Thursday, August 27, 2009
Fatty's in Eagle Rock
So I had this entire review of Fatty's already written out in my head: erratic hours, weird interactions with the sometimes awkward staff, the elimination of the very pleasant brunch and lunch hours, etc.
View through the repurposed garage door.
But to paraphrase, no plan of attack survives contact with the subject of the review. We went to Fatty's again the other night, and despite my reservations and enumerated grievances, they pulled me back in.
The Garlic Feast.
Fatty's was the first restaurant in Eagle Rock Mrs. Octopus and I ever went to together. It was a sunny Sunday in April, were were house hunting, and we stopped at Fatty's for brunch. On that visit, Fatty's felt new in just the right way: the repurposed garage door, the racks of magazines (including Lacanian Ink [?]), the open ceilings, the Christmas lights. I felt like I was in Madison, Berkeley, or Northampton. It warmed my cold, socialist New England heart. Over coffee at the end of that brunch, Mrs. Octopus and I decided we were going to try to move to Eagle Rock.
Things changed. Fatty's soon eliminated brunch, with little explanation. On every visit, we pleaded with the management to bring back lunch and brunch. They explained that they were trying to go in a different direction. It soon became apparent that Fatty's was trying to make very clear to everyone that it wasn't some kind of laid-back neighborhood hangout. Rumors circulated of the staff and management telling Oxy students and idling screenwriters that they couldn't nurse a single cappuccino for hours. Fatty's quickly became a relatively expensive, upscale dinner-only place, with an extensive wine collection, and a reputation for prickliness.
A view of Fatty's new garden.
The transition was fitful. The hours kept changing. The owners and management had scenes with the staff. The menu went through various incarnations. Staff would announce early closures with no notice, even if you had called ahead.
I was ready to hate Fatty's forever, to write them off as the worst kind of libtard monsters, but--but, they've won me back ... sort of.
Everything was excellent on our last visit. It was if the entire place had changed after a painful and ugly metamorphosis. There was a massive new purple neon sculpture hanging above a long table (just behind the welcome station). It was kind of awesome. There was a cool long hallway opening into a tastefully appointed new garden. As I sat at our table in the center of the main dining room and admired the elegant exposed ceiling, the new neon sculpture, the tasteful lighting throughout the restaurant, I realized that Fatty's is in fact the loveliest space in Eagle Rock.
And to tell the truth, the food has never been the problem here. Fatty's is one of the best vegetarian restaurants I've been to. Granted, I'm not a vegetarian or vegan, but I was a vegetarian for several years, and I'm not a big carnivore: I've been to all sorts of vegetarian restaurants. Most serve insipid, boring, tasteless pabulum.
The Zeppelin pizza.
Fatty's, on the other hand, works small wonders with their vegetarian fare. Their Sloppy Joe (veggie ground meat) is deservedly famous. I've known people to finish off the Sloppy Joe and wonder if it was meat or not. I have a strong, undeniable monthly urge for the Garlic Feast (a sort of DIY bruschetta with toasted bread arranged around a mass of diced tomatoes and raw garlic, sprinkled with dry jack cheese). I'm also a fan of the Fatty's Salad (a massive meal-sized heap of greens, cherry tomatoes, red onions, toasted pecans, golden raisins and cheese). Mrs. Octopus likes their pizzas, and is partial to the Margarita and the Zeppelin. (The Zeppelin features an intriguing mix of cheddar, provolone, and brie).
I may like their appetizers best. I could eat about 100 of the stuffed dates (baked dates stuffed with dry jack cheese, wrapped in veggie bacon). We've had the potatos skins (filled with corn, black beans, green chili, red bell peppers, onions, chipotle cheddar, and salsa) a few times, and they are very satisfying, though they could stand to have a little bit more kick. Perhaps a slightly spicier salsa?
I've never been blown away by dessert here. We've sampled most stuff on the dessert menu and everything is fine, not earth-shattering. It's just not really a dessert place, in my view (though I know many people who are big fans of the dessert menu).
They have an extensive selection of wine (and a decent selection of beer). Indeed, they currently market themselves as "A Vegetarian Food and Wine Restaurant". Translation: you probably won't be eating here much if you're trying to pay off student loans or credit card debt, or save for a down payment. Fatty's is expensive. They've purposefully turned themselves into an expensive restaurant. Dinner for two, with appetizers, drinks, dessert, etc., is probably going to cost you $65-80. It raises the question: to whom is Fatty's aimed? My current guess is the standard yupster class one finds at CoWineCo, tenured Oxy faculty, Oxy parents taking their cultural studies-majoring children to dinner, and people who drive in from Pasadena and Silverlake in their Audi sportwagons.
The Pinky (wedding cake, with strawberries and lots of strawberry frosting, topped with frosting).
What can you do? This is part of the struggle our neighborhood is currently going through with its identity. Are we a Tritch Hardware and The Bucket kind of place? A Dave's Chillin' & Grillin' place? Or are we about Mia Sushi's valet parking and Eurotrash vibe? Both, maybe? I don't know. It saddens me a bit that Fatty's has decided to jettison its more laid back brunch and lunch identity in favor of a full blown embrace of the trappings of bourgeois latte-liberalism, but I can't really judge Fatty's owners. They obviously have an image of what they want for the place in mind, and maybe they are making more money this way.
Save up and splurge here every now and then, and feel better as you go to the bathroom and pass the portrait of the happy pig on the wall. You're a good person.