This, my friends, is what we shall call a fable. A cautionary tale that acts as a mirror to modern dating life. This lil story actually happened several months ago and the whole metaphoric thing has been floating around my head since then. It was back when I still lived in LA for my brief foray into the movie business. I had just moved out there and my dearest chicks had come to visit me.
Something you should understand about me is that I am a planner, especially when it comes to vacations and restaurants I will plan the restaurants peruse the online menu and have what I want to order before I’ve even left for the vacation! I am that neurotic about my culinary adventures. So when my dearest gal pals planned a trip…I started to plan the restaurant. I googled, I yelped, I urbanspooned the hell out of my laptop until I found what looked like the perfect place. It was a Cuban restaurant that had reasonably priced fare that was well reviewed and had dancing! How could I go wrong?!
The online version of this place had a dark mahogany bar, with a wooden dance floor and happy, pretty smiling people dancing the night away. The food looked tempting and mouth watering. I called and made a reservation for all of us, congratulating myself on such a wonderful find!
The night arrived and we all primped and lotioned and perfumed ourselves. Stilettos and clutches at the ready we made our way to the heart of LA to dance and dine the night away with the perfect restaurant Our expectations high. Our enthusiasm started to flag as we pulled into the parking lot….in a strip mall….next to the dilapidated Mexican restaurant and the apparently homeless convention.
We valet parked cautiously and made our way into the Cuban place….that had just opened for the evening.
And we were the only guests. There wasn’t even any music playing.
The menus were old and falling apart. The carpet and tables were dusty.
And did I say WE WERE THE ONLY CUSTOMERS IN THERE!?
Talk about awkward!
The last straw for all of us was the fact that prices were double what had been printed online. Talk about misrepresentation!
We blamed our hasty retreat into the night on our friend who had “forgotten” her (imaginary) inhaler.
Once safely ensconced in my car we drove into the night. And drove. And drove. And drove. One would think that finding a place to eat in LA would be fairly easy. But for some reason, we had a devil of a time. No places looked appealing No place was showing up. We drove and drove and drove. And started to lose hope. Would we ever find the restaurant of our dreams? A place where culinary and atmosphere collided into the night that stories are written about?
Someone finally broke out yelp, even though it had led us astray, we decided to give it another shot.
It was there that our hope was renewed. A small Italian place (within our budget) was just around the corner. We drove, tentatively hopeful, to the place. We parked across a busy street from it. We walked in high heels and cute dresses across the street, braving the traffic. And walked into a fast food Italian place. We immediately realized that we were in the wrong Italian restaurant And that we were REALLY overdressed. Really really over dressed. Our feet aching, our stomachs complaining, we lowered our standards and ordered a plate of bruschetta and glass of wine to hold ourselves over. The bruschetta wasn’t bad but it wasn’t anything to write home about. It was run of the mill plain tomatoes and bread. We left the place and looked to our left as we exited.
Within walking distance was some sort of Moroccan style food place. It had belly dancing. It was food. It was late. We were tired of driving and searching. I want you to understand….we had been driving for 2 and half HOURS by this point. We were ready to settle. We didn’t care. We wanted food. It was time to lower our standards. We walked the 100 feet more and walked into the place. It was old. It was dusty. We wondered if every place in LA was old and dusty. We didn’t care. It would have to do. We were ready to give up. We asked for a menu.
It was a set menu for a set price.
We looked at each other, the four of us in some sort of LA restaurant hell.
My sister said she had a stomach ache and wouldn’t eat anyway. She was done. She would stay here if we wanted.
My friend with the imaginary inhaler said she just wanted a drink. She was done. She would stay here if we wanted.
My food adventuresome friend said she liked the rice. She was done. She would stay here if we wanted.
My feet hurt. My back ached. I was tired of driving. I was done. I would stay here if the group wanted.
We looked at each other one last time. We each wondered if it really was time to settle. If we should give up what we knew we wanted because maybe, just maybe we couldn’t have it.
By silent, mutual, unanimous, agreement …. we rejected settling and walked out…once again into the cool LA air. We would find the restaurant of our dreams damn it! We pulled ourselves and our standards back up where they belonged, walked back up the street, across the street and back into my car.
1.5 miles later… we found “the restaurant”. The one that we had been searching for all night. It must have been waiting for us too because there was a parking sport right up front. We walked in, the owner greeted us…
“Good evening, do you have a reservation?”
We looked scared and replied that no, we did not. Would we be accepted? Or would we be cast out into the night?
“One moment.” he said to us.
Then….he did the most lovely thing….he picked up clean, new menus and led the four of us to a table by the window. A prime table. A table that looked out onto the beautiful LA scene. A table framed by trees. A table that had been waiting for us.
The restaurant played classical music. The lighting was soft and decor made you feel as if you were eating on a terrace in Italy. We fell in love.
They gave us bread. Warm, fluffy, toasty bread and a crusty herb bread.
The owner sent us over a complimentary appetizer. Crispy, fresh, homemade calamari. We ordered drinks and food and finally dessert. The meal was perfect from start to finish. When the bill came we realized that the place was exactly what it claimed to be, delicious and well priced.
We looked at each that night and knew….we just knew…. that once you find the right restaurant, nothing else matters. We could have been content with any of the 3 places we had left that night. We could have been ok, not satisfied but ok. We could have given up.
But we never would have known true restaurant bliss if we had.
And that was worth the hunt.