumbling a NASA rover finding The Grove on Mars. How did this end up here?  

Long avenues named after railroad magnates now house an impressive display of tony garment purveyors that make Santee Alley look like a trailer park. Nearly every store has a “help wanted” sign out front. Inside staggering arcades crowned with aerial sculpture, broad outdoor thoroughfares are lined with posh retail outlets that keep their doors open so the fresh air conditioning rolls out into the summer heat.

If you didn’t know any better, you might wonder why all of Downtown wasn’t this clean and prosperous.

Maybe it's these string lights and LA Public Library-esque aerial sculpture that make the Fashion District look like a luxury shopper's paradise, but be warned – it's all a façade. Photo by Dan Johnson.

Maybe it's these string lights and LA Public Library-esque aerial sculpture that make the Fashion District look like a luxury shopper's paradise, but be warned – it's all a façade. Photo by Dan Johnson.

Hey, no judgement, but this is a façade. One facilitated by an aggressive Fashion District BID and an LAPD substation at 12th St and Crocker St. More importantly, the whole area is a one-dimensional hub for sales and shipping. Stop through during off-hours and you’ll feel as if you’ve entered a ghost down.

Those eager to look behind the proverbial curtain should stroll through with an eye toward cuisine. The lunchtime concentration of taco trucks and stands is astounding. They represent fully 90% of the food options in the new Fashion District.

Elsewhere you can grab generic Sysco fare at Café Anzio or at bare bones panini outlet Wien on 12th St.

Then there’s Q Café at 12th St and Paloma St. This is very clearly where the owners come to dine. Everything inside the tiny hideout is painted black including the ceiling. The menu is written in Korean with English in parenthesis.

For a mere four dollars, I pick up an order of “Toast on the Street.” Unfortunately service is molasses slow and a French Bulldog in a shame-cone occupies the lone open seat in the room. So I shuffle around trying to pretend as if I belong in the Fashion District, which I clearly don’t because I don’t smell like cologne and freshly unwrapped clothing.

They sense this weakness and hone in.

When I eventually come to rest in a spare stool, an imposing and chic Korean woman comes to stand over me. “Did I take your chair?” I ask. “Are you take out?” she replies. Well, moving on…

Next on the docket of places to pass twenty-five awkward minutes spent suspecting that my order has been forgotten is a counter space situated at perfect lean-against height. No, Dan. That’s for take-out orders.

I briefly adjourn to the bathroom under the pretense of washing my hands. It smells like a Florida hotel room after Spring Break—Marlboro red smoke, bleach and humidity.

Finally, almost thirty minutes into the game as I managed to claim a now abandoned chair, the cashier apologizes profusely, takes my ticket into the kitchen and hands me an iced tea to compensate for my inconvenience.

“I don’t drink Iced Tea,” I say. “You’re welcome,” she responds.

Not knowing how to counter what appears to be an elaborate production staged by an absurdist hidden camera crew, I go ahead and dine outdoors where the utter lack of seating is a fair price to pay for not having to interact with these humans anymore.

It seems likely that Q Café's lack of seating is the inspiration for their "Toast on the Street" menu item. Photo by Dan Johnson.

It seems likely that Q Café's lack of seating is the inspiration for their "Toast on the Street" menu item. Photo by Dan Johnson.

As it turns out, the food is fantastic. There’s a savory jam coating a perfectly browned slab of egg and vegetables between two pieces of sandwich-paper wrapped white bread. Also, the tea is pretty good.

Consider this the taste of a new Fashion District that operates in ways I’ll liken to basic meteorology. When a high pressure system abuts a low pressure system, there will be a storm.

It’s apparent that the development gale has begun. To what end or benefit is uncertain. We can dicker about the morality of redevelopment until the cows come home, but for those who live or work in proximity to Café Feliz please consider this a warning.

Hurricane’s a-comin’. Stock up on breakfast burritos, Mineragua and Tylenol Extra Strength while you can.

I award Café Feliz and Q Café each a highly-coveted “1 on the binary.


8.72: Casa India

Casa India on Broadway came highly recommended to the author. His experience was...noteworthy. Photo by Dan Johnson.

Casa India on Broadway came highly recommended to the author. His experience was...noteworthy. Photo by Dan Johnson.

by Dan Johnson

As a quick prelude, let me just clarify for all of you who are new to the 8.72.

I’ve written this weekly column for the last year and change because I harbor a strong belief that inexpensive, but tasty food is the mortar that holds together a functioning society.

I do not delight in Hershey-squirting all over restaurants and their ownership. This column is not an outlet for my sadism. Nor is it a place for troll screeds.

If you peruse the last year of 8.72, I think you’ll find that I bend over backwards to find something acceptable in every cheap-o joint I review. It’s a challenge some weeks, but I give my approval to restaurants with the same spirit of generosity with which Big 10 professors hand out passing grades to corn-fed offensive linemen.

Moreover, I neither need nor want lackluster restaurant experiences in my life. Money’s tight and so is my patience. I would much rather have the opportunity to write about a decent meal others will enjoy while delving into some larger aspect of the human experience than take time out of my day to explain why a restaurant is on death’s doorstep.

With that in mind, let me just say for the record that the carne asada burrito I ate at Casa India on Sunday was the worst thing I have ever paid to eat in Downtown Los Angeles.

Given last week’s brush with spiritual death over a Pestolini semi-edible discus, I figured I might as well round out coverage of 4th and Broadway.

Casa India is one of those iconic little hovels that feels as if it’s been a fixture of Downtown dining since long before my time on this earth. It’s habitually occupied by a crew of men and women peering up at futbol on a pair of TVs carefully mounted so as not to give an inch of entertainment to people other than paying customers.

Talk to Casa India loyalists and they’ll gush about the place in a vernacular of superlatives. It has made a lot of people happy over the years. Unfortunately, I am not one of those people.

My dining experience peaked in the moments before I entered the restaurant. The annual Peruvian pride parade was crawling up Broadway. One of Casa India’s customers, a chubby man with bleary eyes floating above a Modelo stained powder blue polo was standing directly in front of the last car in the parade.

