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Chain Spawn Actually Quite Grand

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And so, The Cheesecake Factory went forth and begat a child, The Grand Lux Cafe, and the child blossomed in LA at the base of the shopper's temple, The Beverly Center. And the hungry masses flocked to her tables and dined on enormous portions of inventive food. And two heathens had a leisurely late Saturday lunch one spring weekend, bestowing (reluctant) praise to the gods of pseudo-luxury dining.

We were starving. We'd wandered the barren Valley, fruitless in our search for somewhere new and charming to eat. It is not without a twinge of irony that we wound up at The Grand Lux; how the mighty (and very hungry) have fallen. Our dining companion endorsed the restaurant, and she had that gleam in her eye that signalled indulgent dining that would break a girl's healthy eating regimen and mean an extra pilates routine to offset the damage. There was a short wait, which gave us ample time to people watch some very interesting people, and to start studying the menu, which was as long and weighty as a Hemingway novella.

Once seated, we volleyed appetizer options back and forth, settling finally on the Chicken Lettuce Wraps, which has always been our favorite way to start out a nice Chinese dinner. We ordered a drink, and then waited. We surmised that the drawback to visiting a popular and very crowded restaurant was that there was bound to be periods of waiting, but when we had to remind our waitress that we'd ordered a cocktail, we were a little miffed; it's never good practice to make a lady wait for her $9 Watermelon Martini, no matter how good it proves to be. The Lettuce wraps were savory and colorful, and the ample portion made it pretty clear that we may as well have ordered our entrees boxed to go from the start. We watched in awe as the two beanpole thin teenagers next to us worked through their own two appetizers, and wondered if we'd be able to linger over our own lunch long enough to see how much of her enormous fried chicken platter the young lady would be able to choke down, all the while we cursed her lightning fast youthful metabolism. Our lunches came after another long lull--the two huge plates barely fitting on our little table, and most definitely not fitting in our stomachs. We'd ordered the Tuna Nicoise Melt, and hoped it would make a decent leftover, and our companion ordered the Spicy Buffalo Chicken, hoping exactly the same thing. When our server returned to ask the requisite "How is everything?" we asked for the boxes, which arrived soon after in the customary logoed bags. The Tuna Nicoise Melt, did, indeed make a tasty day-after-dining meal, although we didn't eat the bread, which alleviated some of the guilt. The Grand Lux was, despite some of the obvious drawbacks (chain spawn, Vegas heritage, slowish service), rather grand. Converts to the church of the almighty chain it did not make of us, but sated and armed with tasty doggy bags it did.

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The Grand Lux Cafe has five locations in the U.S., including the Beverly Center's, at 121 North La Cienega Boulevard, Los Angeles (310) 855-1122