My nephew Evan asked me to come to downtown LA to go to lunch at some favous place called Baco Merkat (there is an umlaut on the a in Baco but I couldn’t figure out how to do that and honestly? An umlaut?). I had seen it on The Cooking Channel and I think read about it. The place was, in fact, very cool in a crummy-furniture-made-to-be-cool sort of way and the food was inventive and really good (I did not bring my camera because I am an idiot). We had a VERY smiley and enthusiastic waiter. Who, when I stupidly ordered a diet coke (what was I thinking??), told me enthusiastically that they make all their own soda so instead I had a vinegary lemonade thing that was good in an odd way.
I don’t recall the name of the food I had, everything had odd names, Baco (with umlaut) itself is a made up word that’s a cross between bread and taco. My brother-in-law had the winning dish, in my estimation, which was a “sandwich” of oxtail hash. It was really really good.
I have to say that seeing the place depressed me. It was what I wanted my restaurant to be. The successful-on-the-cooking-channel thing. Well, I’d have settled for successful. Even vaguely successful-barely-making-money successful. But a guy who is doing it his way, his recipes, bucking convention and making it work.
We parked around the block, it was there or in a lot for $7. I took a picture of the store in front of which we parked (Pic 1), and in front of which my sister got a $93 ticket for parking in a red zone. To be fair, she was only about 3 feet into it but I did warn her. Just sayin.’ Point here is that the neighborhood is not exactly Rodeo Drive. Unless you’re looking for little plastic dolls or tickets for the lotto. And parking was not easy. And the point here is that nearly everyone, when explaining to me why my restaurant failed, tells me the neighborhood was wrong and parking was a problem. Parking is always a problem unless you’re in a strip mall and I’m not sure what makes this neighborhood right.
After lunch, we then commenced a tour of successful restaurants in the crummy-now-cool area near the downtown. Which is to say my sister decided to show me all the thriving hot and cool restaurants that are not my restaurant.
Pic #2 is my sister barreling into Wurstkucke (Pic #3) a high concept wiener restaurant that has music at night. While it may be a successful restaurant, my sister was unable to locate the damn place and we spent at least 20 minutes driving circumlocuitously (this may not be a real word) around anxiously looking at Google Maps and the very lousy Apple Map. After a quick waltz through Wiener World, we then shouldered on to Nola (pic 4), a New Orleans themed place that gave us gift certificates just for walking in the door. After that we drove by Church and State, and 50 other highly successful restaurants.
Of course the point here is that any restaurant that is open is more successful than mine.