Friday, January 9, 2009

The Middle Managers Lunch Room

Houston's, 1550 A Rosecrans, Manhattan Beach 310-643-7211

The first thing we saw when we walked in was a gaggle of servers clustered around the pass-through, milling about, looking for their particular plates. Male and female alike wore black pants and vests, white shirts and aprons.

The room is big, dark (with lampshades that look like upside-down Outback Bloomin' Onions.) Banquets line the wooden walls and tables and chairs sprout along the windows which are cellar level -- you can see legs and shoes going past on the sidewalk - quite amusing if you like the NY basement feel. The whole place is a bastion to men - has a very "I say, old chap" clubby feeling to it.

Males are catered to with buttonhole napkins, macho steak knives and such manly items as True Idaho Baked Potato - $5; Black Beans and Brown Rice - $4. Desserts are five-nut brownies or apple walnut cobble, both $8. Our server rattled off about five specials of the day (all fish and all entrees.)

Richie ordered a bowl of tortilla soup ($7) and a French dip on a house-baked bun with cole slaw ($16.) I ordered a cheeseburger and fries ($13.)

The tortilla soup was extraordinarily creamy with generous chunks of white chicken and avocado and a veritable forest of tortilla slivers jutting up from the center of the dish. I tasted it and remarked, "It could have been a little warmer!" and Richie added, "Could have been a little more of it, too!"

My cheeseburger had melted cheddar top and bottom, half a head of shredded lettuce, two tomato slices and perhaps 1/2 teaspoon of chopped onion. "Can't reek of onion all afternoon -- do think of the stawff..." The burger was so big I was reminded (fearfully) of Big John's Cafe's 32-oz. version. To my amazement, I ate easily two-thirds of it and didn't feel "full" afterward. Shoestring fries, quite tasty.

Richie said his roast beef was very good. The cole slaw had a lot of parsely in it ("stawff" again?) but the horseradish sauce was strangely bitter. All in all, it was "good enough" but not a place that we'll be salivating about until we can return.

Especially as the tab was $38.97 (no drinks, just water.) I tipped $7.97 (the suggested 20% on the ticket bottom) and we walked out of there $46.76 later. Bit rich for my blood, old chap.

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