He was stumbling through a dance of his own creation. Equal parts seizure, Madonna homage and prelude to an inevitable vomit session, the dance was greeted by nervous grimaces from the Peruvians and loud hoots from his fellow Casa India customers. What a greeting.

The dining room is defined by crookedly hung scenic portraiture and a ceiling ridge of fluorescent lights that are mostly burned out. In the darkened back end by the bathrooms, a regular room fan is positioned next to a window air conditioning unit so as to maximize the cooling power of both.

A prominent Spanish language sign alerting customers to a new house policy by which customers are limited to six beers with their meal was cause for alarm.

If only they had a sign with a backstory to this sign. Photo by Dan Johnson.

If only they had a sign with a backstory to this sign. Photo by Dan Johnson.

Just what the hell happened to inspire this fiat from management? My guess: inebriation, misplaced rage and eventually sorrow. Soon, I would know plenty about the latter two.

Let’s just pretend, for the sake of this 8.72, that the waitress didn’t take one look at me and decide I was a schmuck not worthy of her time. Let’s not get mired in that aspect. Let’s assume that she has a naturally dour disposition and a tendency toward a way of speech that could be misconstrued as passive aggressive. Failing that, let’s just agree that maybe she had other shit pressing on her mind—a pending root canal or forthcoming estimated tax payment, for instance.  

In the moments before the tin foil wrapped turd muffin plopped on the table in front of me, I worked through the mental rolodex of friends who had spoken so highly of Casa India. Numerous parties have expressed its near-divinity. It was pitched to me as seven dollars worth of holy sabor.

As I struggled to ingest the tortilla tube of gristle beef and flatulent rice, I briefly envisioned every person who had thought to recommend Casa India. Fixing their faces in my mind one at a time, I meditated on the word “betrayal.”

This burrito was an abomination, an affront to every single iota of renown that the world of Mexican food has ever earned. If given a choice between eating the whole thing and chowing down on three pieces of toast buttered with Chris Christie’s toe jam, I would have seriously considered the Jersey foot smegma.

I tried to eat it. I really did. I almost got through the smaller half before my plate was littered with half chewed bits of fat and muscle.

As an added indignity, they served the post-beef hate log with a tiny serving of red salsa. Attempting to down this burrito with such a meager complement of dressing is the culinary equivalent of trying anal sex for the first time with nothing but a thimble full of Elmer’s Glue for lubricant. It cannot be done without causing undue harm to the body and soul.

“Done already?” the waitress smirked as I handed her a twenty dollar bill at the register in the beer room.

Fun fact about me: I tip extra well when I feel aggrieved so that I can be absolutely sure I leave with the moral high ground from which to rain down hell on the offending kitchen.

She got more dollars than I’m comfortable admitting and a curt, “Sure.”

Again, just who am I to presume to represent the unilateral tastes of every human being? It’s clear that some people really dig Casa India. The fellow in the powder blue polo shirt was certainly having a fantastic morning there.

It takes all types to make this wide world go around. It takes a lot of dives to satiate all of those lusts. If some people enjoy Casa India, so be it. Good enough for me. It’s not my business what they do with their time there so long as it doesn’t affect too many parades.

If you’re anything like me, you might do well to enter at your own peril. I have a hunch it takes six beers just to make this place’s food palatable.

I award Casa India a “0” on the binary while a part of me continues to wonder if I wouldn’t have gotten a better bang for my buck around the corner at Just Food For Dogs.


Framing Downtown's Fenced Off Spaces: Q&A with S.c. Mero and Wild Life

You may have noticed some new additions to construction / security chain link fences around Downtown - holes with picture frames inserted into them. They're part of another urban intervention by some of our favorite artists around, S.c. Mero and Wild Life. We spoke with both of them about the project, what it's like putting up their work, and what inspires them in Downtown LA.

GDT: How did you come up with the idea for frames?

SM: Like a lot of the work we do, we simultaneously thought of it and we just went ahead and did it.

GDT: How did the idea of putting frames and fencing come up for you?

WL: When I was six, I used to love to hop the fence over to Mr. and Mrs. Tarbox’s house. When I would hop that fence, I would imagine myself entering a completely different world, like what was beyond the fence was an unexplored universe. I drew from that imagination when I was working on this project.

SM: We were walking together one day and Wild Life was carrying a frame for something unrelated. And we held it up, and thought, wouldn’t it be great if we removed part of a fence and created a picture based on that.

GDT: Did it feel like the goal was more about creating a picture, or creating transparency into a space…

SM: Both. It’s all based on perspective and landscapes. When you’re removing part of a fence, it calls into question why that fence is there to begin with, which can be for a lot of different reasons. For a construction site, for a parking lot, for a park that’s closed down...

GDT: I’m assuming you’re referencing Angels Knoll?

SM: Yeah, that’s always a go to for us.

GDT: You both have done a lot of work in Angels Knoll alongside Calder and others too. What is about Angels Knoll you love working with?

SM: For anybody who was here when the park was open, it meant something special for them. For people who weren’t here then, it’s sort of a “What’s going on with that space?” You always hear different things about it. I personally really love the park because it’s in between what Downtown used to be and what it is now. It felt like a very spiritual space.

GDT: I think the frames get exactly at this “in between” you mention - it separates. It’’s an untouchable space that’s being worked on and something’s supposed to be happening. A lot of Downtown projects appear to live in a limbo state, especially for those of us who walk these streets every day.

SM: Yeah, like “Broadway Construction Site 24”, the one at 4th and Broadway. 

[Deciding they did not wanted to be recorded, Wild Life draws a message to us to talk about the titles]

SM: I don’t know if you noticed the tag on that one, but it names all the elements of the “picture”. So for that one it was dirt, concrete, but then we thought we should write in a bulldozer since it’s under construction. But when we went to actually install the frame, they had actually put a bulldozer, right smack in the picture. It’s almost like we had planned it.

GDT: Where else are these located? Are they all gone?

SM: We have some around Civic Center, two in the Arts District - we put up 7 so far and envisioned 10 total, like an album.

