Theater Reviews

Here at News From The Pollywog Cafe, you will find a quick and easy way to find and check out local plays in and around the L.A. area. Below you will find some of our favorites and some not so favorites. No need to read those long rambling reviews, or a re-telling of the story – and you don’t have to worry about spoilers. We just get to the point so you can get to the play if it’s one not to be missed.

Since we grew up in the City of Los Angeles, we rate the plays by the grading system used by the Los Angeles Unified School District in the 1960’s and 70’s (maybe they still use it.)

We grade: the story, writing/script, the production value, and the acting.  So an “A” is outstanding; “B” is good; “C” is average; “D” needs to improve” and “F” is, well, fail (or forget it).  We will also use pluses (+) and minuses (-) as appropriate just like they used in school.  Also, we may also use “E” for excellent; “S” for satisfactory; and “U” for unsatisfactory which they used, in addition to the other letter grades, in the report cards for junior high (that’s what they called it before “middle school”).

We admit that we are tough theater critics but hey, L.A. is one of the entertainment capitals of the known world and we know you want to keep it that way. We are experienced theater goers and have seen theater all over the world, including other renouned theater districts like New York City and London.  And our tickets are never “comped” nor are we ever paid for our reviews so you know that they are honest and real.

So here are some plays that we’ve seen – they are not ranked in any particular order. Look through them all and if you see one, let us know what you thought. Check back often for the latest and greatest reviews:

  1. Heisenberg by Simon Stephens; with Denis Arndt and Mary-Louise Parker. This is currently playing at the Mark Taper Forum, Center Theater Group (CTG) at the Los Angeles County Music Center. CTG only tells us
    Heisenberg
    Mark Taper Forum, Los Angeles County Music Center, 
    Cast List:
    Mary-Louise Parker
    Denis Arndt
    Written by: Simon Stephens

    “Amidst the bustle of a crowded London train station, Georgie spots Alex, a much older man, and plants a kiss on his neck. This electric encounter thrusts these two strangers into a fascinating and life-changing game.”

    Our ranking:  Story: A; Writing: A+ (Simon Stephens also wrote the adaptation of Mark Haddon’s novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time which ran on Broadway and is coming to L.A. very soon); Production: A (simple and very effective); Acting: A+ for both Arndt and Parker – they are brilliant.  We obviously loved this play and it’s one of our favorites at the Forum this year.  Don’t miss it and try to sit on stage if you can for an even more interesting and up close and personal experience. Although there really are no bad seats at the Forum.

 

Restaurant Reviews and Ratings

Here at News From The Pollywog Cafe Dot Com, you will find a quick and easy way to find and check out restaurants in and around the L.A. area. Below you will find some of our favorites and a few not so favorites. No need to read those long rambling restaurant reviews – we just get to the point so you can get on with your day – or your meal.  At times, we will point out some great restaurant qualities we come across, like great service or ambiance, and of course, those outstanding food items that we wouldn’t want you to miss out on.

Since we grew up in the City of Los Angeles, we rate the restaurants by  using the same grading system used by the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) in the 1960’s and 70’s (maybe they still use it.) We grade: Food, Price, Value, Service and Ambiance (Atmosphere).  So an “A” is outstanding; “B” is good; “C” is average; “D” needs to improve” and “F” is, well, fail (or forget it).  We might also use pluses (+) and minuses (-) as appropriate just like they used in school; or we might use “E” for excellent; “S” for satisfactory; and “U” for unsatisfactory which LAUSD used to grade “work habits” and “cooperation,” in their report cards for junior high (that’s what they called it before “middle school”).

The pricing is indicated “per person,” as indicated right after the restaurant’s name, and ranked as follows: $ (up to $15); $$ ($16 to $30); $$$ ($31 to $50); $$$$ ($51 to 70); and $$$$$ ($71 and above).

It’s important to note that we visited each of these restaurants without them knowing who we were so we could get (and rate) an authentic experience. None of our meals were ever “comped” nor were we ever paid for our reviews so you can rest assured that they are honest- we tell it like it is.

And yes, we admit that we are tough restaurant critics.  But we are sophisticated foodies and have eaten all over the world so we know what we’re talking about. L.A. is a world class restaurant destination so we expect the best and we know you do too.

So here’s the list, as follows: They are not ranked in any particular order. Look through them all and tell us what you think. Check back often for the latest and greatest reviews:

  1.  Philippe, The Original –$ – 1001 N. Alameda, Los Angeles, CA  90012 (While some pronounce it Fill-leeps, we say Fill-leep-ays because it’s more fun to say!) This is one of the oldest and best known restaurants in L.A. and has been family owned since 1908! It’s located in the heart of L.A. aka DTLA, on the edge of Chinatown, just a block or two from Union Station (which you must visit) and of course, is practically the next door neighbor to our beloved Olvera Street (which you also must visit and which has it’s own Haiku featured on L.A. Haiku!). This place is awesome and in our opinion, there in only one thing on the menu – the original French Dip sandwich. That, along with their homemade hot mustard will set you up
    “Philippe” Photo by Steve Karbelnig, All Rights Reserved

    for a life-long addiction to this legendary sandwich. We’ve tried a lot and none compares. They sell about 6,000 sandwiches a week!  Philippe claims their famous beef dip sandwich is the original and we believe them!  And if they weren’t, then it’s a tie with the other guys (whose beef dip is not as good – trust us).  Philippe has plenty of other items on the menu – including other dips like turkey, roast pork and leg of lamb, lots of breakfast items including eggs and pancakes, chili, stew, beans, and other sandwiches but the beef dip can’t be beat! It’s an order-at-the-counter, sawdust-on-the-floor kind of place with character plus!

