by Dan Johnson
Why does one open a restaurant?
To further a culinary vision? To serve a need? To stick it to a gaggle of old Persians?
In the case of Hill St’s Salt N Peppa LA (lawsuit pending), I suspect the answer might involve all three.
Located at the ass end of St. Vincent’s Court where the high octane kitsch dining alley opens onto the main drag of the Jewelry District, Salt N Peppa plays like a gauntlet thrown down to the hidebound eateries where the elder generation of jewelers have left permanent clefts in the pavement beneath the chairs they’ve occupied for decades.
Salt N Peppa is upbeat and well lit. Clean white is the dominant motif. Two large side by side TVs play Sports Center. A crisp sound system inundates the counter area and orchid clad tables beyond with a high BPM sampler of contemporary electronica representing a Near East crescent between Romania and India.
It is far too early in the morning for me to cope with the sonic undulations of “Nici Madonna, Nici Shakira,” and it’s always too early to order an eight dollar breakfast burrito. I hate to fixate on this one point, but given the breakfast burrito options along the 7th St and Hill St corridor, you really have to bring your A game when you charge eight dollars for a burrito.
Still it’s better than a four dollar bagel, because there is an unpriced cost of five dollars attached to every sub-par bagel I eat in this city. (What’s the deal, guys? Is bagel making a gilded art protected by centuries of ritual violence? Can somebody in this city figure out how to make a savory donut or is that too much to ask?)
A reality TV show business consultant might tell Salt N Peppa to focus on doing a few things really well. Cut costs, run an efficient business, build a following. Take a narrow approach guys. Be the scalpel not the carpet-bombing raid.
Alas, that would require removing the seventeen dollar lamb meal and sixteen dollar rib eye from the menu amidst an ego-slashing campaign that might not jibe with a “we do it all” mentality. The problem is that trying to do too much can really wear you thin.
Case in point: my eight dollar breakfast burrito. It takes about ten minutes to appear, which is roughly the amount of time it takes for me to grow physically ill watching a prolonged Sports Center segment where pundits pontificate on the import of NBA commissioner (and sickly, Marfan Syndrome fraught James Ellroy doppelganger) Adam Silver’s recent “rest memo.”
Why this deserved ten minutes of coverage is a question jockeying with “why the fuck is my burrito taking this long if I’m the only customer?” at the forefront of the urgency queue in my consciousness.
The burrito arrives on a piece of newsprint design deli basket liner ($5.00 on Amazon) protecting a plate made from lacquered tree core. The curious presentation is almost enough to distract me from the size of my burrito, which is slightly larger than a cable TV remote control. Just when I’m beginning to despair, the chef apologizes and takes the burrito back to the kitchen.
He’s forgotten the eggs.
This is worrisome because eggs are to breakfast burritos as chassis are to cars. You’re going to need that. Still, the promise of more filler bodes well towards having a sizable food item for eight dollars.
Unfortunately, when the burrito returns it doesn’t seem to have gained any discernible girth.
I adjourn outside to masticate while Meet Bros’ “Nachange Saari Raat” sings me through the process. Across the street, an ominous man looks down on me from the fifth story of the parking structure while sipping coffee. Somewhere in the distance, someone is screaming. The screens inside still shows large, unflattering photos of Adam Silver. I suppose I should be grateful that I’m not Adam Silver or the person screaming down the street.
My mind reels through hypothetical conversations between the owner and me. None of which come to any useful end. It’s been my experience that people are going to continue doing their shit no matter what I say. Personal experience is the only thing that imparts wisdom.
Salt N Peppa is either going to be a rousing success or an investment pit. I hope for the former but am well prepared for the latter.
I award Salt N Peppa LA a “1” on the binary and look forward to their progressive early morning workout class “Spinderella.”