[Wild Life scribbles: We’ll send you pics]

SM: One key thing about this project is that different photos taken of it reveal completely different scenes from different angles. It’s an interesting perspective about perspective - I’ve seen other pictures people have taken of them, and it really changes what you see in the frame. Thus, the artist really becomes the person taking the picture - it’s about what they choose to frame.

GDT: What’s next in the Downtown landscape for you two to work with?

SM: We can’t reveal what’s next. But I will say, one of the many reasons we work well together is because even if we’re doing something that people really like and that works, we don’t beat it to death. Like with these frames, we might do two or three more but then we’ll move on. We’ve already started working on something completely unrelated to this.

[Wild Life notes to us: Mention the security]

GDT: You two have always teetered the line - all of your work involves messing with the public realm in some way.

SM: Yes. While many recognize our work as art, to security guards and others the intention isn’t so clear. With this one, we had wire cutters and we’re cutting apart fences. The one by City Hall was a funny example - we just showed up to do it with the largest frame of any of them. There was a security guard who came over right away, and as I’m cutting the fence, he asks, “What are you doing?” I reply, “Oh we’re just putting up some art,” and he responds, “Oh cool, I thought you were cutting the fence, I thought I was gonna have to bust you,” even though we were clearly cutting the fence. It wasn’t til later he realized what we had done, but as he yelled at us and ran to get a supervisor, we made a run for it.


8.72: Pestolini

Pestolini hasn't gone out of business yet and it's unclear how. Photo by Dan Johnson.

Pestolini hasn't gone out of business yet and it's unclear how. Photo by Dan Johnson.

by Dan Johnson

Pestolini is like the Wonka factory of Downtown food establishments. No one comes in and no one goes out. There’s no treasure or grand mysteries waiting for lucky visitors inside. Just a perplexing paradox. How does this place stay in business?

These are exciting times for 4th and Broadway. The state building on the Southwest corner seems to be going about business as usual despite the all too frequent smack catastrophes that occur outside SHARE.

Meanwhile, the Southeast corner is a superlative pit. Thanks to Mr. Shomof for getting the permits for the proposed thirty-four story skyscraper only to immediately divest himself of the project so that the rest of us could enjoy an empty expanse for a year. On the up side, the dismal akeldama where the check cashing company used to be has been a major boon for Wild Life and SC Mero. Art lives.

Over on the Northeast corner where Wild Life and SC Mero used to ply their cheeky trade, whatever asshat owns that burned-out hulk of a building has opted to pay a security guard to keep it from getting vandalized and presumably burned down rather than deal with his mess.

Hey, I like blight just as much as the next Joe. I’m glad his building is a charnel house of broken dreams. It is the one structure on that corner that feels authentic. It does, however, disturb me that shit dumps like this endure in Downtown as abstractive after thoughts in the minds of owners who are far, far away.

Moving on, we have the famed Pestolini/Precinct building. God bless Precinct. It’s a welcome addition to a block that can’t seem to get its shit together. There are other great establishments going north on Broadway. I love Beantage and Bernadette’s as well as Buckets of Beer. If oddly conceived jumbles of conceptual mishmash and non-essential European bar games tickle your fancy, I can see how you might enjoy Bar Clacson.

With such esteemed company, it’s reasonable to expect that Pestolini would be a dark horse diamond in the rough. That was my hope, at least, when I spied the sandwich board advertising a $6.95 single topping pizza.

Sign me up!

Your first warning that things are not as they seem in Pestolini is the lack of clientele. The second warning is the bizarre décor that looks as if it were curated with an eye toward third grade tastes. There are odd paintings on the wall and a Christmas snoopy hanging from the ceiling.

So many seats, so few people to sit in them. Photo by Dan Johnson.

So many seats, so few people to sit in them. Photo by Dan Johnson.

The music piping through the speakers feels like something you’d hear in a cut rate south Orange County spa in the days and weeks before it went under for money laundering.

The staff were nice enough. I paid my money, got my water cup and adjourned to a window-facing booth to enjoy Pestolini’s finest feature: people watching. Say what I will about their food, they have a pristine location for spotting the vortex of people draining toward Grand Central Market or the Metro stop.

I was stupidly optimistic about the arrival of my olive topped pizza. It had every appearance of tasting good. It took me about one slice to come to grips with the fact that I was chewing something, but not tasting anything.

Have you ever had the experience of eating something supposedly hearty and realizing it was entirely devoid of anything nutritional? If not, head on down to Pestolini and see how the other half lives.

Beneath the sodium bomb olives and the bland cheese was a crust I can only describe as hard tack. That’s right folks, if you want to know more about the bland salt bread used as a naval ration for centuries because of its ability to endure without spoiling in the long journey around the Cape of Good Hope between India and London, here’s a chance.

If you're a history buff and are searching for a doctored version of standard issue Civil War lunch, order a pizza at Pestolini. Photo by Dan Johnson.

If you're a history buff and are searching for a doctored version of standard issue Civil War lunch, order a pizza at Pestolini. Photo by Dan Johnson.

The crust at Pestolini crackles with a whisper that seems to say, “I am flour, water, sodium and possibly baking soda: fuck yourself.” There’s nothing wrong with hard tack in a pinch. It has calories. The problem is that prolonged exposure to something this lacking in essential vitamins gives you scurvy.

I have a family history of scurvy because *spoiler alert* significant branches on my family tree are poor white trash. I have no desire to sink into their atavism and devolve into a middle Texas shit bag. So, I’ll pass on Pestolini moving forward.

I award the corner spot a begrudging “1” on the binary and silently stow away memory of this egregious bargain in the section of my mind reserved for monitoring food stores that will keep from spoiling in the weeks after the coming cataclysm.


In Memoriam: KevinMichael Key

We're offering thoughts n feelings in memory of KevinMichael Key, a guiding light in the Skid Row community who passed away last Wednesday. KevinMichael constantly strove to make Skid Row a more healthy, more community-oriented, and more equitable place. 

Born on January 20, 1950 in Bridgeport, Connecticut, KevinMichael began a family, received his law degree, and launched a career in New York City. But in 1983, when a death in the family meant his mother would be alone in LA, he relocated here to be near to her and prioritize her life and health.

