• Pure Luck: Mystery SOLVED. They’re COMMUNISTS!

    February 4th, 2009mr meanerLA restaurants, pure luck (closed)

    Do you remember the scene in Wizard of Oz where the wizard is exposed behind the curtain, and he turns out to be just some boring middle-aged man of ill repute? Well, that’s what we existentialists call a “revelation”, and BOY did I get one of those last weekend in Pure Luck. I didn’t just see behind the red curtain by the cash register, I got a glimpse behind the IRON CURTAIN into cold-war era Soviet Russia. Okay, I know you just want to hear about potato pals and how awesome the freakin’ jackfruit is, but bear with me on this.

    The RED Era of Pure Luck!

    The RED Era of Pure Luck!

    Any vegan living in LA will confirm that Pure Luck is probably the best vegan restaurant in town, has some of the nicest staff and offers an innovative Mexi/Californian-style menu that can satisfy even the most hard boiled carnivore. The same vegans will also tell you that the quality of the food is about as predictable as the middle-east peace process, and you never quite know what you’re going to get when you order something off the menu.

    I usually stick to the staple Fresh Noodle Salad, but even that simple dish (with, like four ingredients) has arrived in multiple different forms in the year or so I’ve been going there. Sometimes it’s all noodles with spinach sprinkled on top, other times it’s a 5lb bag of spinach with nary a noodle in site. Sometimes there is so much tofu I can’t handle the protein overload and other times there’s not enough tofu to feed a vegan mouse. The other dishes suffer the same fate of inconsistency, yet we vegans are so grateful to have Pure Luck around we just complain to each other yet rarely to the staff.

    Well, this weekend, I was served with an inedible Fresh Noodle Salad. Not only were the noodles hard and crunchy, but the spinach was brown at the edges and the whole thing was swimming in a sea of salty water. There were five pieces of overcooked tofu, no tortilla crunchies and the toasted peanuts had seen neither hide nor hare of a toaster, let alone any form of heat.

    Pure Luck Fresh Noodle Salad on a bad day.

    Pure Luck Fresh Noodle Salad on a bad day.

    Sadly, I had to send it back and decided to order the Pure Luck Spring rolls instead. I SWEAR they scooped out the crap in my salad bowl, wrapped it in a tortilla with a smirk on their faces, dumped the salty water on top and re-served it to me, as the rolls were no better. See below for a comparison between a good and bad day. Please note that on the bad day, the spring rolls were soggy, with the dip TIPPED INTO into them and flowing out, and barely any tofu. On the good day, however, there was tons of tofu and the spring rolls were fresh, the leaves weren’t wilted, and the sauce was served on the side. Night and day, I tell you.

    Pure Luck spring rolls, for better and for worse.

    Pure Luck spring rolls, for better and for worse.

    Coincidentally, a friend, who visited later the same afternoon, ordered the Burrito, which happened to be “95% rice” and fell apart when she tried to eat it. She’s decided to start visiting Pure Luck less often, as she’s “fed up getting crappy food, when it used to be so good.”. And, she’s the SECOND person I know who won’t order the Burrito again for the exact same reason, both served months apart.

    When I questioned our wonderfully efficient and polite server about the consistency of the food I got the most stunning revelation: “Well, because we share all the tips, the owner likes us to do different jobs here. One day I might be waiting tables, the next washing dishes and then I might be in the kitchen preparing food. I guess some of us are better than others at different things”. No shit, Sherlock.

    I mean, Pure Luck, SERIOUSLY. You have a business with paying customers, not some ideological experiment with socialist capitalism. I’ve never run a restaurant, but I know that not everybody can cook food, just as not everybody is good at dealing with people. Pure Luck needs to get a sensible rotation of kitchen staff to consistently prepare quality food as well as serve your customers with accountability.

    I know about 10 vegans who don’t go to Pure Luck as often as they would, for fear of being disappointed with a dish that’s not up to the standards they are used to. Indeed, just this last Saturday, Twitter was going crazy with people who were going to Pure Luck and complaining about the food.

