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.
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.