• Real. Food. Daily. (they wish!)

    August 13th, 2008mr meanerLA restaurants, real food daily

    Sometimes, I think I’m the luckiest guy on earth. Realizing our then-apartment in West Hollywood was a five minute walk from one of LA’s premier vegan restaurants: Real Food Daily. This place has such cachet that everybody from Moby to Nicole Richie have chowed down on its much-hyped, overpriced and bland food, served in about the most unfriendly environment possible.

    But, the arrogant owners and servers here don’t care — why should they? The place usually has a 15-20 minute wait at peak times and at the prices they charge probably brings in a tidy profit due to all the fashionable faux-vegans that frequent the place.

    The restaurant is full of people who take a million years to order (if you’ve never been to a vegan restaurant before, it can be confusing ordering a protein that hasn’t been butchered to death). Actual quotes I’ve heard from patrons are:

    • “Does the burger actually taste like a real burger?”
    • “What is Satan?” (sic)
    • “What do you have that will remind me of a chicken salad?”
    • “Is that, like, soft tofu? Like in Pho?”

    Seriously. This is Hollywood. You’re in an ‘in’ place that people will go to out of pure curiosity value, and because the renewed social focus on being outwardly environmentally friendly is all the rage (leave your Range Rover in the garage, and derive your Prius to RFD, please!). The beef I have with RFD is on multiple counts. First, the tables are cramped and waaaay too close together. How do you think I picked up those juicy quotes above? Second, the staff are usually dismissive and nasty and will absolutely REFUSE to seat two people at a four-top table, even when the place is next to empty.

    Also, I once put my name on the list for a table and was asked to “Wait outside”, while others came in after me and were encouraged to sit at the bar while waiting for their table. I hate that! Also (and, yes, food comments coming up after the jump) I’ve been there four times in my life, and each time the bathroom has had no soap in the dispenser… each time I’ve told my waiter and NEVER has it been replenished.
    On a recent trip there, we were in a basic and light eating mood so we thought we’d go for some sushi, a wrap and a salad. Well, we we completely DUPED! Here’s a picture of the sushi… is there anything in particular you notice?

    Sushi: Nori with rice in the middle, and the occasional vegtable

    Sushi: Nori with rice in the middle, and the occasional vegtable

    Yes, hopefully you notice that the $13 sushi is predominantly rice — including the piece up above that’s ENTIRELY rice – there was nothing else in there. The sauce is soy with green onions chopped into it (and I think I’m unimaginative), with the usual sides of canned wasabi and bottled gari. The sushi was even rolled the cheap and way with the nori on the outside. Even I can make that!

    So, we ploughed on through to the main course: a salad and a wrap. Well, the wrap was a complete disappointment, being some kind of leaf with a lot of air and cucumber inside it (ounce for ounce, cucumber must be the least expensive food item there is as it’s cheap and heavy). Look at the picture – it really does it an over-justice as I’m used to pointing my Leica at food and trying to make it look as good as possible:

    Yes, it is as empty as it looks. Not that I’m worried as it was relatively inexpensive at only $8. Glad I didn’t get an optional $5 side – I might have fucking exploded.

    OK, finally the salad arrived. Oh, it came on a big plate. Oh it was green. OH IT LOOKS LARGE! See for yourself:

    A big salad: Lettuce, cucumber and grated fucking carrots.

    A big salad: Lettuce, cucumber and grated fucking carrots.

    I’m absolutely convinced that this salad came right out of a bag that they bought from Ralph’s. It’s like those “ready made salads” they sell… stunningly like a coleslaw mix or “garden mixed salad”. There was a peanut dressing, but it tasted like it came from a bottle — which it probably did. And, of course, 30% or more of the volume of the dish was CHOPPED CUCUMBER. See above for the economic argument for that.

    You don’t believe me? Look at the close-up:

    Minute detail. You can TELL it came from a bag.

    Minute detail. You can TELL it came from a bag.

    I’m absolutely serious. The entire meal was just shy of $30 (with only tap water to drink). The neighbors at the next table (about 9 inches from ours) were having a fight: “Why did you bring me here?” “I thought you were a vegan?”, there was no soap in the bathroom, service was impossibly snooty, the food took forever to arrive, the rude bus boy snapped up my shit from behind without waiting for me to move out of the way and every staff member looked like they could not care less that we were there.

    And, yes, this is a considered opinion. I’ve been there for dinner several times and lunch once. It’s overpriced, full of assholes (staff and patrons — myself included) the bottled beer selection sucks, the wine is cheap exotic stuff you’ve never heard of (hence the 300% mark-up for the uninformed).

