Linda's on Melrose reminds me of New York neighborhood cafes where you can claim a seat for years, sit for hours, sip Champagne indefinitely, eat and talk, talk, talk. No one hovers. You get the feeling you could stay overnight without having the check waved under your nose. The seat is yours. And these days of recent opening, there are plenty of good seats in the house to choose from.
Actually it's rather fun scouting for the ideal place to sit in this brand new, handsome, eclectic restaurant. The garden settees with hand-painted canvas covers are pretty; the area where the Queen Ann chairs give a British colonial look to the area also is tempting. There are several groupings that look like the set of the Orient Express, Chinese carpets, Art Deco lamps, all do-it-yourself color-coordinated and very pretty. The restaurant is also an art gallery, currently showing the huge canvases of Susan Boswell, a California artist.
There is a twosome table, which reminds me of the song "Tea for Two" because it's near the shiny black baby grand in the center of the room. Very romantic. The piano playing was tasteful. Unobtrusive, too, when I was there. Piano players change along with art, I understand.
No Funny Business
I rather miss that sort of leisure in Los Angeles, where, it seems, eating is a serious matter--you arrive, eat, evaluate and run. No funny business. No loitering. No card-playing, no singing, no talking.
Well, not at Linda's. You can, for a change, hear yourself think at Linda's. I just wish the menu and food were stronger. Much stronger. Right now it's rather limp, perhaps because the place is so new, needing time to find its audience. There are not enough strong leader items to dig your teeth into, and too many of the lightweight things (San Francisco melt, sauteed mushrooms on toast, chicken livers on toast).
Then you get things like ham hocks and black-eyed peas, which makes one wonder. Of all the Southern dishes to be had, why ham hocks? You get the feeling the food was an afterthought, the decor far more central to the theme.
Linda's doesn't seem to know what it wants to be when it grows up. Tex-Mex? San Francisco? Coffee shop? Coffeehouse? Right now it is pseudo all those things and something important is missing. A professional chef, perchance? Linda? Where is Linda, anyway? Who's who at Linda's is somewhat of a mystery.
Still, even with the unbalanced menu, some of the lightweight dishes are great fun--like cheese and salsa omelet, scrambled eggs with chili and home fries and steamed red potatoes with caviar. I also like the idea of offering both full orders and smaller portions at less cost. For instance, you can get a $4 or $6 plate of chili; $12 or $18 pot chicken, although, in my opinion, either is a price too high for chicken, no matter what. Linda's prices, I think, need some adjustment. Dinner can get expensive if, in your talkie-talkie reverie, you order inattentively.
The things I liked: The chili was quite good considering it was served lukewarm. I also liked the quesadillas , which were served hot and fresh. Excellent, in fact. I liked the enchilada pie, which comes plain in an unlikely au gratin dish, but thought the amount too little for $8. It needs an accompaniment of some sort.
I tried the shortcake, but found the biscuit somewhat aged, the strawberries frozen, and the whipped cream canned, just like mother used to make. Maybe that was the point. A peach cobbler was better--much better--but the crust needs work.
You know what? I don't care. I'm going back to sit for hours, sip Champagne indefinitely, eat chili and talk, talk, talk, talk.
Linda's, 6715 Melrose Ave . , Los Angeles, (213) 934-6199. Open Monday through Saturday 11 a.m. to midnight; Sunday noon to 10 p.m. No credit cards. Valet parking. Reservations accepted. Beer and wine available. Piano music nightly. Average check for one with beverage about $20.