Pete's Cafe and Bar
400 S Main Street
Los Angeles, CA 90013
We decided to try a new joint downtown before heading to the Phil. Mr. Foodie had a cold so my date was my 10 year old (replete with bow-tie) foodie-in-training. The space is very cool, especially the bar. High ceilings, warm colors...nicely urban chic. The downside is that they don't have valet parking. There's a $3.00 parking lot directly across the street but this is spitting distance from Skid Row so I'd say it's a real drawback.
The folks were nice, especially to the kid. Our waitress was very friendly and took good care of us. The menu is a temporary one obviously. It's on a photocopied sheet. They've only been open two weeks so they're obviously trying to test the waters. They're gravitating between the casual homestyle food which the Engine Company aptly describes on its menu (but seldom successfully executes) and fancier fare like one of the Spichal offshoots.
I got a fabulous dirty martini to start (8 bucks but delish). My escort however noted that his Roy Rogers was prepared with Seven-up instead of Coca Cola, thus rendering it a (gasp!) Shirley Temple.
The menu has a number of small plates which can serve as starters, accompaniments or mixed together to make a meal. Offerings range from vegetable confit, to lamb ribs to gravlax. From this, the little foodie chose Potato leek soup (really flavorful--full of both leek and potato flavor)($6.00) and macaroni and cheese ($8.00) as an entree. This was served in a very hot, fresh-from-the-broiler ramekin. It wasn't suspended in a creamy cheese sauce but just macaroni with some sort of white cheddar melted on it, leaving a puddle of cheese grease on the bottom. This was also leaded with a generous amount of fresh tarragon. This repulsed the ten year old and even his mother thought it pretty weird.
I ordered a roasted pumpkin and watercress salad to start. This, even though mizuma made an unbilled substitution for the watercress, was a great success. Delicious pumpkin, marinated onions in a sweetish (but not too sweet) sesame dressing. Outstanding but a bit skimpy on the pumpkin. ($8.00) My entree was short ribs braised with brandy and juniper berries with gnocchi ($18.00). The short ribs were tasty, although very dainty for short ribs--and it is hard to make short ribs taste BAD. The gnocchi seemed deep fried, tasted like pencil erasers and was perhaps the single worst restaurant offering I've had this year.
Four desserts were offered at $6.00 each. The white chocolate pistachio pyramid was recommended by our server. It was enjoyed by the ten year old who also has a penchant for things Hostess. The pistachio crust was nice but the white chocolate mousse was dense and unctuous.
So, it's a nice space and the people are pleasant. I hope Pete opts for the more casual direction. We'll return but I'll go for booze and burger.