Why is “for here” taxed and “to go” not?
Why does The Hamburger Helper have only four fingers?
What ever happened to airplane food?
These are questions that are, and will forever remain, a mystery to me.
But the biggest mystery of all is: How did I end up at Barney's Beanery? How? How on earth did they get me to agree to "eat" brunch not only at Barney's Beanery, but on Third Street Promenade?!?!
I don’t know. And given my – *ahem* let's just call it "colorful" – history with Barney’s Beanery on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood, well, I really do not know. *sigh*
I shan’t go into the details about that time of my life, mostly because my mid-twenties is a hazy spot in my memory. However, I can say that at that one time in my life, Barney’s Beanery was not the weekend morning brunch-y destination that it happened to be this last time that I ended up there by who-knows-how. Back in the day, Barney’s Beanery was a Friday or Saturday night destination. Three hours to primp. Dressed to kill. And there were many a night when...Whoa oh, here she comes. Watch out, boy, she’ll chew you up...Or something like that. You see, Barney’s Beanery is a bar, and not just any bar. It’s one of "those" bars, and that’s about all I will say about that.
As a bar, Barney’s Beanery is not horrible, if you like that hyperstimulatory sports bar type of venue that feels like a college guy’s dorm room on a triple dose of steroids. Every inch of ceiling, wall, floor space, even the tabletops, is plastered with photos, posters, and other rock and roll sports memorabilia that together, scream “frat boy in da hizouse!” There are pool tables, decently “cute” servers weaving in and out of the crowds to and from tables, and most importantly, about 5 billion tv screens scattered around the place showing every game of every sport taking place on the planet, except cricket because cricket is way too confusing to follow as a spectator.
That’s the strange thing about Barney’s Beanery. It’s a sports bar, and yet, it’s one of those bars. "Sports" must be the factor that makes it a magnet for girls. Sports bar = boys. Barney’s Beanery is a meaty cheesy meat market filled with meaty cheesy boys and girls. Perhaps some of them are they because they really do care about NASCAR, but let’s be serious, folks. Men in colorful spacesuits proudly sponsored by PBR playing one-way chicken on a race track? I would say that most of the people are there for the other "game" that's being played right there at the bar.
Those kind of antics comes with a bar’s territory, and I have learned to accept/ignore/laugh at it. What I cannot ignore, however, is Barney's attempt at "food." That’s right, the key words are "attempt" and “ 'food,' ” which is in quotes because it’s not really food. The stuff looks like food, but so do those plastic replicas of tempura udon and chicken curry on display in front of Japanese restaurants. In fact, plastic curry might not taste too bad, but I can't say with conviction because I have never tasted it.
It's unfortunate because Barney's food offering is All-American Everything Sarah Loves. The selection is broad in categories and deep in choices: all kinds of eggs, pancakes and waffles, salads, hot and cold sandwiches, burgers, soups, chili, baked potatoes with toppings that would send my college days' Spud Brothers into bankruptcy, BBQ, pizza and calzones, pasta, Mexican food, even dishes like...Salisbury Steak. Barney's Beanery's menu is a multi-color, multi-page Sunday Comics-ization of every menu from every deliciously cheesy "Eatin' good in the neighborhood" chain restaurant in America that now has also entered the grocer's freezer section - Applebee's, Claim Jumper, Denny's, IHOP, El Torito, Olive Garden, TGI Friday's, with a little bit of school cafeteria thrown in for "flair." Who serves Salisbury Steak other than the cafeteria in my old elementary school in Bloomfield Hills over 20 years ago?! Barney's Beanery does.
As much as I was curious about both the Salisbury and Chicken Fried Steaks, they seemed slightly heavy for "brunch." At least, for a brunch that wasn't doubling as a hangover cure. Eggs Benedict was a poor man's excuse for a rich man's excuse for an Egg McMuffin. Shriveled discs of Canadian bacon barely stretched the diameter of the toasted English muffin halves. Eggs had been over-poached to the point that they could have been mistaken for hard-boiled, and drowned in a bright, neon yellow sauce that looked more like liquified Play-Doh than Hollandaise sauce. The tiny plastic "sample" cup of ketchup was hardly enough to rescue the accompanying potatoes from their dry, tasteless existence. Barney's Potato Skins are awesome in concept, but the Skins Italiano was miserable in its marinara and melted mozzarella execution.
Usually, I don't expect much from chicken sandwich, something I order when I don't want to formulate any sort of opinion, but Barney's chicken sandwich was beyond disappointing. The ratio of the dry, hard bread to everything inside was drastically imbalanced. Like the bread, the chicken breast was dry, and surprisingly, more flavorless than a frozen chicken breast that's been marinated in tap water and seasoned with air. The half French fries, half onion rings weren't inedible (they never are), but they certainly were noticeably un-fresh.
Despite the "food," the atmosphere at Barney's is lively, because first and foremost, it is a bar. You just have to keep that in mind and damn well be sure that you’re going to Barney's for the right reason: to drink (and if you're into the meaty cheesy game, well, there you go). If you order “food” on the side, do it after a few hours when you're plenty marinated enough that you won’t figure out that whatever you order tastes and looks a little bit too much like what you get in Economy Class on ATA. Huh? You mean they don't serve food on ATA, the airline that makes Southwest look like a private luxury Concorde? Exactly.
There it is. The answer to the question of what ever happened to airplane food. It has been re-packaged, frozen, thawed, and served as Eggs Benedict at Barney's Beanery. But I still don't know how I ended up there. I don't.
And now, I ask you, what are the questions that remain unanswered in your mind? Better yet, where are the places you end up, after which you throw your hands up and look Heavenward, wailing “Whyyyy?!” like you ask yourself when you’re kneeling half-naked in front of the toilet with your right temple cooling againt the porcelain as you let the wave of nausea pass and ask “Whyyyyy?!??!”
I know you have at least one of those places.
Don't make me look like I'm the only one.
1351 3rd Street (Promenade)
Santa Monica, CA 90401