Saturday, March 30, 2013

WTH is happening downtown??

So it's been a while since I've posted. But I've been drawn out of my writer's block over a saddening trend I'm seeing downtown. Restaurants are cropping up like Starbucks throughout the city. This is excellent news, for the most part. I'm happy to see our downtown thriving and growing and drawing people to our historic city-central to enjoy the nightlife, appreciate the vibe, and take advantage of public transportation. But after living here now for 3.5 years, I'm disappointed with the sense of urgency to grow and "be cool." Food trends are picked up and repeated to the point of boring; menus are written with every good intention, but the food is completely flat and tasteless. In the rush to open and earn back the likely enormous financial investment (the full story-high wine room, wood leftover from rainforests, and too many eager staff hires), some places are falling totally flat, buried by their corporate desire to be the next best thing. They are far from it. At a newish restaurant tonight, the experience began to fail almost at "hello." Our drink order was delayed, then brought out in pieces, and then given to the wrong people. Our fried oyster sliders were mushy; the marinated octopus tasted only of the grill.  Don't call it a "Flatbread" to be hip with the new lingo if the damn thing is just a pizza. Call a spade a spade. We don't care. Neither does the pizza. But if you're going to call it something different, at least make it edible. And use your seasonings. Don't display 15 different spices for all the world to see if they are never opened and used. And please cook your meat, for godsakes. A lovely server with a great smile approached our table with 3 fancy and delicious looking drinks. They weren't ours. The bloated runner scalded his fingers trying to open the lid on a steaming pot of mussels. The only reason I was watching him was because earlier I had seen him taste food behind the counter, in the kitchen, with said fingers. I was charged the bottle price for a glass of sparkling be discovered after our cards had been run through.

Thankfully, a few diamonds have sparkled in the rough - Bestia, of course. One of the better meals I've had in a long time. It's so cool it's slightly intimidating. Bar Ama. Turned tacos on their head by making theirs "puffy." Baco Mercat. I left wanting more but couldn't get back in because the waiting list was so long.

I'm proud and thankful to be a downtown resident, but it's high-achieving freshman status has given way to a petulant, unruly sophomore looking to score with a senior cheerleader. It's moving too fast, growing too quickly, and trying too hard to BE something. It doesn't have to do anything - it's already cool. Downtown has the incredible luck to have found itself again, and I often boast that the reason it's so popular is because it's still undiscovered. It has no reputation yet. No people or culture mucking it up. It's fresh and unknown still. And I wish restaurateurs would spend a little more time focusing on their mission, allowing a space and menu to mature, grow, and blossom into something special. To match the rebirth of our once very grand downtown.

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