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NY Times Says Dining at Magic Castle Feels Like a ‘First-Class Cabin on a Ghost Cruise’

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Plus the wonders of Baroo Canteen in East Hollywood

Diners at the Magic Castle
Wonho Frank Lee
Farley Elliott is the Senior Editor at Eater LA and the author of Los Angeles Street Food: A History From Tamaleros to Taco Trucks. He covers restaurants in every form, from breaking news to the culture, people, and history that surrounds LA's dining landscape.

There’s a new review of sorts up from the New York Times’ Los Angeles-based restaurant critic Tejal Rao, and it’s all about the wonders of the Magic Castle in Hollywood. The colorful former private residence sits on a hillside above the Walk of Fame fray, and can be hard to get into for those not willing to put in a little leg work. So what does the restaurant, live entertainment venue, private magicians club, and magic school actually offer to those who make it in?

That depends on what each individual customer hopes to get out of the experience, says the Times. The place is “not exactly known for its food,” notes Rao, though the recent addition of chef Jason Fullilove has given the place a bit of new life. Not only do customers have to pay to get inside (starting at $25), they also must purchase dinner — an entree per person is required — and enjoy the Victorian parlor-esque dining room while dressed to the nines, in accordance with the Magic Castle’s notoriously strict dress code. Still, the place runs on revelry, and “the laughter is loud and drunken, and any spills are absorbed into a dark, patterned carpet.”

The real wonders of the Magic Castle come from the shows and the kitschy, place-appropriate decor in the various theaters and rooms spread around the compound, which Eater showed off in its near entirety back in 2017. As Rao says:

The décor throughout the castle is charming and gothic, with every wall covered in arcana, newspaper clippings, posters and portraits of long-gone performers, one-time players in the history of magic. The odd googly-eyed portrait will follow your gaze menacingly.

So, is the Magic Castle a ghost ship floating off to nowhere? Perhaps, but it seems that everyone inside is certainly having a heck of a time on the trip.

Card tricks inside the Magic Castle
Magic Castle shows
Wonho Frank Lee

Meanwhile, LA Times co-critic Bill Addison penned a short semi-review on the wonders of Baroo Canteen in his weekly newsletter. The restaurant inside the East Hollywood Union Swapmeet is in some ways a bigger, more direct second act from the ethereal and wonderful original Baroo, while Kwang Uh’s cooking “affects the brain like taking trigonometry and music-appreciation classes in the same hour.” A riff on Hong Kong-style shrimp toast is “sweet and crisp and surrounded with dots of pureed avocado and yuzu coulis,” while a bowl of octopus carries “a fried egg with a handsomely oozy yolk.”

Diner beware: Baroo Canteen’s home inside the Union Swapmeet is far from permanent, as the entire building is set to be redeveloped down the line. Meanwhile, Uh and partner Mina Park are working on their own standalone restaurant to come later, though nothing is confirmed just yet. As Addison notes:

In big and small ways, Uh’s endeavors in Los Angeles have always carried a fundamental message: Everything is temporary.

The Magic Castle. 7001 Franklin Ave., Los Angeles, CA.

Baroo Canteen. 4632 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, CA.