Thursday, April 21, 2011

Nostalgia for an Age that Never Existed: Cafe 50s

Cafe 50s is a 50s theme restaurant that opened about five months ago on Vermont north of Melrose, right across from LACC. There is another branch in West LA.

This place is like Johnny Rockets on steroids. Seriously, the place looks like Nick at Nite threw up all over it. The walls and ceilings are covered with a distractingly busy montage of period magazines, movie posters, campaign literature and other kitsch. The wait staff wear retro waiter uniforms, there is a predictably nostalgic soundtrack and each booth has the obligatory mini-jukebox. I half expected to find "white" and "colored" bathrooms, but luckily, that wasn't the case.

The menu here looked promising. It included plenty of old school classics like a monte cristo and chicken fried steak but with some updates like sweet potato fries and a bacon blue cheese burger. The food, though was uniformly mediocre. The burgers are sad little overdone patties with iceberg lettuce and unripe tomatoes (I guess that may well be what you would have gotten at a real '50s diner). The monte cristo had a decent crust but was cold in the middle, and while the regular fries and onion rings were decent, the sweet potato fries were flavorless and the garlic fries were just regular fries with a pile of raw garlic on top.

The thing to get here, the only thing, are the milkshakes. The menu lists nearly 50 shakes of every variety, but I'm a simple guy, so I opted for a vanilla malt. It was wonderful...thick and creamy with a goodly amount of malt in every sip (lack of malt in malts is one of my pet peeves). The excess is served in the metal cup, as it should be. The only thing that would have improved it would have been homemade whipped cream on top instead of the canned variety, but overall it was great shakes.

So if you are in need of a shot of nostalgia skip the food, grab a shake and an order of fries and enjoy the nostalgia for an age that never existed.

Cafe 50s
850 N. Vermont Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90029
(323) 906-1955


Regular Chumpington said...

Hey Sku,

You're dead on with Cafe 50s. My wife and I swung into the West LA location one late night when we were starving and nothing else quite sounded right. It was non-chain and that counted for a lot.

Unfortunately, the food was OK at best... it wasn't a surprise in retrospect. If I'm going to do a Monte Cristo I'll stick with Canter's or Brent's. Actually, I think this spot was the one that really kicked of my disillusionment with diners in general... a lot of fake veneer. It's like Mel's, but at least Mel's can hang their paper hat on the American Graffiti thing... which is also manufactured.

I will agree that the milkshakes are pretty worthwhile. My wife got an Apple Pie (I think?) that was pretty good; my orange creamsicle shake was unfortunately not up to par.

However, if we agree that the only real worthwhile thing is milkshakes, that inevitably points to Millions of Milkshakes on Santa Monica in WeHo, which I'm seriously curious about.


sku said...

RC, I've wondered about Millions of Milkshakes but never been. I have to say I'm a bit skeptical of it as it opened with a lot of celebrity fanfare. I'm actually surprised it's lasted this long. I'm a huge milkshake fan so I really should check it out.