    Pure Luck: you can do better. Your restaurant is quieter than it used to be, and the only consistency we’ve seen is higher prices and smaller portions. We loyal customers will vote with our feet and go elsewhere. Don’t get me wrong, you are still the best vegan restaurant in town by far, but gone are my regular weekend dinner gatherings at Pure Luck with friends, shrunk now to once or twice a month…and we all remark on the inconsistency of the food. Comping a food item (has happened several times in my circle of friends) means we both lose. Your revenue goes down, and the customer doesn’t get what they ordered.

    Pure Luck should deliver reasonable consistency with its food, that’s all we are asking. Our salads/tacos/burritos/whatever should be very similar every time we order them, and we shouldn’t be afraid to speak up and send stuff back to the kitchen that’s below par, even if we have waited 40 minutes for it to arrive.

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16 responses to “Pure Luck: Mystery SOLVED. They’re COMMUNISTS!” RSS icon

  • Great post! Thanks for clearing up the mystery. Love your graphic (Mother Russia and the Happy Piggy)! Twitter when you hit them on a good day … and the hordes will descend!

  • omg. you hit the nail on the head. here is my story.

    i went there with some work friends not all vegan just before the holiday last year and the food was all over the place. even the fries were cold and potato pals were basically uncooked. we sent everything back, ordered different stuff and sent it all back again for the same reasons. it was seriously inedible. a gal came out of the kitchen to apologize saying that they were going to call in somebody else to cook as the person in there was getting flustered as it was their turn to cook but they didn’t like doing it… I was like WTF WTF WTF. my meat eating friends laughed so hard. before we left they took everything off the bill, except $25 of beer leaving us buzzed but hungry with no time left to go anywhere else and eat. i was very embarrased as id brought non-vegan people from my office there for lunch telling them how great the place was.

    so, my bf and I went back there on jan 10th and we expereinced basically the same thing. the food was a little better but the avocado on my salad was brown on the edges (i worked in a restaurant and the golden rule of avacado is to peel and cut it immediately before you take the meal to the table. this had been laying out for a while). i sent the salad back and the server was very apologietic. I asked what was up, and she said that they had somebody in the kitchen who usually didnt work there.

    finally as we were leaving somebody sent back the soup of the day because it was cold. he was like “this just came out of the fridge. at least warm it up before you bring it to me”.

    my vegan friends have stopped going to pure luck as much, and I have not been back since january. i will do a visit next week some time and post here on what I find.

    and, btw, communism isn’t a bad thing. just ask my relations in china who work 15 hour days for $5 a day making disney toys for wal mart to sell 😛 😛 😛

    love this blog as you say it like it is.

  • Right on, Mr. Meaner! My first visit there was in November 2007 and I’ve only been back twice since. I want Pure Luck to get better!

  • Huh, well that explains a lot. (I’ve only been a few times, and except for the carnitas burrito, the food hasn’t seemed remarkably different. Went at the right times?)

    No, what annoyed me the last time I went there was apparently not being aware of their operating procedure. I tried to go there a recent Saturday night about 15 minutes before midnight, and was greeted with an attitude-laden “sorry, the kitchen closes @ 11:30” Um, yeah I was supposed to “psychically” know this, and not think that if you’re open ’till midnight, you are? (a little sign out front/online would be helpful)

    Seriously though, coupled with this, and in this economy, it’s a recipe for disaster. Get your act together people!

    (this didn’t mean to sound as pissy as it does, but I’m still a little annoyed about what happened. haven’t been back since.)

  • This is such a drag, and your before & after photos are so telling. Like you guys, I love this place to bits, but the inconsistency in regards to what they serve is just too much. I also used to LOVE that fresh noodle salad, then they decided to shrink and change it and now I just never even bother to order it. Your description of it being covered with sea-water is so nasty! I then tried the fish burrito one time… loved it… but then any time I’ve been back since and tried to order it again they told me they were out of the fish because the supplier is “flaky” (hardy har har!). Why is it on the menu if you don’t have it?

