by Dan Johnson
The important thing to remember is that good things are happening.
Pessimism is addictive and useful, but perpetually preparing for the worst-case scenario also has a way of filtering out the decent occurrences that accumulate in plain sight.
Those needing proof of the great glacier of progress creeping slowly through Downtown Los Angeles need look no further than Dune.
Not the Frank Herbert sci-fi novel that has spawned a cottage industry of secondary internet conjecture speculating as to which film adaptation is indeed the worst cinematic document of our era.
I’m raving about the Mediterranean bistro on Olympic Blvd between Broadway and Main St. It’s an Atwater transplant, like a healthy liver donated to a sickly man from some rosy cheeked kid whose body grew two on accident.
I first noticed the puke green exterior from a bench at Mega Bodega where I go to discuss matters of great importance (typically related to fermented hops and wheat) with similarly illumined minds.
Patronizing Dune is like stepping into a scene from Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris except you’ll actually give a shit about the plot. The café is a stylized idealization of interwar France. Soft lighting, mirrored walls anchored with dark tile, aesthetically pleasing vintage canned food and a soundtrack drawn from old-shellac recordings of roots Blues all evoke a specific sensibility of chic simplicity.
By and large, the sandwiches are beyond the $8.72 price range. If you’re flush with first of the month coin, the falafel sandwich is nice, but pales in comparison to the $11.5 pickled beet sandwich.
Though the words “pickled beet” don’t necessarily inspire consumer confidence, I can happily attest that this is one of the finest sandwiches I have ever tasted in Downtown Los Angeles or anywhere else for that matter. Dominant olive flavors, shoestring potatoes and a fried egg all pull their weight in an explosion of flavor that makes Budd Dwyer’s mouthful of .357 magnum look like child’s play.
But hey, there’s that tricky sticking point of affordability. Speaking in the parlance of ‘30s Paris, the price point at Dune is more for established, money-to-burn Picasso types not poor, drunk, sex-crazed, willing-to-entertain-the-notion-of-eating-one’s-own-shit Henry Miller ilk.
Prepare to bask in the glory of this wondrous institution: the community sandwich. Unwritten on Dune’s menu but clearly marked in store is a pay what thou wilt meal built from day old ciabatta bread, hummus and vegetables. It’s an ingenious way to clear out old stock and provide a meal for common and frugal folk such as myself.
The proceeds from the community sandwich go to the ACLU. Most apparently see fit to offer up a one to five dollar donation for aforementioned splendor. I paid four dollars for mine. That dovetailed conveniently into a side order of falafel for four dollars, although the $1.5 eight-minute organic egg would have been a nice addition as well.
Anticipatory moments were wiled away beneath a sonic blanket of Blind Willie Johnson and Tommie Bradley. What should one expect from a cheap-o sandwich? As it turns out, quite a bit.
First, the sandwich itself is a glory. Second, the side of falafel is generous in its own right. Third, how did we get so lucky?
One form of logic argues that a restaurant of Dune’s caliber should never devalue its quality product by offering up a cut rate version of itself to any Dick, Debbie or Donovan that comes in off the streets. This is the same school of thought that found Alan Greenspan advocating for unoccupied homes to be destroyed so as to raise the market value of all other homes.
Still a more pragmatic logos dictates that wasted food is never good for a business’ bottom line and the surest way to establish oneself in a neighborhood is to create an accommodating category of service by which the broadest cross section of would be customers are invited to sample the quality wares at a flexible rate.
We used to call this sort of thing “compromise.” It’s a term referring to a process where one party abandons a lofty perch of pride to bridge a chasm separating reality from idealism. We used to do a lot of it here in America, but less so these days.
The taste of such archaic humility buttressed with quality and served on a donation basis has my heart palpitating.
I award Dune a “1” on the binary and politely ask that you go support them before someone “develops” their building.