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DineLA: The Happy Ending Restaurant and Bar

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The Happy Ending is the perfect place for your bachelor party to grab a bite to eat on the way to the strip club.

It's also the perfect place for your divorced dad to park you in front of the video trivia game while he drinks too much and hits on a waitress half his age.

I couldn't believe it the first time I saw the name of this restaurant. I thought perhaps it was a Chinese restaurant, and that the name was an unusual interpretation similar to "Happy Family" or "Pungent Shrimp". Not so. Someone intentionally named their restaurant after a handjob. Maybe they thought it would be titillating, like the oh-so-appealing Pink Taco. They might as well just call their restaurant Blow Job.

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By the looks of the website. It was no accident. The website reeks of an intense, almost desperate fratboy party vibe. It made the restaurant appear to be the worst parts of Bourbon Street. Hollywood Blvd and MySpace all crammed under one roof.

Their DineLA menu actually looked intriguing and innovative. That, along with the morbid lure of witnessing a possible train-wreck, brought myself and fellow food critic (and LAist Co-Editor) Lindsay to Happy Ending's door last Friday for lunch. I thought if it turned out to be a nightmare, that at least it would be good blog fodder. I had no idea how much material they would give me to work with.

The exterior was bleak, resembling a strip club more than an Acapulco's. Some places should just not exist in the light of day. They should materialize out of vodka and cleavage at dusk, swirling away magically in a mist of vomit and cigarette smoke at dawn approaches. Upon entering, we were greeting by a vacant entry room. The first dining room we entered was too full. The second dining room was too empty. The third dining room was just right - a few diners, and an available table. The only employee was a harried bartender who rushed to cover two sections while still working the bar.

When she finally approached us, I said, "Oh my God! Are you here all alone!" She nodded sadly, appreciating the sympathy. After we had been there around 20 minutes, a busboy/runner appeared to help out. A chef sweating like Howie on Top Chef ran plates to the table next to ours. One of the women looked around the room askance. I caught her eye and asked, "Did it bother you that Sweaty Chef brought your plates?" I could tell by her face I had put my foot in my mouth, "Oh, is he a friend of yours?" Of course he was. By the time we left, a number of waiters had arrived and the room was buzzing with help. I guess they all took their lunch at the same time when they saw us coming.

A loud group of mooks huddled around a pizza at another table loudly debating who had the best titties in accounting. I curse like a sailor, but these guys shocked me. Everything was was "faggot this" and "faggot that." The only real discourse they had was upon noticing the decor was based on the NY subway system. "Is it Penn Station because it's in Pennsylvania?" one wondered. His friend replied, "No. It's called Penn Station because that's what it's been called since the beginning of time."

Lindsay couldn't find anything appealing on the DineLA lunch menu. Nothing really jumped out at me, but I was committed. The dish that had intrigued me - filet mignon sliders - were only on the DineLA dinner menu, so in addition to my prix fixe, I also ordered the sliders a la carte to split. Lindsay's food - Mac and Cheese and french fries - arrived all at once along with my sliders. She wondered if I had not ordered the sliders if I would be left sitting without any food while she ate. But it made a sort of strange sense to me.

The serving sizes were extremely generous. I was surprised by how much I liked the filet mignon sliders. Although blue cheese, chipotle cream and pretzel buns seem like they would clash, the flavors were somehow harmonious. They were a little greasy, but good. Lindsay's french fries were pommes frite-esque, with loads of garlic, and they remained hot surprisingly long. Her mac and cheese was a little too unusual. Instead of a nice bechamel they were in an olive-oil based cream sauce that was just way too greasy.

I could tell someone here cared about the food. They were trying to be creative, and sometimes it worked. But sometimes it went horribly wrong, as I discovered when my fried chicken skewers arrived. Wow. It was like a big carnival on the table. I imagined Gordon Ramsay saying, "For fuck's sake, what it this shite?" As I caught sight of a man at the bar eating an emasculating sundae dish comprised of eggrolls arranged like pirouette cookies, I realized the guys at the next table could only order pizza there, because if one of them accidentally ordered one of these whimsical dishes his friends would definitely call him a "faggot."

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The creativity of the dish was ruined by poor execution. One side of the chicken was burned. I was amazed at the length and sharpness of the hard plastic skewers. Although useful if an emergency tracheotomy had to be performed, it seemed an unwise weapon in a place that probably hosts a good number of drunken barfights. What an embarrassing way to go - gored by a chicken lollipop. The dipping sauces of maple syrup and Ranch dressing seemed lazy. They already had chipotle cream available for the sliders, why not try that out? I guess drunk people do like waffles with syrup, and things dunked in Ranch dressing. Play to your crowd.

My main course arrived at the same time as my first course of chicken skewers. The timing was off in the kitchen. The plate of jambalaya was oddly spiced, almost more like a paella. Half of the plate inexplicably held a bland cream sauce. The chicken, shrimp and sausage made up most of the dish - at 15 bucks, this was the best deal of DineLA quantity-wise. As if that wasn't enough, there was a bonus skewer of greasy shrimp and - bread knots? Ummmm - OK, I guess I'm not that surprised. I had to keep reminding myself that this was drunk food. Drunk people like grease. I would probably have been happier with the food had I been drunk. I'm not sure how I would feel about the bread knot skewers. I've never been that drunk in my life.

By now we'd had just about enough of the loud guys next to us screaming, "Fuck! Faggot! and "Nice titties". As the waiter passed with my third course, one of them said in a nasty, sing-song voice, "Awwww milk and cookies!" I snapped, "Don't you mock my dessert!" Maybe I couldn't butt in on their conversation and call them out on their anti-gay slurs, but now they were encroaching on my turf. They were giving me an opening and I was ready to throw down. The dessert heckler was too drunk to hear me, and the guy who did hear me positioned himself to hold one of us back, so I let it go.

Snickerdoodle throw-down!

The milk was fresh, and the cookies - a chocolate-chocolate chip, oatmeal with raisins, and yes, a snickerdoodle, were warm from the oven and extremely comforting.

The Happy Ending was a confusing combination of elements. To fairly judge them, I think I would need to return on a Saturday night when they are packed and "dancing on the tables is expecting and encouraged" but honestly I would rather chew on tinfoil. You can tell someone is definitely making an effort in that kitchen. The quality seems good, the helpings are generous, and maybe if I were a 22-year-old sorority girl it would be fun. On the downside, the timing of service is off, the food is extremely greasy, and the stripperocity does attract a "certain kind" of patron.

I can't prove it was the restaurant, but by midnight both Lindsay and I were projectile vomiting. So this story does not have a happy ending.

Now I know why they serve drinks in pails. So you have something to throw up in afterwards.


Posted in Citysearch:

always nice to read the good reviews!!! BUT...... 12/17/2007 Posted by matthewgstone chef matthew gladstone here... and i appreciate everything that y'all wrote!! the idea of blending my upscale lounge dining with a more casual fun bar... seemed like a great idea, however, its time for me to return to my roots far far far far away from loud sports bars!! * The Happy Ending is a terrific fun place, and hopefully the concepts that i have developed will remain, either way,.... look for my name soon in a venue that is more suited to my fun quirky style with wonderful high end 'global' ingredients! thank you all again and Happy Holidays! Matthew Gladstone executive chef

(So that's why the execution couldn't match the ambitious menu)

Happy Ending
7038 W Sunset Blvd. Hollywood, CA 90028
(323) 469-7038

Photos by Elise Thompson for LAist

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