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Restaurant Reviews and Commentary from Karen Salkin

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I went to a really fun event last week, which turned out to be a great concept as an alternative way to entertain guests. It was dinner and a movie. While they were both good, my favorite part was the clever goodie bags. There’s a shock. More on them later because, being the linear thinker that I am, I must go in order of the evening.


In case you haven’t heard yet, the owners of Lodge Steakhouse recently opened a hip new restaurant attached to the Arclight Theater in Hollywood. Obviously, this was the “dinner” portion of the evening.

I can’t tell you much about the food, though, because, as those of you who’ve had the pleasure of my company in this category know, I need much more than this evening’s allotted hour and a half to eat. I need that much time just to read the menu and order! And you guys wonder why Mr. X doesn’t go out with me often!

I can tell you that Charcoal looks great inside, has a lovely waiting area and big comfy booths, and dark lighting, which is always helpful at night. There were three hostesses and they were all darling and cooperative. The waiter, not so much. (What a turn-around for me! I usually love the waiters and am not thrilled with the front-of-the-house personnel.) He was totally unpleasant, unhelpful, unfriendly, and unknowledgeable. It was like being waited on by my surly brother-in-law!

I wound-up making myself have a bad time, by accident. Here’s how: it was an invited dinner, but you didn’t sit with the other invitees; just with your own guest, or in some cases, a few people, if you knew them. One man showed-up alone and rather than let him sit by himself and feel lonely, I invited him to join my friend and me. He turned out to be creepy and obnoxious, and not even close to appreciative of the inclusion. He ruined my kindness for all future loners because I’ll never again make the mistake of always looking out for others. (Yeah, right.)

He was the opposite of engaging. And, though we were sitting in a long booth that would have fit three line-backers comfortably, he sat on the outer edge of his side, which would have totally left my friend out of the conversation, had there been one. What a weirdo.

Back to the food. My friend and I really enjoyed the huge Caesar Salads that were actually a bargain, if you ordered them with your entrées. I never got to eat my Filet Mignon because I ordered it medium well and it came almost rare--twice!!! I asked for it to be butterflied the second time around and they just sent out another rare one that was cooked in one piece, as well. (Keep in mind that the restaurant had been open only about two weeks at this time.) Because of the time constraint, I took it home to re-cook it right, but never got around to it, which is such a waste.

The fries were pretty good, but we weren’t fans of the macaroni and cheese. Next time, I’ll try just a burger and fries, and the salad again, of course. They have a daily soup, too, which I would be interested in. It may actually be a necessity because the air-conditioning was blowing with a vengeance on the two booths I tried, and though I requested for it to be turned down a tad, it wasn’t.

Anyway, when the meal was nearing its end, we were handed individual tickets to the chosen movie next door, which was great. That way, we could each go over at our own pace, which was a thoughtful touch. Then came the piece de resistance.

We were presented with the perfect goodie bags for the occasion. Each one contained a charcoal-colored cap from the restaurant (to match its name, of course!) and a gift certificate from them, too, which I’ll definitely be using to enjoy a more leisurely meal.

The two best parts were an individual serving of popcorn in a striped cardboard mini-container, and a bag of assorted candy for the movie! Simple and clever, and very appreciated. (How easy am I??? I care more about the inexpensive cute candy than I do about a restaurant gift certificate. And you people thought I was high maintenance. Now, aren’t you ashamed of yourselves? Just a little bit?)

The goodie bag put me in such a good mood that even if the movie had been a bust, which it wasn’t, I would have enjoyed myself. Let us all note that even the smallest things in life can brighten one’s experiences.

Charcoal 6666 Sunset Blvd. Hollywood 323-465-8500



The movie that our hosts chose was Fox Searchlight’s recent release “Once” which I heard is playing exclusively at Arclight. Good choice because it was a tad under the radar, so most, if not all, of us hadn’t seen it yet. And it was relatively short at 85 minutes, so if we were tired from our meal, we wouldn’t have to stay out all night.

I loved it! It’s being billed as an Irish musical, but it’s more a heart-warming relationship story that’s about musicians, so, of course, music is a big part of it. I loved that the film let each song play out to its conclusion and not just be used as background music while the scenes moved on.

It stars Glen Hansard, of the Irish rock band The Frames, and Marketa Irglova, a Czech singer/songwriter, and they’re great. Both as musicians and actors, the latter of which they’re new to being.

I never like to know much about a movie going in, so I can just let it unfold before my eyes and have no pre-conceived notions. That’s why I’m not going to tell you more about the film; in case you feel the same way, I don’t want to spoil it for you.

But I will tell you that this was the perfect choice for this kind of evening. I have a pal, Charles Aidakoff, who owns a self-titled professional screening room in Beverly Hills, which has an attached party room, and for years, I’ve wanted to host a dinner and a movie night there myself. But I can never think of the perfect movie for all ages, that no one has seen, and that will hold everyone’s attention until dessert. “Once” may just be that special film and though I’ve obviously seen it already, I’d be happy to see it more than “once."

Arclight Hollywood 6360 W. Sunset Blvd. Hollywood

Karen’s Restaurant Revue airs on June 5 and June 10, both at 10PM, 2 different shows. Channel 98 in most areas, except for BH (Ch. 43) and SM (CH. 77.) Check your local listings.

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