Though Los Angeles brought him to family, it also brought him closer to his addiction. By the late 1990's, he was alone, sleeping on the streets, and in and out of treatments that weren't working. Then he found Skid Row.

Many people on the outside assume Skid Row is a place of mere despair, desperation, and hopelessness. Kevin Michael strongly disagreed. Thanks to the density of services and people going through similar life renewal, he found a community that inspired him to get sober in 2001 which he stayed for the remainder of his life. Skid Row became a natural place for Kevin Michael to pay it forward, helping others find pathways to sobriety too and eventually leading him to work work at UCEPP - the United Coalition East Prevention Program.

Kevin Michael would frequently say, "Skid Row saved my life." But through his work, he saved lots of lives in the Skid Row community - through sobriety, through healing, and through political action. Working alongside LACAN, performing with LA Poverty Department, and through many other local initiatives, Kevin Michael taught others how to advocate on their own behalf and give more people in Skid Row a seat at the table.

May Kevin Michael's life continue to inspire us to offer space to those who need justice and support in our community. May we treat all our neighbors with love and respect, and remember that leaving people behind in the name of progress is no progress at all.

The Skid Row community has organized a memorial gathering for Kevin Michael Key this Saturday July 30 11AM at Gladys Park. All are welcome.


8.72: Cow Café

If 8.72 has taught us anything it's that looks can be deceiving when it comes to places to eat. Photo by Dan Johnson.

If 8.72 has taught us anything it's that looks can be deceiving when it comes to places to eat. Photo by Dan Johnson.

by Dan Johnson

My first thought upon laying eyes on Cow Café at Pico Blvd and Grand Ave was, “here we go.”

It has all the outward appearances of an establishment that politically savvy urban activists have been trained to despise. After all, it’s new.

The décor is chic reclamation. Tables made from salvaged wood and steel I-beam supports squat beneath exaggerated glass light fixtures. There is a book rack with old editions of Interior Design and one copy of Elegant Universe by Brian Greene.

Amidst a housing crisis and a glut of luxury-skewed development in Los Angeles, we have evolved a binary mindset. You’re either on the right side of history or an enemy of humanity. The problem is that everyone is convinced they’re on the right side of history and the general political climate in this country has reinforced the notion that any sign of ideological disparity is casus belli.

It’s a time for scalpels instead of sledgehammers. There’s likely a workable common ground somewhere in the middle of the housing debate. I don’t anticipate we’ll reach compromise any time soon because most of us are still rock hard at the idea of going nuclear with every perceived slight.

If you read 8.72 with any regularity, you already know I’m exhausted with hype-sphere darling cafes that serve tiny portions for ungodly amounts of money. The pretension, the hashtags, the unsolicited “namastes” upon arrival—these things grate on me like wearing wet jeans to run a marathon.

But here’s the thing: looks can be deceiving. Just because a restaurant has an aesthetic that appears as if the owners foresaw their spread in the LA Downtowner long before opening does not mean it’s aligned with the exploitation brigade in their quest to bilk undiscerning millennials of discretionary spending while burning the neighborhood down.

Context is not in Cow Café’s favor. It’s located across the street from a laser tag fitness center. Read that again. It’s not a type. Then there’s a row of shuttered businesses and the barely-hanging-in-there bodega, Jo’s Liquor, across Pico Blvd. Kitty corner from Cow Café is the curiously titled “E on Grand,” a new six story sleeping facility for 9-5ers who will remain blissfully aware throughout their stay that their home is built on the site of one of the worst residential fire tragedies in Los Angeles history.

You have to march past a plethora of similarly generic new residential buildings with equally perplexing names like Apex, Luxe, Oakwood, Olive DTLA and Wren to arrive at Cow Café. The 7am to 7pm weekday haunt is not the preferable place to ponder why a developer who name a building at 12th St and Broadway “Axis.”

I was inclined not to give Cow Café the benefit of the doubt because, frankly, I’ve internalized a toxic prejudice against the new. I have the same reaction to menus with Avocado Toast featured prominently as I do banner ads hawking Girls Season 6: “this is probably not for me.”

As it turns out, Cow Café is excellent. Most of the trepidations I harbored before ordering my $7.50 spinach and sundried tomato quiche involved portion size. Was I setting myself up for a York Peppermint Patty sized dollop of spinach and pie crust? No. In fact, my $8.18 afforded me a large slice of delicious quiche with a hefty side salad. Both of which tasted excellent and left me feeling full.

The author probably never expected to eat quiche in an 8.72 review. Photo by Dan Johnson.

The author probably never expected to eat quiche in an 8.72 review. Photo by Dan Johnson.

If this is gentrification, sign me up. I’m not at all pissed off about a sub-8.72 special meal item that didn’t taste like a Sysco ass log built specially in a Monsanto lab to cement my colon into oblivion. The construction workers from the infrastructure project across the street seemed delighted with their meals. Don’t trust me? Take it from the blue-collar dudes in work boots.

The implication is that places like Cow Café will serve as a subtle symbol coded with meaning for ravenous greed-heads who will interpret the Wi-Fi-equipped eatery as a sign that the time is nigh from them to descend on a three-block radius and suck the life out of every living entity.

That’s not how society operates though. Yes, it could very well encourage an unscrupulous profit seeker to set up shop nearby. Still, we don’t judge businesses based on their worst customers. If we did that, Margarita’s would have been shuttered years ago for having aided and abetted the Nightstalker with calories during his murder spree.

I still feel queasy about a lot of businesses that have made in-roads into Downtown. I don’t want to live in a dustier version of San Francisco. I would also like to not eat like an asshole. With that in mind, let me just propose that we put forth the effort to keep from throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

I award Cow Café an unequivocal “1” on the binary and encourage you to support them especially given that a Starbucks is slated to go in across the street.


8.72: Catch 21

Catch 21 Seafood Company is both structurally triangular and economically pleasing to the author. Photo by Dan Johnson.

Catch 21 Seafood Company is both structurally triangular and economically pleasing to the author. Photo by Dan Johnson.

by Dan Johnson

How to put Catch 21 Seafood on Central Ave delicately:

1. It is a reliable purveyor of seafood with years of service to the community under its belt.

2. There is a staggeringly lucid mural dedicated to Standing Rock and clean water rights painted on the building’s exterior.

