The Crosby Still Not Ready for Prime Time

We like the Crosby, we really do. We cheered their fight against the idiot SanTana bureaucrats. We like co-owners Chris Alfaro, Phil Nisco and Marc Yamaoka 'cause they always sport a smile and some weird-ass T-shirt (one of their workers was wearing one with Steve Urkel's mugshot–I remember that episode!). Their lair's vibe is happening, the music ever-eclectic, the ambitions lofty.

But in the matter in which I'm concerned with professionally for the purposes of this post–great food in OC–the Crosby is still not worthy of praise.

I visited the downtown SanTana restaurant-cum-hangout space twice last week because milady loves the place, especially their selections of beer and wine. Me? I don't drink swill and rotten grapes, and pined for Johnny Sampson's Maker's Mark across the street at Memphis at the Santora. But the lack of booze is the least of my concerns–the Crosby's menu is too hit-and-miss for me to return, at least for a couple of months while they tighten the menu (though the place has already been open for a couple of months).

The hits: a house salad I never tasted 'cause my gal inhaled it like some do air. Massive pasta bowls with nuance and heft. A Thai vegan wrap (just call it a burrito, will ya fellas?) with a lurking spicy sauce that'll kick you in the end. Some of the best chili in Orange County–and the big bowl is vegan.

The Gary Matthews, Jr.-esque misses: A vegan pizza that was downright disgusting–too many tomatoes, nothing to counterbalance the acidity, an overall mess. A bitter take on bananas Foster–bitter in a dessert notorious for its ostentatious decadence!* One night we went, the waitress took about 20 minutes to bring me a cup of hot water and lemon, and ignored us the rest of the night (in fairness, we experienced a perfect waitress–smiles, service, sweetness–another night). I don't mind rude waiters–hell, that's the service one can expect anywhere in Little Saigon. But at least those folks bug you until you order. The offending Crosby waitress? Nada.

I'll return to the Crosby in a couple of months, because the good is promising. The bad, however, is inexcusable. Not every dish in a restaurant has to be magnificent, but the worst a chef can settle on is “pretty good,” not “average” and definitely not what I ate. Hang out at the Crosby, and get drunk off beer and wine until late in the morning. But if you're hungry, go down the street to Memphis–or, better yet, Jason's Downtown.

*Full disclosure: I was suffering from a nasty cold the night I tried this, but my tastebuds weren't that skewed–earlier in the day, I had enjoyed the pad Thai at Bangkok Taste and a koobideh plate at Wholesome Choice, and both tasted how I always remember them–bueno.

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