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?!
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.
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.