3. You have to cherish any business that pays nodding homage to Joseph Heller’s WWII fiction classic, Catch 22, even if you’re unsure what exactly a “Catch 21” is.

4. The food options are mighty affordable. Including a four dollar and change bowl of clam chowder with garlic bread included.

5. For $0.99 you can score garlic bread a la carte. Other values include the rice side and $2.50 draft beer.

6. Given its location between Gladys St and 5th St on Central Ave and the predominant socio-economics therein, Catch 21 clearly meets a need. Between folks who are penny-pinching and those on a lunch break from one packing or light industry job or another, Catch 21 appears to be doing a pretty robust business.

7. Catch 21 is an open air joint. You get that full swamp-butt sense that you’re down in the bayou chowing down on Gulf-caught fish. Yum!

8. The structure itself is delightfully triangular. I, for one, have grown weary with rectangular buildings. Short of telling Euclid to fuck off forever, I’d like to dabble in some sort of experimental middle ground. The triangle scratches that itch quite nicely.

9. There are two, count ‘em, two patios. Each of which is equipped with ample visual protection from the world beyond (where someone may or may not have been shooting up during my visit) so as to facilitate what would appear to have been a strategy session between those engaged in a possibly illicit business.

10. Did I mention the mural?!

Fish come from water, and Water Is Life. Catch 21 gets it. Photo by Dan Johnson.

Fish come from water, and Water Is Life. Catch 21 gets it. Photo by Dan Johnson.

11. The surrounding area is rife with new and interesting people who are eager to make your acquaintance. One of which cornered me, showed me his gums and asked for $1.75 to go to the hospital. I’m not much for handing out greenbacks, but what’s the harm? I gave him a dollar to which he demanded another seventy-five cents. I said no and he accepted my terms. Then he looked at me with great sadness and said, “you know what I’m going to spend this on, right?” “A bus?” I naively countered. “No.” Hey, thanks for being honest.

12. Catch 21 is an unknowing throwback to Downtown Los Angeles’ yesteryear. Sam Sweet (who in my mind is the most gifted Los Angeles researcher kicking out tales of geographic oral history from all points and eras in city history) went out of his way recently to chronicle the once and famous Johnny’s Shrimp Boat. The happy hovel used to service the drunks in the Devil’s Triangle at 3rd St and Main St in the mid-20th century. You can read more about it in Sam’s All Night Menu, but suffice it to say that inexpensive fried shrimp menu options in Downtown find themselves oriented toward a prestigious pedigree of low cuisine that has nourished many a person on many a bender.

13. Speaking of the shrimp combo, people seem to like it. After my meal, I caught up with one individual who took their Styrofoam bounty back to the hypodermic needle exchange on 4th St where their haste to dive headlong into the greasy grotto of potato and sea-crawdads was so pronounced, they simply took the bag and napkins and threw it into the street! A different, more cynical me might look at that and say, “hmm, that carelessness could have a deleterious effect on an already beleaguered supply of fish.” We’re staying positive today!

14. My chowder combo came with saltine crackers. I’m never one to look a gift horse in the mouth and carbs are carbs. Those ration logs were not mandatory. They were a kindness and a common courtesy. I doff my cap.

Not only are these saltines "Premium," they are also complimentary. Photo by Dan Johnson.

Not only are these saltines "Premium," they are also complimentary. Photo by Dan Johnson.

15. There’s a Buddha featured prominently in the restaurant’s décor. It’s juxtaposed with an advertisement for now defunct 90’s sugar water phenom Fruitopia. How’s that for a marriage of the orient and the occident?

16. There was little or no static to be felt once inside the restaurant. That’s really all you can ask for in this life.

17. Seven days of service each week. Gotta admire that.

18. Correct change was given and the food arrived promptly.

So, reflecting back on these merits via my rose tinted glasses, I’d like to award Catch 21 a “1” on the binary and politely demand that none of you look behind the proverbial curtain.

8.72: The Taco Truck

Leo's Taco Truck on Glendale Blvd and Temple St serves the best 'al pastor' around. And it's parked in a car wash parking lot. So stop complaining and go eat some tacos. Photo by Dan Johnson.

Leo's Taco Truck on Glendale Blvd and Temple St serves the best 'al pastor' around. And it's parked in a car wash parking lot. So stop complaining and go eat some tacos. Photo by Dan Johnson.

by Dan Johnson

Much mealy-mouthed conjecture has gone into determining once and for all what is American and what is not.

The gambit of enshrining Americanness as a deliberate set of values, customs, behaviours, creeds and cultures is a fool’s errand. We are a country steeped in contradictions.

We delight in them. How else could we unblinkingly claim predominance in the realm of global justice while we sport the world’s highest incarceration rate? How do we espouse the verse “all men are created equal” with one unflinching breath while sidestepping the tricky swamp of cognitive dissonance known as “slavery” with the next? How do we account for giving rise to Alan Greenspan and Allen Ginsberg?

The essence of successfully negotiating our nation’s prerogative for soaring bull shit requires a certain appreciation of manifest opposites. Good and Evil, Love and Hate, Prosperity and Poverty: these are the hallmarks of our bipolar nation. She’s hard to beat on her best days and an absolute horror on her worst. Embrace it.

Full well knowing this Fourth of July found any number of my fellow Americans mentally fellating our con artist in chief or alternately hoping for the forthcoming destruction of the country I love dearly, I’ll be keeping my exultations about the United States closer to home this year.

You want to know America, Downtown? You could wait in line at the Pantry or have some excellent BBQ or climb up the Wilshire Grand Tower and jerk off to the idea of liberated capital.

The true spirit of our intrepid Forefathers and their bold inheritors is to be found on most street corners in Downtown Los Angeles. Our omnipresent American icons emerge mostly at night and do a quiet trade in the values we hold most dear.

They are a mottled bunch of no one cloth. Despite immigrant derivation, few jingoists would be hard pressed to judge either the character of their work ethic or the quality of their wares. They are taco trucks and they are the American dream.