    On the whole, RFD might well be a gateway drug to veganism for the masses, instead it lets us down in a big, bad way. What else can you expect from a restaurant owned by Danny DeVito’s ex-personal chef. He was hardly a picture of health and fitness:

    Would he eat at RFD? NO WAY!

    Would he eat at RFD? NO WAY!


10 responses to “Real. Food. Daily. (they wish!)” RSS icon

  • Agreed. The last time we went there, the presentation sucked, the food was $2 more than what it used to cost, plus now you had to “purchase” a side instead of the meal coming with it, and the quality was worse. The only thing that made it worthwhile is that we were using a birthday coupon where we got one meal free. So the bill was only $18 for 2 people. Still not worth it. Oh, and the valet parking is now even more expensive.

  • I remember when I use to go there years ago and was just amazed at how good the food was. Of course back then there were not as many options as there is now for vegans wanting to dine out. I hadn’t been there in so long because I was enjoying all those other vegan options, and there are so many to try.

    I went to the Santa Monica RFD a few months ago and it was nothing like I remember. Well, actually I just remember the food being much better; RFD still has the long wait, apathetic servers, cramped seating area and high prices.

    I use to put up with all that because the food was so good. Now I would much rather eat at Native Foods, Flore, Pure Luck and M cafe. The seating arrangements are uncomfortable at those places too but the food is so good that it overcomes all that.

    I was trying to figure out if RFD had just fallen off or if the food was never really that good to begin with. Was I was just believing it to be great due to lack of choice? Has the bar just been raised that much higher by the other vegan restaurants in and around LA?

  • I agree with all of you. The food and service there is very mariginal. I also agree with SCVegan that it used to be WAY better about 7 years ago.I am not a strong supporter of RFD either. The seitan tastes like flour cakes and their nachos are a joke. The chips were broken into bits (like the ones at the bottom of a bag) and were sparsely covered with some mystery sauce. I don’t think you are being over critical of RFD. The owner, Ann Gentry, needs to be aware of these issues.

  • ha, i was reading the other review from mrs meaner (she called you mr meaner, so i assume that is your name) and couldn’t believe my eyes, so i jumped over to your review and felt emotionally vindicated. thank you very much. the people that work at this restaurant suck, period. they are arrogant and pretentious. i have been there 5 times (i like rueben’s) and each time sucked except for the rueben. the first time i went there was years back after a good experience at the santa monica location, and man was i shocked by the snots at this place, and seeing snots in a restaurant truly disagrees with one’s appetite. by the way, please keep up the “he said, she said” routine so that if i don’t like a review, i can read the others.

  • God, yes, Mr. Meaner. The emperor has no clothes. Or no flavor, rather. This isn’t dining, it’s barely a step above the cafeteria food I used to eat in the L.A. public schools.

    I am baffled every time I meet someone who actually likes this place. Even some vegans tell me they love it. It makes me wonder if they’ve ever eaten anything good in their life or ever been to a nice restaurant before. I suppose if someone used to eat fast food, then became a vegan, and switched from fast food to RFD, they might like it. Otherwise there is no excuse for thinking their food is edible.

    If anyone else wants to know why it used to be good and now it isn’t, it’s because Dave Anderson used to be their chef before he left to open Madeleine’s in Tarzana.

  • I’m kind of surprised at everyone’s feelings here. Before my husband and I went vegan, our vegan friends took us here and it was one of the things that convinced us. Like, if vegan food could be so delicious and flavorful, we could totally live with that choice. Granted, we’ve only been vegan for three years, and we’re not trendy types AT ALL, but the RFD staff have been extremely pleasant to us these past three years. I’ve had criticisms for the staff of certain other vegan restaurants in LA, but I always feel welcomed at RFD by staff and patrons alike.

    So much venom over one of my favorite LA delights!

    Also, if I were newly trying the vegan lifestyle, I’d be extremely put off by the attitude that just because I’m new, I’m garbage and don’t count. Luckily our vegan friends were supportive rather than snobby.

  • I have had both good and bad experiences here. I once tried the Buddha Bowl special that the waitress raved about, which turned out to be sadly disappointing. The noodles were overcooked and the dish as a whole was just plain BLAND! Their nachos, on the other hand, never fail to rock my socks off and that chocolate cake always brings me back 😉

  • I just reviewed RFD on my blog today… I was SO GLAD to read yours and see we had very similar feelings on this….


  • i’ve had very extreme different experiences at rfd. the bad was SOOOOOOO bad (thanksgiving meal) and good was EXPLOSIVE. the sunday brunch burrito with hash browns and tempeh bacon. and i had it with a strawberry shake (hemp). soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo life-alteringly good. i can put up with the servers and overhearing people’s CRAZY conversations and arguments for the sunday brunch and shake!

  • I thought I was the only one who felt this way!

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