    If there’s one thing that bothers me more than anything else, it’s what you’ve just described about how they are rotating their staff. When I go to restaurant and pay for a meal, I expect it to be prepared by the chef, or at least someone who knows how to cook and works there for that purpose and that purpose only (in other words, trained by the head chef on how to prepare the food properly). I don’t want the busboy making my meal while the most experienced cook in the place waits on tables. Why are they now trying to run the place like “Hell’s Kitchen”? I can understand wanting to train their staff to handle multiple responsibilities, but I don’t understand sticking people in the kitchen who don’t know how (or don’t even want) to cook.

    I go there less and less these days because of all these reasons and hearing of your latest experiences there sure doesn’t make me want to rush back any time soon. Bummer. With the economy in the state of suck that it currently is, you’d think places like this would be trying a lot harder to retain and attract customers, not doing their best to scare their loyal ones away.

  • Avi and I have had several not so pleasant experiences at Pure Luck including attitudinal waiters and inconsistent food. I also think there are only a few dishes that are even worth eating. I’m kind of over that place.

    p.s. I’m addicted to your blog!


  • Wow, that is pure evil. I’m contemplating removing it from vegan-la.com until they end that ruinous social experiment. Socialism has never worked and never will. They need read about Twentieth Century Motors in Atlas Shrugged. I want a Chef cooking my food not a dishwasher. If a dishwasher is cooking my food I don’t want it, give me my $ back. I hope their chef has some self respect and quits and gets a job somewhere he/she is valued for his/her skill and not made to sweep the floors while watching the restaurant go down with the captains of the ship. If any of Pure Luck’s good chefs are reading this please contact me, I’d be happy to help you open a restaurant of your own.

  • Maybe my standards are low but other than the first time I visited Pure Luck the week they opened, everything’s been pretty consistent. At least as consistent as I would expect for a full plate of food for $8. At least I’m not getting hair or worms in my food unlike my experiences at other noted vegan establishments. BTW: those spring rolls are disgusting even on a good day. 🙂

  • What does sharing of tips have to do with rotation of staff? If this is truly their practice then I can only assume that there are no real cooks/chefs in the place, everyone gets paid the same and to keep that same (low?) pay rate they do not recognize positions but just keep everyone equal. Is that what they do? Otherwise I have no idea how else this makes sense.

  • Kevin “those spring rolls are disgusting even on a good day” man you’re killing me… too funny!!!! ;0 🙂

  • My girlfriend worked at pure Luck late last year. The chefs there are a joke. She quit because so much food was sent back and she got dinged on her tips too much. I ate there yesterday and the fresh noodle salad was just like mr meaner described. A pity as I think pure luck was on to a good thing for a while. I’d take the smashed in window for better food any day.


  • I’m an anarchist so this sort of set up is pretty awesome. Human _&_ animal liberation is important. All or nothing.

  • whoa, this is pretty dumb! and explains SO MUCH!!!

    pure luck, i hope you’re listening. if someone doesn’t want to cook, don’t make them cook! you’re doing everyone a disservice!

  • I recently went to dine at pure luck to see what all the buzz was about. to be honest I felt like their food was made with a lack of love and integrity. their buisness has no dignity. If they’ve made it this far it’s been “pure luck”

  • Word War Three

    Aha!! I knew it! I swore last night our server was actually a cook because she had the dress of a cook and didn’t know what the bloody hell she was doing with the tables. Nice enough girl and probably overwhelmed, but not a good waitress!

    Job specialization — get the fuck into it UCK!

  • I absolutely love this place. I’ll still go back there every time I’m in town. Sometimes, it’s a good day, sometimes a bad. I’d go here every other day when I was in school, across the street at LACC.
    I just don’t know. There are new people working there every time I go in. But the owner is always the same and he’s a great guy. So I’ll give him some slack. I’ve received weird dressing on the caesar before and sent it back for a different dressing. No problems.
    I think the only time that I really was very disappointed was I ordered a carnitas pesto sandwich to go and got in the car to eat it while I drove to work because I was starving. How bummed was I that when I finally started to eat it I was already on the freeway and the bread was so frickin’ gross. It was dry, tasted stale and there was just something off about it.
    Well, I keep going back anyway. Why? Because I’m loyal and it was 1 time. And I can’t stay away from their bbq sandwich.
    Now that I live across the country, I make carnitas jack fruit at home and dream about missing Pure Luck.

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