Eventually, some of L.A.’s TV outlets drove over and produced the typical news summaries one would expect.
Even The Onion wrote a short piece claiming the trend had extended to the Hollywood Freeway (even though the image they used appears to be of the 5, but, you know, whatever).
It wasn’t until Curbed Urbanism Editor Alissa Walker wrote a serious review of the experience that I realized I had quietly mocked the scene without trying it firsthand.
“As you might expect, the acoustics are challenging. Each squeal of a tire or smack of tread ricochets through the space. A honk is enough to jolt your gyro right out of your hand,” she wrote. “But since the spaces immediately surrounding the patio are being used for curbside pickup for the mall’s stores (which are mostly closed), there aren’t all that many cars zipping around.”
Ultimately, Walker gave the experience a thumbs up. “As I sat, making my way through a side of shredded-red-cabbage salad,” she wrote, “I thought that the setup isn’t all that much worse than eating from a food truck.”
So I put on some pants and told my girlfriend Amber to prepare for Date Night!
As we approached the Galleria, she said, “Wait, no. We are not eating in that garage.”
I argued that we needed to in the name of journalism, adventure, science.
“DO IT FOR THE GRAM,” I shouted.
But she reminded me that Instagram pictures should be the most beautiful images of your life, of the best moments of the year, carefully curated to make anyone who has ever wronged you in any way die right there on the spot out of envy.
If she were to share a photo of us munching on kabobs in a poorly lit parking lot, none of the desired results would come to fruition. Instead, she would become a laughing stock, or worse, an object of pity.
Nevertheless, I persisted.
We drove past Target, around a slight corner, and because it was warm outside, our windows were down.
“What is that?” she asked. “That smell? What is that?”
It was exhaust fumes. No doubt about it. Some poorly tuned, diesel-fueled truck or late-model beater had clearly just been in the vicinity.
“Who knew the Los Feliz skunks migrate this far north?” I replied.
“Skunks?” she scoffed.
We parked and approached the only diners in the garage. Maybe the sweetest couple you’ll ever meet and proud members of the Clean Plate Club. They had devoured their chicken and rice when I showed up and tried to ask them questions from behind my mask.
Q: How was the food? A: Great! Q: How was eating in a parking garage? A: Fun! A: Weird! Q: Would you do it again? A: Yes!
“See, baby, they loved it!” I said to Amber. But because she was also wearing a mask, I couldn’t tell if she was smiling or pouting or scheming or frowning. So I went ahead and approached the young lady near the entrance of the mall who seemed to be the one taking the orders.
She told me that throughout the day, both Massis Kabob, who she worked for, and Five Guys allowed their customers to either dine in the garage or take the food home.
When I asked her how many people chose option one, the unique parking garage seating, she looked at her device and said, “about 200.”
The wild thing about my girlfriend is she has a fascinating way of turning good news into bad news.
When I heard 200 people ate kabobs in a parking garage before the sun went down, I thought, “Those gotta be some damn good kabobs. Alissa Walker is right again!”
But when Amber heard this, she said, “COVID. We’re gonna die. Nobody sterilized 200 chairs. The wind is blowing the COVID on everyone. The exhaust is making the droplets hang in the air longer. F the Gram!”
Then I said, “Can I take a picture of you?”
She said nothing.
Which is a “yes” in this instance.
Like me, Amber enjoys the Beyond Burger at Carl’s Junior. When we got back into the car, she asked nicely if I would take her to their drive-thru and if we could eat our meal in the car.
Apparently, this episode traumatized her. We both worked so hard to stay indoors, avoid crowds and weird situations, and here I had literally driven her into perceived danger.
I am sure that the garage is safe and that the tables are regularly sanitized. And the fumes were probably vegan, if not gluten-free.
But as we turned Date Night into Drive Night while we devoured our burgers, I noticed some biases about eating outdoors that this dark garage shed some light onto.
It’s perfectly acceptable to eat in a parking lot, but not a parking garage.
On 1113 Sunset Blvd., where the valet typically parks Club Bahia’s earliest attendees of the night, there now lies a makeshift outdoor taqueria. Tables and chairs are properly distanced on the west side of the parking lot, which boasts what appears to be a 100-inch LCD TV.
The TV alone was awe-inspiring, and any Dodger fan who also wanted a taco would be extremely happy with this situation.
Nobody laughed about the fact that this place was where — OMG — people would park their cars. The Onion didn’t have a post about it. It was just a giant parking lot and the biggest TV ever showing a baseball game being played in an empty stadium. Move along, nothing to see here.
A few miles west on Sunset Boulevard, more Angelenos were dining outside. But they were doing it in a park? On the street? No, it was a former street that has been painted green to resemble what grass would look like if there actually was grass there.
Sunset Triangle is the home of the Silver Lake Farmers Market and — in times when the world isn’t overtaken by a pandemic — outdoor movies. But most of the time, chairs and umbrellas entice diners to gorge on the painted asphalt like everything’s perfectly normal.
But is it?
For some reason, that’s OK, but eating (and sleeping) in a temporarily closed movie theater doorway is unthinkable.
We share this beautiful city with millions of people. Every day we eat and sleep and try to live.
We do what we can to stay healthy, to support local businesses and make it to another sunset.
I’ll do my best not to judge where you eat.
And I apologize that I didn’t give the parking garage a shot before I quietly dismissed it.