I was driving in Sherman Oaks the other day when, by pure chance, I happened to see a sign: Pineapple Hill Saloon.
Somewhere in my brain a primeval memory stirred; why was that name somehow familiar to me? I could conjure no actual memories, no sordid and juicy details, of such a place even existing, let alone having visited before.
Later, like any self-respecting ChowHound, I visited this board and came across (so to speak) a handful of relatively positive reviews regarding the Pineapple Hill Saloon and their signature Kona Burger.
“Aha!,” I thought, “that’s the place I’d forgotten about! I think I’ve eaten there before...”
A hazy, amber-shrouded memory slowly returned. Years – decades? -- ago I’d been a frequent patron of a so-so ramen shop (since closed) that just happened to be right next door to the Pineapple Hill Saloon. Had I actually eaten there? I couldn’t remember, but at least now I could place the name.
On my suggestion (and dime, I might add), my significant otter and I recently paid a visit to the famed Pineapple Hill Saloon to try their burgers and attempt to rekindle my faulty memory. It was a Friday evening, around 6:00PM or so, when we walked into the place, a dark, inviting room that invoked images of black-outs, brawls and hangovers, stale with the familiar smells of tobacco and old beer.
We sat at a table and began the long wait for service; eventually I took it upon myself to visit the bar (not overly busy with about a dozen customers happily swilling their spirits and no less than three bartenders on staff); I stood at the counter, waved my hands, made eye contact with one of the bartenders (a male), blasted a foghorn, lit a firecracker, all those things one does to attract attention, only to be soundly ignored.
I overhead another patron call the male bartender “Scooter” and, choking back derisive laughter, raised my voice over the din of eleven big-screen TV’s tuned to various collegiate basketball games, and semi-shouted “Hey Scooter, what’s it take to get a drink around here?”
After another minute or two, Scooter ambled my way and said flatly “My shift is over,” then proceeded to serve two other customers.
“What a strange person,” I thought in my best John Cleese voice.
Eventually one of the two remaining female barkeeps fulfilled my order – a whiskey sour and a sea breeze. I enjoyed my sour just fine, but my S.O. found her sea breeze distinctly lacking in alcohol. The words “watered down” came immediately to mind, and I took the sea breeze back to the bar and spent another significant chunk of time switching it for a chardonnay. When the barkeep asked why I was returning the cocktail, I told her it was weak and tasted watered-down; she scowled at me and shoved a lukewarm chardonnay in my face.
“I’m sensing a trend here,” I brilliantly deduced; meanwhile, Scooter – officially finished with his shift – now sat at the far end of the bar drinking profusely with the customers.
You’d think that after thirty minutes of this nonsense someone would’ve appeared to take our order, but alas, it was not meant to be. I had to make a flying grab at an older female waitress who was skittering about from table to table, dropping off wooden salad bowls of stale Costco popcorn; mysteriously, none of the other diners (about 8 parties) had actual food on their tables, but I didn’t let that stop me from using common sense, and I eventually cornered the flighty waitress and placed our order.
I must say that the service was fast; a little too fast, actually, but who’s complaining?
Within moments the waitress appeared with our burgers held high on a serving tray (note to server -- it's called "anti-perspirant"). I’d ordered the “build your own” burger (am I the only one who dislikes places that make you work like that?) which was simply a medium-rare patty with cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, raw onion, pickle, mustard, mayo and catsup on a toasted onion roll; the S.O. ordered the Kona burger medium-rare (I forget what Iron Chef Secret Ingredient(tm) actually distinguished the Kona from my burger). My sides were fries, the S.O. had onion rings.
My burger was cooked near-perfect, however the S.O.’s was completely overcooked, a depressing marine-layer-grey slab of lord knows what dripping with cheese. Mine came with grilled onions and no pickles (in contrast to my actual order), while the S.O.’s mysteriously came with a pickle slice (which I was convinced was mine). I curtailed my pickle envy and proceeded to eat a very dry and liquid-smoke-flavored burger; the onion roll immediately collapsed into a broken, crumbled mess and I was forced to pick up utensils and eat like a civilized person. Ditto the S.O.’s burger: dry, fall-apart texture, and generally tasteless.
There are two items I don’t like having to eat with a knife and fork – three actually, but I can only mention two of them here without being reprimanded: burritos and hamburgers. Nothing bugs me more than a burrito that leaks or a burger that falls apart. Sorry, it’s just how I am.
My fries were of the standard-issue Costco flash-frozen “fresh” varety, while the S.O.’s onion rings were mediocre at best (nothing compared to the awesome tempura-style rings at Billy’s Grill just up the road).
Overall, the word “disappointment” best suits the dining experience we had at Pineapple Hill Saloon.
The waitress eventually brought us two separate checks, one for the drinks and one for the food; I found this odd but perhaps it’s common, I don’t know. It was annoying to have to sign two receipts and then have two receipts to log into my accounting software when one would’ve sufficed.
We left quite unsatisfied with our experience (but mildly buzzed) and will likely never return unless it’s to visit the adjacent In-n-Out Burger.
On the drive home my memory fully returned and I finally recalled having had a similar mediocre experience at Pineapple Hill Saloon all those years ago. Now I only wish I could forget about it....
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