Thursday, March 18, 2010


The thing is I love restaurants, and I want to love them so it's just so goddamn wrong when they don't make me love them.

This whole blog started over Cafe Flora in Seattle. It's a place that has sometimes been wow awesome bomb on the one hand and terrible on the other. Since it's one of the few totally vegetarian places in Seattle it's calming and comforting for a vegetarian to be there. Carnivores hate it because the food is all weird, they don't know what anything is and no matter what there isn't going to be meat. It's payback for the refried beans made with lard and the soup with the chicken broth base, although that one is a rookie mistake.

So January and I have been looking forward to dinner there. When we got there it was fine. They seem to have some sort of farm/barn theme now, but it's cool. We were seated by the front window facing the street, so far so good.

The waitress brought the menus and I decided on one of the three beers that cost $4.5. There were some that were $9, which is just out of my league. I will pay that for Grey Goose vodka, but beer? No. Beer is more or less beer. Some beer is better than others (I will tolerate no But Light comments) but not that much better.

The first hint of trouble came when they were out of the beer I ordered. Seriously I know it's easy to say, but if you are in charge of wrangling beer and you can't keep track of three what does that say about your organizational skills?

I was on edge already because the last time we had been to this place it was January's birthday. It was a weeknight and we were expecting 10 people. Naturally we had reservations. We were mostly there on time, but there were a couple of stragglers. When you consider that we are in one of the most congested cities in the country it's a damn miracle anybody even bothers to go anywhere at night. The of 8 out of 10 present and accounted for it wasn't a bad average.

We sat there for 45 minutes without being able to order a drink or appetizers or anything. The waiter just hovered for a second then split. I was rendered testy.

As long as you have a captive audience the sensible thing to do is bring on the drinks. We are the ideal group. We don't start fights with the other vegetarians. We have a couple then leave. Losing money hand over fist to teach a lesson to the customers seems kind of stupid. What happens is, it teaches the customers that the employees are snots. I would add that the place was not full, there were no other parties waiting for a table. There was just horrible judgment and bad management.

So that's the background.

Back to the action. When the waitress left after taking my second choice beer order January said "They probably sold out at Happy Hour". The reason that joke is funny is Cafe Flora has had their new happy hour on their web site for about 6 weeks. When I called to find the details, hours etc. the guy on the phone said it wasn't really going on yet. I asked him when it got started was it going to be in the bar area only (the bar is microscopic) or what. He put me on hold and came back and said it was probably going to be all over the restaurant. He had no idea and nobody else did either. Soooo it would appear that they don't have a launch date.

Now here is the nice part. The reason I want happy hour is because they have the best thing. It's coconut tofu, deep fried. It comes with lettuce leaves and basil and you wrap the tofu in the lettuce with the basil inside and dip it in the dipping sauce and it's delicious. That's really all you need to eat, so imagine the happy hour, if they had beer (say). It's an idea they could develop. If they ever decided to give the happy hour concept a try.

So there we were, January and I next to the window and there is a window box situation that's new. It was part of the farm theme, I think. At any rate there were plants in the window box deal and here is the problem:

Plants are to make things look better, however you are not really supposed to notice them unless it's "My God have you ever seen such beautiful orchids!" or begonias or roses or whatever. Looking at the window display I couldn't help but think "You know if you are going to put plants in the window you should probably make it less obvious that they are still in the dirty gallon cans from the nursery and they are really out door grasses. It could have worked inside for awhile if there were three times the number so it didn't look sad and some sort of moss layer on top, however this is really a pitifully thin display". That isn't the look you want to cultivate. So to speak.

Then what happened was, we placed our orders. I wanted the french dip, they make them with portabello mushrooms and they are really good.

January ordered the spinach pizza, one of the three pizza choices, and you guessed it, wrong pizza. Honest to God.

I ended up with the pizza, because I'm a nice guy. The waitress was contrite up to a point. She ultimately took half off the pizza, which was a rock bottom compromise. I don't like pizza. The waitress kind of wandered off after that. I was going to order another beer, but she was having nothing more to do with us.

The point is, if you have a restaurant PAY ATTENTION. Walk around the place. Pretend like you have never been there before. Get off your goddamn high horse, and yes Cafe Flora I'm talking to you. You get to rest on your laurels for about 12 hours after a good review, then get back to work.

Now every one pay attention.


The correct way to have happy hour is to make all your appetizers half off, and then some lower drink prices and Bob's Your Uncle.

Do NOT make some minuscule ridiculous thing and charge $5 or $7 dollars for it and call it happy hour. Humus is good, but at $5 a tablespoon it does not make me happy. I'm talking to you Twist and a bunch of other places that I can't think of the names of right now.

The best happy hour of all is El Toreador in Redmond, they do it exactly right. You should go there a lot.

And furthermore you restaurants that have only one token vegetarian dish. Tom Douglass. Don't Make It Spicy. A lot of people can't tolerate spicy food. As long as we're on the subject I'm not impressed by how spicy your food is. Have 5 stars, I don't care.

You know where the best vegetarian thing in a non vegetarian restaurant is? Cyclops on First Ave. It's the Hippy Burger, it's great. It isn't good for you, I never said that. But it's fabulous.

What is up with the places that have a bunch of hamburgers and offer a vegetarian burger too, but the vegetarian one has lettuce on it sometimes a tomato. Just put on the menu that you can do it with a Boca Burger. And don't charge more, that just makes for a pissed off vegetarian.

I really didn't see the vegetarian sub plot coming, but it's good for all I think.

This is probably only the first installment of Restaurants. I'm kind of distracted.


Cherry Street Coffee Company wraps up their pastries, bagels and whatever at the end of the day and they set them outside on the table or the newspaper box or wherever for homeless people. It's just a little quiet thing that's nice to do.

Now I'm only behind two!