by Dan Johnson
Meat Zilla is clearly a glitch in the Matrix. The staggering discontinuity in commercial food service immediately adjacent to the Hotel Cecil is enough to elicit a hearty “whoa” out of Keanu Reeves.
Was this not an entirely different business four months ago when I wrote an 8.72 on Dave’s Grill?
Yes and no. The lunch service shack has undergone one of the least expensive rebrandings in the history of Downtown to become a zany, off-the-wall purveyor of culinary sensationalism.
For those with a discerning eye, the big tip off that Meat Zilla is just a bleached tip, bro’d out caricature of Dave’s Grill comes in the form of the animated woman manning the register. Don’t I know you from somewhere? Possibly this same restaurant in January?
Then there’s the patio furniture, which is exactly the same as it was before except for the ubiquitous presence of tiny stickers whose font communicates “MEAT ZILLA” with the same subtlely as a fifteen beer drunk Huntington Beach resident expresses his desire to sleep with anything possessing a pulse while puking and rallying his way through a free Social Distortion concert at the US Open of Surfing.
The Meat Zilla sign itself is just a vinyl wrap stapled onto the old marquee. The contours of the previous Dave’s Grill palm tree logo press through the fabric in a curious instance of signage topography.
Mostly though the transition has played out in a predictable menu reboot built around adding grotesque quantities of meat to ordinary menu items. The updated fare is a love letter to sodium and Sysco. Burritos with tater tots and meat patties and frozen French fries and Applewood bacon and a burger named “Beef! Beef!,” oh my!
Adding further discomfort are now abundant images of a hand-rendered, sunglasses and ball cap wearing hamburger whose anthropomorphized likeness appears around the shop touting platitudes like “#justthetip” and “Yo! Put Baskets Here” in jerry-rigged 8x10 attempts at order.
The overall effect is the same as going to your high school reunion and meeting a vivacious and attractive woman who seems familiar in a way you can’t quite place. Then it suddenly dawns on you that despite all the airs of effortless cool, this is the same person who shit themselves during the Presidential Physical Test and has subsequently invested tens of thousands of dollars on plastic surgery to escape the stigma of that bowel movement.
Hey, no judgement. We all do what we’ve got to do. There shouldn’t be a prejudice against a quick nip tuck of personal or business nature.
Still, with both cases there’s a lingering psychological aspect. Just because you decide to be a new you, doesn’t mean you’re a new you. Sorry, The Secret lied.
Despite the new logo, Meat Zilla is still Dave’s Grill except now you can get a hamburger served “Meatzza” style, which is shorthand for paying three dollars extra to have your patty wrapped in pepperoni pizza instead of a bun. I didn’t opt for that because I wasn’t raised beneath high tension power lines, but I can understand why a business would feel such extreme lengths were necessary.
With the Hotel Cecil ready to undergo renovation and the palace of layaway upcharge known as Dearden’s going under, the current prospects for the 600 block of S Main St are grim. Daytime draws include a tailor, a bus stop and a place where you can hop a ride to twenty cities south of the border including but not limited to Zacatecas.
Does this block really need another food location to compete with Margarita’s, low cost sushi, cheap-o Chinese and flavor-of-the-week pizza? No. But Meat Zilla’s there just the same, so might as well make the best of it.
I had the scandalously titled Threesome Burrito, which is an entirely un-erotic trio of sausage, ham and bacon mashed up with tater tots and “Juan’s Salsa,” which amounts to a glob of cilantro in one half of this monstrosity.
The regret came free of charge. There’s nothing like standing in an unmoving lunch hour line at the local post office when a slab of eight dollar tortilla, meat and cheese begins dissolving into your bloodstream. The resulting malaise tinged with the agro chemical yield of hormone-augmented meat generated a hateful impulse future historians should not overlook when attempting to interpret our era.
I award Meat Zilla a “1” on the binary while still wondering just who Dave is.