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« Brunch at El Paso Taqueria | Main | Brunch at Shopsin's »

My suety Saturday: brunch at Shopsin's and dinner at Los Feliz

I'm not going to lie: I think it's a total cop-out that I'm combining two restaurant reviews in to one post.  However, I don't have a sufficient number of quality pictures for either establishment, and here are my reasons why:

Shopsin's: I didn't take pictures here out of shear respect for the Shopsin's and, to be quite honest, because all of the first-hand accounts that I had heard about Kenny and Zack (Shopsin) scared the shit out of me (i.e. yelling and cussing at customers, etc.). 

Los Feliz: I attempted to snap a few shots of the menu, my margarita and a couple of the items we ordered at Los Feliz.  Unfortunately, after losing my battle to the restaurant's dim lighting, I quickly gave up and put my camera away.

Brunch at Shopsin's:

Located in a stall within the Essex Street Market stands Shopsin's General Store.  At capacity, this small restaurant can comfortably seat approximately 20 diners; five people at the counter overlooking the kitchen, three two-top tables to the left of the counter stools, and three more two-top tables located just behind the stools.  Hence the name, the space resembles an old-fashioned general store, or, dare I say it, a smaller-scale version of the Cracker Barrel: exposed shelves lined with canned veggies, jars of preserves, old tattered cookbooks and knick-knacks, etc.  I almost felt like I was on the set of a movie.

Ceci and I arrived at Shopsin's promptly at 9:55am, only to find ourselves waiting in a line for seats behind three anxious patrons.  Approximately twenty-minutes later, we were seated at a two-top table located to the left of the counter stools.  Our waiter, decked out in a Metalica t-shirt (circa one of their 1990-something tours), was prompt, knowledgeable about the menu and all of its 500 items (that's right, 500 items), and courteous; a far cry from what I had anticipated after reading all of Shopsin's service-related horror stories. 

Ceci and I decided to split an order of the famous Mac n' Cheese Pancakes, in addition to ordering our own entrees.  I chose the Migas, which is a Tex-Mex play on traditional huevos revueltos (scrambled eggs).  A large salad bowl was piled high with a mound of fresh-out-of-the-fryer tortilla strips.  Hovering Mount Crispy were fluffy scrambled eggs, salsa rojo, avocado, grilled green peppers and onions, and fresh sprigs of cilantro.  I did my best to neatly toss all of the ingredients together before showering my breakfast with house-made hot sauce and a dash of salt and pepper.  Although I was overwhelmed by the massive amount of tortilla strips, I was very pleased, both in flavor and texture, with my Migas. 

Between bites of my eggs, I could not seem to take my eyes off of our order of Mac n' Cheese Pancakes.  Before they arrived in front of me, I had no clue what to expect, and I'm sure that you don't either; so picture this, if you will: as you're hovering over the the skillet waiting for your Bisquick pancakes to brown on one side, you add a dollop of homemade mac n' cheese to the top of the under-cooked side, then flip.  So, what do you get?  A pancake that's half "cake," half crusty, cheesy and salty browned macaroni.  And the best part?  Adding maple syrup to the 'cakes, believe it or not!  Pure, unadulterated genius.      

Ceci and I loved every aspect of our experience at Shopsin's.  From the efficient service to the incredibly delicious and hearty food, Shopsin's ranks high in my book. 

~ ~

Dinner at Los Feliz:

Honestly, after my kick-ass brunch at Shopsin's, I thought that my Saturday (food wise) would just keep getting better from there.  Unfortunately, this is where it ended...

Cathryn, Clint, and I made our way (reservation-less) to Los Feliz at approximately 8:30pm on Saturday evening.  Upon our arrival, I was instantly taken by the restaurant's casual-yet-dramatic, sexy, dimly-lit, gothic-chic interior. 

I found myself pleasantly surprised that the three of us were seated, at a table of our choice, immediately.  A tortilla chip-filled brown paper bag and side of salsa arrived simultaneously with our glasses of ice water.  I chose to begin my evening with a hibiscus margarita; so you can imagine my confusion when I was served a colorless beverage in a salt-rimmed glass.  I overheard the young man at our neighboring table ask our waiter why the lime margarita he ordered was magenta-pink in color.  It was obvious that we were mistakenly served each other's drinks.  Once our orders were corrected, I secretly wished that I had just asked for a god damned bottle of beer: my hibiscus margarita was bland, watered-down, and utterly flavorless.  What a disappointment. 

The three of us were quite hungry, having already plowed half-way through our second bag of tortilla chips and salsa.  Finally, our waiter returned to take our order.  Cathryn, Clint and I decided that we would split three entrees: Chile Relleno Tacos, Chicharron de Pollo Tacos, and the Pollo Quesadillas.  Apparently, after I stepped away from the table to check out the restaurant's space downstairs, Clint asked for another bag of tortilla chips and salsa, only to be scolded and embarrassed.  "Another round of chips and salsa?" Our waiter snarked.  "I've been told by my manager that you need to be cut off."  Was this guy serious?

Downstairs, Los Feliz has several differently-themed cavernous rooms, in addition to yet another "downstairs" below that, which houses a lounge/club.  While I was only there briefly, I will say that the use of the space is quite impressive, clever and dramatic. 

When I returned to our table, I was shocked to hear that we had literally been "cut off" from more chips and salsa.  If that is the policy, then that's fine; if we needed to be charged for additional chips and salsa, no problem; but I find it inexcusable to treat a customer like he's some kind of free-loading punk who's only sipping ice water and not ordering food.  This was reaffirmed when I asked to speak to the manager.  "Sir, is there an issue with us asking for more chips?"  I asked.  "Yes, there is an issue," he responded.  "One or two rounds is fine, but three?"  I suppose he wasn't blatantly trying to be rude about the situation, but he certainly wasn't the poster-child for stellar customer service.  Had he worded things a bit differently, perhaps we would have left Los Feliz with a better taste in our mouths.  Instead, we were made to feel like morbidly obese local yokels. 

It's taken me a long time to come to grips with the fact that most Mexican restaurants in NYC charge patrons for chips and salsa.  I get it and, unfortunately, I have to be OK with it if I want to frequent some of my favorite spots.  However, if you're going to serve me free chips and salsa and then cut me off, explaining yourself in a patronizing and uncompassionate manner that leaves me and my fellow diners feeling like a bunch of free-loading fat asses, then I have a problem.     

And honestly, the food that we ordered was decent, but I'm not in the mood to give Los Feliz any more credit by talking about "how delicious our chicken quesadillas were," etc.  I'm sure we just came on an "off night," or "I'm being too sensitive," or "we just had a bad waiter," or whatever; but it's going to take me a while to get over the fact that we all felt much worse about ourselves post-dinner than we had prior to our arrival.

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Reader Comments (1)

Thanks TLB, Los Feliz served up a great dinner for 9. I took my team from work out and we had delicious tacos, quesadillas, salad and ceviche. The ice creams were great, banana empanadas are not so good. I LOVED the jalapeno and cilantro margaritas.

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCeci

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