Flashback to last summer: what an atrocious emblem of Donald Trump’s absolute lack of reference to the country he claims to love it was to suggest that America’s worst-case scenario would be a taco truck on every corner.

In the hate riddled minds of the supposed patriots whose vision for the country is rooted in an impossible lust for “purity” and strict adherence to an imaginary cultural heterogeneity that never existed here in any shape or form, taco trucks are outward symbols of America becoming eroded by hordes of Latinos eager to absorb our success like so many brown-skinned vampires.

Out here in the real world, the prognostications of the idealists who haven’t a fucking clue how the nuts and bolts of their country operate fade in light of a truer reality.

Taco trucks make our city. They provide some of the most flavorful, exciting food to be served at low cost at late hours. They are mobile oases offering nourishment in food deserts with an astounding reliability of both presence and caliber.

Danny’s, Leo’s, Guacamole y Mas: these are the unsung heroes in the legends of urban hunger.

Guacamole y Mas on 4th St between Spring St and Broadway is a shining beacon of greatness, serving food to all Americans who order it, and everyone else too. Photo by Dan Johnson.

Guacamole y Mas on 4th St between Spring St and Broadway is a shining beacon of greatness, serving food to all Americans who order it, and everyone else too. Photo by Dan Johnson.

I think it’s safe to speculate that a number of the individuals who have patted masa into tortillas, shaved al pastor or hand scooped avocados in the back of one or more fluorescent lit trucks in Downtown Los Angeles perhaps arrived in this country via means the Federal Government would consider illegal.

Personally, I’m glad they made the trip. It’s mighty American of them to make a treacherous and often lethal journey to a place built on the historical notion that any person willing to work hard will find personal prosperity and with it the opportunity to send money back home to increase the quality of life for those they hold dear.

Cue the clamor. “Well, dem Mex-y-cans is stealing jobs from good, god-fearing Americans.” Well, excuse me, but it would seem as if the world of mobile food service is up for grabs. Further, I don’t see a lot of the Fox News viewership out serving drunk college kids and sloshed adults sloppy joes at 3am. Why? Because it’s a bitch to prep your truck, stake out your spot and serve food day in and day out. It is grueling, thankless work.

“Those people bring crime with them.” ← This is the laziest, most self-entitled line of thinking ever espoused by a nation whose premiere export is global instability and military intervention. Please tell me more about how Latino immigrants are dangerous because a handful of them have committed crimes. Is the taco truck cartel actively plotting to overthrow our government with a preemptive attack followed by a quick divvying up of our oil concessions to their friends?

Consider also that taco trucks are bastions of sensible presence in a nighttime setting defined often by the commission of anonymous, witness-free crimes. Just by being on busted-ass corners, taco trucks save an inestimable quantity of property and lives. And I’m not even counting hangovers prevented and brutal black outs mitigated.  

“OK, well there’s still too many of ‘em here. Why don’t they go back to their own country?”

Because of two hundred years of the Monroe Doctrine, the Roosevelt corollary and the Reagan “who gives a fuck about the election, finance the death squads” doctrine.

It is the height of arrogance to look at a whole section of the world and think, “they exist to give us cheap undershirts and boxer briefs.” “Oh, but NAFTA jobs—they stole our jobs; why are they so unhappy when they have the jobs we used to have?”

How much, exactly, do you think an American corporation pays when it moves overseas? You think a company sets up a maquiladora in Juarez to give everybody there the American dream? Fuck no. They pay them pennies on the dollar and generally fuck up a nation’s existing economy in the name of a progress that is wink-wink code for increasing the American corporation’s bottom line.

This horse shit paradigm exists for two reasons: 1. The US Government has installed an American friendly regime that ensures anti-globalization upstarts are dealt with swiftly and 2. The essential mythos of Pax Americana posits that those with skill, talent, gumption, heart, soul and grit can immigrate to the United States and make a better life for themselves.

When you remove someone’s opportunity to work towards the latter, you undermine the last possible bastion of merit in an already spurious system of exploitation.

Not that any of this diatribe matters given that the same people who shit on Latino immigrants overwhelmingly have last names like McPotato, Von Douche and Mussolini. The irony is completely lost on them. Does your family history mention anything about coming to America over a land bridge during the last Ice Age? No? Then shut the fuck up about immigrants, you filthy fucking immigrant, and have a goddam mulita.

Feeling bigoted? Try a mulita al pastor at Leo's Taco Truck. If it doesn't cure you, it will at least shut you up for a moment. Photo by Dan Johnson.

Feeling bigoted? Try a mulita al pastor at Leo's Taco Truck. If it doesn't cure you, it will at least shut you up for a moment. Photo by Dan Johnson.

Fourth of July practically reeks of cheap signaling. We love our country so much, we wear red, white and blue and listen to John Fogarty all day. How impressive. Wow. Surely, someone out there is looking in at our national celebration of self-congratulation and is instinctively filled with hate for our freedom.

Meanwhile, I’ll be having a taco or twelve. Why? Because I’m hungry and there is no doubt in my mind that one or more quality taco trucks will be poised around Downtown to provide a hearty meal. It’s a holiday (one renowned for drunkenness and brash displays of nationalism at that) and they’re still on the job. That’s America.


8.72: Sunday Café

Sunday Café is the kind of place where one can indulge in his/her fantasy of being a pissed off, punky LA youth unwittingly involved in an extraterrestrial coverup. Photo by Dan Johnson.

Sunday Café is the kind of place where one can indulge in his/her fantasy of being a pissed off, punky LA youth unwittingly involved in an extraterrestrial coverup. Photo by Dan Johnson.

by Dan Johnson

Raise your hand if you came to Downtown with some misguided notion that your life would bear a resemblance, be it stylistic or spiritual, to Blade Runner.

There’s no shame in it. Go ahead. Let’s see those hands.

Grungy dystopia with abundant multi-cultural cuisine and neon-lit ambient apocalypse throwing shadows across new-style PI and damsel in distress archetypes lifted straight off of film noir. What’s not to like?

