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.

Potato skins.

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.


Anonymous said...

I, along with my friends, have given Fatty's too many chances. Fatty's is dead to us and hopefully they will shut down soon so that a real restaurant who CONSISTENTLY acknowledges the loyalty of its patrons can move in.

Good review, though. I sincerely wish the latest Fatty's was like that but it is unfortunately not as I think you caught it on an unusually exceptional night/day.

Anonymous said...

Is the cheese vegetarian cheese or dairy cheese? I thought cheese and dairy producrs were meat based because they come from a cow..?

Anonymous said...

I miss the lunch as well! But at one point was told they couldn't afford to keep open for it. Seems like even if they just opened on weekends they would make good business. Now it does feel a bit disconnected to the community.

Tokyoastrogirl said...

Thanks for all of the food photos! Your assessment is pretty much spot on with my impressions of this place. I swore I'd never return after several encounters with rude staff, but then I was won over by the new, wine-bar type menu and cute vibe. Plus I live right near there so it helps. Like you, I'm a big fan of the appetizers. Great review!

chanchow said...

The decor is the best part of this place. So airy and pleasant. I am willing to go to this place every once in a while, but I am still scarred by the time they turned us away. We had called close to closing time to make sure they would remain open, only to be told on arrival by some douche that (to paraphrase) "we closing now, sorry, there really aren't enough people for us to stay open". I was shocked. And so were the other people waiting for a table.

Colleen said...

I've heard so many complaints about Fatty's, but eery time I've been it's been wonderful-- nice people, good service, good wine and really, really good cooking (and I am a carnivore). Maybe we've just been lucky.

I'm hoping they can get confident enough to open for a less-expensive lunch one of these days. Then we could all afford to go more often.