Drive & Find: Ep 2: Cafe Vida (Pacific Palisades)
We started Drive & Find a few years back because, frankly, we were damn intimidated by the vast Los Angeles culinary scene. It’s a simple concept: two Westside dudes are hungry… they pick an area of town… they take a drive … they find an alluring restaurant … they dine there. This concept has brought us all around LA – from seafood to Thai to total crap – nonetheless our affinity for the unknown remains.
DATE: Wednesday May 20th, 2009
RESTAURANT: CAFÉ VIDA
15317 Antioch Street
Pacific Palisades 90272
THEIR SLOGANS: “Food for life” and “A great, fresh taste.”
OUR SLOGAN: “Food” and “A decent, not-everything-but-most-things-are-fresh taste”
DRIVE TIME: 15 minutes
LIKES: Being really the only open restaurant in the area. Complimentary lime in the iced water. Interesting, loud conversation amongst four basketball apparel adorned high schoolers regarding chicks. Quiet streets.
DISLIKES: Identity crisis. A tad overpriced. Boring menu. Peeping Tom waitresses. An ugly dog sitting tableside in a striped carry-on suitcase-like apparatus.
THE MENU: California, California, California (salads, burgers, burritos, wraps).
There’s just something creepy about Pacific Palisades at night. It seems like when the sun goes down, P Squared turns into a ghost town. Albeit, a very, very affluent ghost town – which we all know is beyond oxymoronic. Seriously, although you know there hasn’t been a random murder there in decades … there’s simply a waft in the air that someone may hack you from behind with a cleaver at any moment.
Creepiness aside, the Palisades is a wonderful, beautiful community. Not especially known for its culinary prowess, we at D&F ventured over to check out the scene. We mean, come on, the rich denizens of the area have to eat somewhere. Or at least have a spot to bitch about. This brought us to Café Vida, which at the late hour of 8:45 p.m. was just about the only restaurant entertaining guests in the area.
We walked into Café Vida full of excitement. Sadly, that quickly dissipated. The place is a snooze. No character. The only attempt to spruce up the joint falls flat: a bland and very bright lit interior is accentuated with Parisian photographs. This is despite the fact that there is absolutely nothing French about the restaurant/menu. French’s mustard is more French.
The restaurant, mainly known for weekend brunch, simply lacked the comfy feel of west side popular hangover cure haunts like Jinky’s, Lazy Daisy and Snug Harbor.
With no true appetizers to order we decided to skip the first course and head straight for the entrees. The menu offered an array of sandwiches, salads and wraps, as well as the specials board offerings. We were provided chips and salsa. Unfortunately, although the salsa tasted fresh and potentially homemade, the chips were straight off the rack at Smart & Final.
Taking the waitress’ suggestion we ordered the steak fajita special. While most restaurants usually present the fajita contents separately, Café Vida made the odd choice of serving a cafeteria-esque helping of sliced steak, onions and peppers covered in shredded cheese with a side Caesar salad. Also, in czar fashion, the entree came with no tortillas, thus prompting us to request them. They responded by giving us one plate-size tortilla.
Despite the odd display and ginormous tortilla the “fajita” was actually quite tasty. And the inclusion of sunflower seeds in the Caesar salad was oddly enjoyable. However, for $14, the fajita serving should have been twice as big. Maybe bigger.
For our second entrée, we chose another recommendation, the Grilled Chicken Jalapeno Melt –a classic option from a classic California menu. The sandwich was all around decent and included the basics – lettuce, tomato, red onion, jack cheese. The inclusion of jalapeños and chipotle sauce were a nice touch. The ciabatta bread was fresh enough but the chicken was a bit dry as if it were taken from the refrigerator instead of fresh off the grill.
All sandwiches are “Served With A Choice Of Organic Baby Greens Or Caesar Salad, French Fries Or Sweet Potato Fries.” Of course we chose the sweet potato fries – how can you not order sweet potato fries when presented the opportunity? We did so reluctantly, however, half expecting to find an additional $1.49 surcharge on our bill or something. To our surprise you really do have a choice at no extra cost. That “bonus” aside, the $11.25 (or higher) price tag for the sandwiches was a tad steep.
Wrapping up this Drive & Find was a bit of a relief. What we know: the awkward atmosphere and just OK pricey food didn’t provide enough culinary enticement to venture back to Café Vida or, truthfully, the Palisades in general any time soon. We’re just saying … there’s way better options within 10 minutes on the Westside.
Will we be back for dinner? No.
For breakfast? Maybe.
With other options in mind? Yes.
THE D&F MARK: 2.0 / 5.0
[Please note: the mark represents the overall experience from the drive and find to the atmosphere, menu, taste, price… and beyond.]