The great conceit of Ridley Scott’s ominous Phillip K. Dick adaptation was that Rick Deckard had no clue who he was and only the vaguest clue of what immediate courses of action were in his best interests. He was fucked, plain and simple.

Yet, he kept going. Possibly because he was perpetually bathed in perfectly soft light, confronted with pleasure model robots gaming him with sex appeal and all the other trappings of the deadly serious navel-gazing existential crises that make being a narcissist so engaging. Not to mention he had a delightful wardrobe, cushy job and a house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

This is the unspoken stylistic touchstone behind the Downtown aesthetic revival. More than poverty voyeurism or Steve Aoki concerts or rooftop pools, it’s this fantasy of a Vangelis-soundtracked sleaze synth life strewn in decadence, imminent demise and desire.

Also, the rain.

Against all logic, every shot in that film is hosed to the gills in cloud breaks, showers and all out deluges. Historically, Los Angeles has seen some mighty wet days. There’s a reason why the Los Angeles River got paved over. It used to channel ungodly quantities of runoff to a point that it was known to wildly change course over a matter of days.

Self-representations of LA love to indulge in fantasies of a rain-soaked City of Angels. I’m looking at you Singin’ In the Rain with your jackass choreography and fake precipitation machines rigged with milk instead of water because dairy plays better on celluloid.

The reality of our current city and the great future our industrial ancestors have built for us is not so much hazy thunderstorms and cold cyber melodramas as it is shit-hot, dry, desperate, vicious and unforgiving.

It’s the old Downtown bait and switch. You asked for Blade Runner and you got Repo Man.

Despite all wishful thinking and downward-gazing delusions projected onto the city from the top of the Wilshire Grand, our city center is a stifling hot aggregate of shitty bosses, worse jobs, clumsy spray paint, savage punks, mean drunks and possible alien sub-plots. Deal with it.

Those interested in following Otto’s footsteps while riding on a concrete slab down a river of a useless land should proceed immediately to 4th St just east of Los Angeles St where a new monolith of white wall broken by already-tagged roll downs hides Sunday Café.

Throw your cinematically acquired preconceived notions of LA as rainy cyber punk metropolis out the window and visit Sunday Café, where propane tanks are used as doorstoppers. Photo by Dan Johnson.

Throw your cinematically acquired preconceived notions of LA as rainy cyber punk metropolis out the window and visit Sunday Café, where propane tanks are used as doorstoppers. Photo by Dan Johnson.

It’s not for ordinary fuckin’ people who hum 7up jingles at work. It’s for people who prefer to ride the bus and those who mysteriously survive otherwise lethal liquor store robberies.

Not that you need to satisfy any of these prerequisites to order from the alley abiding outdoor grill. Mostly you just need cash and a willingness to order from a clip-binder menu that looks strikingly like an 8th grade book report.

After perusing the menu, you too can choose from a variety of fast cuisine drawn from multiple cultures. From generic ham sandwiches to quick ramen and a bevy of Mexican choices beyond, you will select a sub-eight-dollar selection and revel in its glory.

The tacos dorado four pack ($7.50) is not what I would call “excellent” by, say, ten dollar standards. It is an unremarkable mishmash of iceberg lettuce, parmesan cheese, sour crème and mediocre hard shell corn masking a corned beef style carne asada treasure deep within.

It’s not the quality of the food nor the perceived sensory ecstasy it produces as it commingles with your taste buds—it’s how shitty you feel afterwards. Especially on a day that finds the grillmaster moaning out the mercury reading as great rivulets of sweat trickle down her face at 11am (How’s that for rain, Ridley?).

I was terrified at the prospect of depositing that much dairy and street beef into my gullet before heading to Sierra Madre Villa for an afternoon of triple digit heat. Yet, the day went on without a hitch (despite having to deal with yet another Sean Hannity loving dipshit convinced of his own moral superiority despite all outward indicators to the contrary). I didn’t pass out, shit myself, wheeze, lumber toward narcolepsy or even lash out irrationally.

The tacos dorados at Sunday Café are an example of what a bored and resentful punk might eat after a long day of repossessing cars. Photo by Dan Johnson.

The tacos dorados at Sunday Café are an example of what a bored and resentful punk might eat after a long day of repossessing cars. Photo by Dan Johnson.

I did my job and was rewarded one day later with a pristine bowel movement, for which I’ll thank my robust fiber regimen and the high-test cookmanship at Sunday Café. That’s the Repo Man difference—a utilitarian reliability not staked on abundant water.

In this Downtown day and age, asking for aesthetic excellence and introspective complexity is a bit much. Just be happy that you haven’t had a lobotomy or a chance encounter with a neutron bomb. Have some cheap food while you’re at it.

I award Sunday Café a “1” on the binary and encourage all of you to avoid the Rodriguez Brothers at all costs.


8.72: Wurstküche

The author worked here almost a decade ago. His time at Wurstküche proved to be formative. Photo by Dan Johnson.

The author worked here almost a decade ago. His time at Wurstküche proved to be formative. Photo by Dan Johnson.

by Dan Johnson

There are now two Wurstküches in existence not counting the ill-fated Denver branch, which we do not speak of in polite company.

Even if the aliens made first contact with mankind at the Venice location where they instructed the snap-button staff in the esoteric art of lactating Aventinus Eisbock from their nipples and squeezing gourmet Austin Blues pork links from their bleached sphincters, Wurstküche purists would still decry the Lincoln Boulevard store as second fiddle to the original ‘Küche.

It’s pronounced “cooch,” incidentally. Not to dissuade every Downtowner with a couple semesters of college German from attempting to form their lips with Bavarian precision around the Teutonic tongue twister.

I know this because I spent time slinging sausages at the ‘Küche in 2009. Mine was a brief season in Wurstville. My arrival was one of many awkward stumblings toward solvency precipitated by the boom or bust cycle of freelance creativity that has similarly fucked many of my colleagues over the eons.

In a glorious testament to the enduring psychic trauma of the protestant work ethic and the puritan guilt laid there-in, I recall attending the informal job interview (that I secured via Craigslist) in a shirt and tie. Not that my attire made any difference. Mostly the owner was trying to suss out whether I fell in the acceptable margin between total slapdick and outright thief.

