All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2012
I selected The Serving Spoon because it is literally ten minutes from LAX. I needed a spot near the airport to have breakfast with my parents before I dropped them off for their return to Boston. I did a bunch of different searches on Google & Yelp & The Serving Spoon kept making the “best of” lists – so be it. Nestled in a corner strip mall in a neighborhood rife with abandoned businesses & auto accessory shops – the sign for The Serving Spoon was disappointing. Owning a cafe is a fantasy of mine but my fantasy involves the design of the place as much as the menu. I am always frustrated when any business falls short on the style-factor or any opportunity for cool graphics etc. Here are the two signs:
Actually – that one isn’t too bad. Sorta retro…OK. Seems to be original. I actually like that one, in retrospect. But – here is the storefront:
Sorta underwhelming – no? It looks like a yarn store called the Sewing Spoon. But those two sets of wheels outside suggest there are not octogenarian knitters inside. An urban eatery? I’ll be the judge of that.
The interior. Basic as basic gets.
We stepped inside & found there was a 10-15 minute wait. On a Wednesday. At 9:30am. While I detest waiting for seating anywhere – this seemed a very promising indication. I looked at the daily special board & saw OXTAILS were on the menu along with many traditional sides & peach cobbler. For some reason – the crowd & that special board won me over completely. I asked my parents to guess how we’d rate the food – once we had it – on a scale of 1-5. Everyone expected to give The Serving Spoon a 5. That can be hard to live up to.
After about 15 minutes, I began to suspect that folks arriving after us were being seated before us. It was the first time I ever had a fear that I was being discriminated against because of race. As a woman? Sure. As a punk rock kid or person not wealthy enough to be in the Gucci store in Milan or some other fancy place? Sure. I’ve been judged & assessed & underestimated in various way. We all have. But, as I watched the hostess seat another group I swore had entered after us, I actually blushed with shame. The shame of humiliation. And I whispered to my mother, “What if they won’t seat us? Oh my God. Can you imagine?” And for the first time, I viscerally felt a tiny hint of what so many have felt historically & to this day – when they are truly discriminated against in a really basic, human rights kinda way. Breakfast. Don’t we all have a right to eat in a cafe – if we can afford to pay for it? And as I reflected on the (obvious) horrors of institutionalized racism and my first, pinky-toe sensation of how it feels to be a victim of it, the hostess approached us. “You’re Gail, right?” Gail is my mother – the name we put on the wait list. With that fact confirmed, she smiled & said, “Your table is ready.”
We weren’t being ignored, after all. Hahaha! What an asshole I am. The folks she seated before us had been waiting on a bench I hadn’t seen. What a total schmuck I am. But I can tell you – it was eye opening to feel that rejection first hand – even mistakenly. I’ve always sympathized with victims of racism but sympathy & experience are very different. Hot flashes & the urge to run away & hide in shame. That’s what I felt. How unbelievably awful. Had you asked me an hour before how I would react to being rejected because of my race, I think I would have said, “With righteous indignation” or some other thing that had a hint of resilience in it.
It wasn’t. I felt shame. A really unfamiliar kind of shame. And the urge to skulk away as invisibly as possible.
Well, thank God it was all in my bleary head because it sucked. I can’t explain why I jumped to the most negative explanation first except to say – I have had a REALLY, no – REEEEALLY, bad month or two where everything in my life seems to be dying or breaking or needing a root canal. I think I have some sort of minor PTSD where I now just assume & expect the worst out of every encounter – whether it is with my dentist or the vet or the refrigerator repair man or my computer or my phone or ANY technology or my agent or my friends. Step in dog shit? In the dining room? OF COURSE. Why expect better?
Right now – I seem to explain everyone’s motivations with the darkest adjectives. Every minor problem is just the first loose thread of an unraveling sweater. Every cloud – a category five hurricane headed straight for my face. My TEETH – actually. My GOD – I have been having the most nightmarish monthly run of dental horror – I can’t even get into it. Anyway – this isn’t ALWAYS the way (that I assume the grimmest outcomes & brace for disaster everywhere) but, lately, I really do seem to expect just the worst possible news from every possible source. Coming home to a perfectly healthy, 4 year old dog – suddenly & inexplicably dead in his bed can really put the fear of God into you. Nothing seems safe or stable after that. So – I am writing off my bizarre conclusion at the Serving Spoon that way – the culmination of a seemingly endless run of bad luck.
And since I mentioned him – here is my gorgeous Grisbi. RIP – August 16, 2012.
But I digress –
Seated in a comfy booth, we were greeted by our waitress & a waiter brought us coffees. My mother declared the coffee to be a mere 1 on a scale of 1-5. I thought that was harsh & might have upped that to a 2 or 2.5 — but maybe that was just the gratitude talking – gratitude that we hadn’t been chased away by an angry mob calling us “crackers.”
🙂 If you can’t laugh at yourself….
My parents ordered eggs & some of the expected AM sides like grits and biscuits. I had spied a plate go by that looked like THIS.
(photo stolen from HERE)
A whole fish on a plate with its battered tail curled up into the air like fried flag. I knew what I was gonna get.
I ordered the fried catfish – the fillet, not the whole fish – with a side of collard greens and mac & cheese. It took a while for the food to come but wowsa! Was it worth it! Everything was piping hot & fresh. The mac & cheese was not mushy or bland, the greens weren’t mushy either nor the salt lick that they are at Roscoe’s. And the catfish? THICK, like a chicken breast, and the crust was so crispy & perfect – I was in heaven. A little lemon on the fish & it was even better. Really – truly outstanding. Look at it!
Nothing had the slightest greasy element to it. The cleanest, freshest soul food I have ever had. NEVER go to Roscoe’s again – until you have tried this place.
Upon leaving, I asked my parents if The Serving Spoon had lived up to our hopes for a full blown 5-star rating and we agreed, unanimously, that it had. I cannot recommend this place more highly! Run, don’t walk.
ESPECIALLY if you are having a long run of bad luck (LIKE ME) and expecting nothing good (or worse) from everything in life (like I am). Break the streak & treat yourself to the joy that is The Serving Spoon!
Oh! And lastly – the music on The Serving Spoon’s website is YOU by Lucy Pearl (featuring Q-Tip & Snoop Dogg). Video HERE. Serving Spoon mentioned at 1:38. Cool!
Me and nephew snoop was eating
At the serving spoon
And my partner skin it back
Was sitting with us too
And all of a sudden
Your body was inside
I couldn’t finish breakfast
Now something just aint right
Now snoop was looking like
What the hell is wrong with you
I said I know you understand
Youve been through a few
But this one is special
Special to me
Is it my imagination killing me