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Message in a Bottle: Ketchup's Debut

We couldn't resist slipping into Ketchup on opening night. We're almost ashamed to say it, but we kinda like the place. Like the other Dolce Group restos, it's all about design, the bodies that fill it, high-priced simple food, heavy on scene. If that's your thing, you'll love it. Bonus points for the look: They promised a "new" American diner, and they delivered. It's all very Hollywood chic, everything is white---the leather banquettes and booths, shiny white tables, the walls---with red accents from napkins, light fixtures that look like tomatoes, tomato-red candles, real tomatoes in plastic boxes that make us want to scream "Free the tomatoes!" and even red toilet paper in the ladies' room. Heinz ketchup bottles as art on walls, in a wine rack, everywhere around the room. We're told friends-and-family service took place earlier this week, so we didn't spot any big celeb investors. But co-owner Mike "Boogie" Malin was romping around the room (along with a coterie of about 12 different managers/owners overseeing an army of serving staff), with a camera crew following him. We later learned it was "some show" about the restaurant opening.

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The entire wait staff looked like they were plucked straight from a high-school cafeteria, but everyone was eager to please with a little opening-night clumsiness. Our gal semi-knew what she was talking about, had recommendations, even told us when to hold back from ordering too much. Food and drink menus veer towards fun childhood favorites, but with a much higher price tag than what you'd find at Mel's across the street. (See for yourself.) We passed on cocktails made with grape Kool-Aid or YooHoo, and were told no extending wine list until the "full licensing comes through by Friday." Huh? Not sure how they got around that one, because there was plenty of alcohol on premises last night. Apps like mini kobe-beef chili dogs, mini cheeseburgers, mini fish tacos all hover around the $15 mark; sides like Parmesan fries and sweet potato tater tots are $9. We were directed to the "upscale items" on the menu, meaning the $69 porterhouse for two and the kobe filet. Stick with the minis, the salads, the fries. Way more fun and actually tasty. Love the music in the background; hate the $10 valet.

Based on one opening-night visit, it's hard to say how things will shake out for Ketchup. Will people be attracted to $15 hot dogs? Perhaps. But from the looks of the hanger-ons and wannabes around the room, Ketchup will be the place to be seen, not seen eating. For a better look inside, click here.
· BREAKING! Ketchup Opens Tonight [Eater LA]

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