After securing Tyler’s blessing, I journeyed up the steep incline of the ‘Küche learning curve to become a casual interloper in the world of Bauhaus themed, tube-wrapped protein service.

What a world it was. I say this as a grizzled veteran of yesteryear’s Wurstküche: today’s food servers are soft. We were a heartier bunch back then. The ‘Küche was a bizarre dojo. The managers were our instructors in a discipline of balance and pain.  

We negotiated the dead-arm holding pattern facilitated by persistently unaware customers who stacked themselves like non-sentient rocks of humanity in the narrow confines of the bench tables.

We used the original (and heavy) red order numbers that most early customers placed face down on the table instead of up and obvious.

We learned to do more with less as our heavy breathing, Mike Ness adoring manager, James, steadily turned the lights down until the back corridor became a physical metaphor for some Joseph Campbell shit.

We stacked glass and checked the perspiration on the cucumber water jugs. Late at night, a few unlucky souls collected the condiment bottles and went to battle with the disgust-inducing golem of kitchen impedimenta known as the mustard pump.

We were privileged to live in the golden age of ‘Küching when drinking on the job was somewhat frowned upon but not forbidden. We pined for generous managers to prescribe us mid-shift doses of “sanity juice,” 9% alcohol German beer served to the brim in water cups. We were forbidden from sipping—a reorientation with good mental health came only with taking down the medicine in a series of strong, breathless gulps.

Eight years later and I’m overcome with nostalgia for the ‘Küche of yore. It still smells roughly the same. The mustard, the sausage and the heavy beer have a unique fragrance that will likely never be undone.

The reminiscence is not all delight. A seven dollar “veggie cho” sausage, no matter how delightful, will always remind me of an aggregate of shift meals that end with me leaving the ‘Küche ten pounds heavier. Further, the carefully curated blend of indie electronica soft rock disturbs me to the core. To this day, I suspect that the song “Burial” by Miike Snow is my Manchurian Candidate trigger song.

The "Veggie Cho" ushered in palpable feelings of nostalgia for the author. Photo by Dan Johnson.

The "Veggie Cho" ushered in palpable feelings of nostalgia for the author. Photo by Dan Johnson.

What wasn’t at all obvious during my tenure at the ‘Küche was that our dear little sausage kitchen would become one of the most influential service locations in Downtown.

No matter how you feel about the asymmetrical oddity caught conceptually between Portland and Potsdam, the truth is that its business model, its aesthetic and its success became a touchstone and bellwether for an entire generation of quick casual dining in Downtown. If Wurstküche could make it, so could x amount of other similarly conceived restaurants.

Proof of concept is nice validation, but the larger impact of Wurstküche is silent and tremendous.

It doesn’t take a twenty-year service veteran to pour beer, cook sausage and work a cash register. In a city where survival jobs are at a premium, Wurstküche opened its doors to hundreds of creatively minded drinkers and grillers who popped their service cherries there.

The ‘Küche is like culinary Kevin Bacon. If you’re out for a drink or a bite to eat in Downtown, you’re no more than a few degrees removed from someone who’s put in their time at Wurstküche.

I see Oscar most days at Guisados. Dylan and Steve-O will always and forever be the barroom heroes of Downtown Los Angeles in my eyes. The Travises are alive and well and doing the good gospel work laid out by Saint Matty. Jasmine owns a wildly prolific chain of food trucks where I have eaten far too many “wachos” to have the waistline I currently enjoy. I even ran into Johnny on Grand Avenue not that long ago. He’s doing OK.

El Tigre is on Facebook, naturally. Lord knows what happened to the Cricket.

For its cast of all-star human staff members, Wurstküche also had a way of singing a siren song to the douche bag set.

On my last day at the ‘Küche, I witnessed an ominous harbinger of Downtown to come. Power cut out during a rolling brown-out right as the dinner rush started. The hood fan and kitchen equipment wheezed to a halt and ‘Küche staff went into damage control.

In my final hours as a ‘Kücher, I was tasked with manning the front register and breaking the bad news to would-be patrons: yo, we can’t take orders.

Under the influence of one or more doses of sanity juice, I bravely shooed away a veritable host of diners. As if on cue with ninety seconds left under the watchful eye of Joseph and Tyler, a token Bunker Hill Bro strolled into the restaurant with what I assume he mistook for a female trophy of some sort click-clacking behind him in heels.

Without so much as a spare second with which to heed my warning, this BHB began shouting an order worthy of three or four grown men.

Finally, he paused to consider his dipping sauce options. I ambushed him with the bad news.
“I’m sorry sir, we’re closed.”

In no mood to be shot-down by someone making an hourly wage, he spat back, “what do you mean you’re not open?”

If I’d had a white board and some markers handy, I could have sketched it out in terms even his Cro-Magnon self could have fathomed. Kitchen + No Power=No Protein 4 Dingus.

Instead, I opted for the quick retort. “Don’t you worry sir, by the end of the night we’ll get one of our sausages inside of you.”

His corpulent face began to turn bright crimson.

“What the fuck did you just say to me?”

“Don’t you worry sir, by the end of the night we’ll get one of our sausages inside of you,” I repeated as I removed my server towel, pivoted, walked into the back of house and clocked out.

Fuck you, buddy.

Sometimes you just have say "Fuck you, buddy" and then immediately clock out. Photo by Dan Johnson.

Sometimes you just have say "Fuck you, buddy" and then immediately clock out. Photo by Dan Johnson.

I honor the ‘Küche for being a gateway to the janiform aspect of Downtown we are so prone to losing touch with. Here, you really get the best and the worst. That’s that. Savor the good for all it’s worth and tell the bad to sit on an uncooked kielbasa until they have to call in sick with botulism.

Unless you’ve had lapband surgery, eight bucks isn’t going to leave you feeling full at Wurstküche. Plus, the temptation posed by ample beer has a deadly and pricey allure. Still, I can’t help but feel remiss for not having sung the praises of this unlikely delight deep in my heart.

Surprise, surprise—I award Wurstküche a “1” on the binary and wonder where James Nichols is today.