    “Philippe” Photo by Steve Karbelnig, All Rights Reserved

    And coffee is just 45 cents a cup!  FYI, your beef dip goes awesomely (is that a word?) with their amazing cole slaw and fresh homemade iced tea. And don’t forget pie or brownies for dessert. So our rating is: A for food (A+ for the beef dip); A for value; A for service; and A for atmosphere (which is L.A. authentic vintage deluxe!) Enjoy.

2.  Bestia $$$$$ – 2121 E. 7th Place, Los Angeles, CA  90021. Have you ever heard great things about a movie and then when you saw it, you felt it didn’t quite live up to all the hype? Well, that’s how we felt about Bestia. But don’t get us wrong – this is definitely a place to check out. Bestia (Italian for “Beast”) has been recognized for a number of years now as one of the best restaurants in L.A.

“Bestia” Photo by Steve Karbelnig, All Rights Reserved

It is owned and operated by Ori Menache and Genevieve Gergis, a great looking and highly talented husband and wife team, both of whom are L.A. area natives. (Genevieve is the pastry chef and we love the fact that she learned to bake while studying to be a classical French horn player. Ovi’s background and experience is very impressive as well.) Bestia is multi-regional Italian and very popular. It can be hard to get a reservation without persistence unless you want to go at an off-hour. While the food was very good and sophisticated, there were no wow moments or tastes that made us think OMG. It is located in the very cool Arts District of L.A. and the restaurant itself is upbeat, trendy, bustling, a bit phrenetic and noisy with a lively crowd filled with lots of hipsters and wannabes. However, unlike some of the snobbery and attitude that we have found at other hip places, Bestia is friendly, welcoming and delighted that we were there, especially for the first time. The restaurant’s look is mostly unoriginal as it looks like so many newer restaurants these days, done in early industrial, wearhousey (it is a converted industrial space), lots of exposed brick, rustic fixtures and plenty of reclaimed-looking wood. (Check out the unique display of bathroom tile!)

“Bestia” Photo by Steve Karbelnig, All Rights Reserved

The tables are close together and there is outside dining that is pleasant and quieter. Nonetheless, we did enjoy the atmosphere and it’s cool boisterous vibe. The service was excellent bar none and we did not feel rushed. The house specialty cocktails are delightful, unique and fun. The tasty food is presented very nicely along with a detailed description of each plate as it is served.  The wine list is more than adequate and mostly in the pricey range. So our rating is: B+ for food; B+ for value; A+ for service (the restaurant gets a B for keeping us waiting for 15-20 minutes past our reservation time); A- for atmosphere.

3.  Eastside Market Italian Deli $ – 1013 Alpine Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012. This authentic family owned Italian gem is located just off the

Eastside Market Italian Deli, Est. 1929, Photo by Steve Karbelnig, All Rights Reserved

beaten path on quiet Alpine Street adjacent to iconic Sunset Boulevard, just a stone’s throw from DTLA, and a short walk from one of our favorite picture framing stores, Downtown Framing Outlet. As an Italian Deli, this one’s the real deal where you can get a fresh and delicious hot or cold real Italian sub sandwich. This vintage market has been there since 1929 so just its longevity in the heart of this vibrant City speaks for itself. The guys behind the counter have that no-nonsense Italian attitude you’d expect in a place like this, but it took

Eastside Deli Market Counter, LA, Photo by Steve Karbelnig, All Rights Reserved

almost no effort to get them to crack a smile. The traditional Italian Sub with Cheese (#9) is a great entry level sub that is tasty and savory, and served on a hyper fresh soft Italian roll. We’re told that the best seller (no doubt!) is the mouth watering hot Roast Beef, Pastrami and Cheese (#7). Although the daily special “Chicken Parmesan” looks amazing so

we’re definitely going back to try it! And you gotta know that a place that attracts

Eastside Deli Market, LA, Photo by Steve Karbelnig, All Rights Reserved

firefighters and construction workers, and decorates with Vin Scully street signs (and who doesn’t love former Dodgers’ announcer and Hall of Famer Vin Scully!) and a Dodgers‘ autographed tee shirt among lots of other fun tchotchkes has to be great. So our rating: A for food; A for value; A for service; A for atmosphere (great L.A. vintage place with lots of cool stuff and old photos on the walls!)

 

 

Echo Park Los Angeles

Echo Park

Stroll where turtles play
The Lotus flowers smile wide
A jogger runs, bye

echo park los angeles downtown view
Echo Park Lake Photo Credit – Steven Karbelnig

Trails Cafe

Trails CafeGriffith Park

Hike a nearby trail,
Shady trees, hibiscus tea
Flaky scone, Perhaps?

trails cafe griffith park los angeles
Trails Cafe Photo Credit – Steven Karbelnig
Trails Cafe griffith park los angeles
Trails Cafe Photo Credit – Steven Karbelnig

Under the Stars

Griffith Observatory 

On a brushy Hill
Observatory waits for
Planets too Up Here.

Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles
Griffith Observatory. Photo by Steve Karbelnig.
All Rights Reserved

 

View of Downtown Los Angeles from Griffith Observatory
View from Griffith Observatory of Downtown Los Angeles. Photo by Steve Karbelnig. All Rights Reserved.