In L.A., I used to eat at Mao’s Kitchen all the time, and their motto, borrowed from Mao himself, was “Wei renmin fuwu!” That means “Serve the people!” It was simple but fantastic food that made you think that maybe there was a different way to run a restaurant. Give them a giant $1 spring roll and make your own ginger ale. Just serve the people.
But a recent trip to Red and Black Cafe may just have been the most socially loaded eatery experience of my life. Worker owned and collectively managed, they offer delicious, wholesome food at decent prices, and they strive to be a community space, providing a place for bands to play and films to be screened. On the menu, they even mention that their produce is mostly local, being bike-delivered. Love it.
But is the food really that good? Yup. Let’s take a look, shall we?
This seems to be the star on the menu, the Black Dragon Noodles. For $5 you get a two-hander bowl of peanut-sauced noodles, carrot, cilantro, and lime. You can also deluxe it up as Tom did with ginger-crusted tofu (or tempeh or avocado) for a buck. This was two full meals for a grown-up boy. (There’s no shame in that, Tom.)
I kept it “light” with a salad. That’s one serious salad, kids. We’ve got mixed greens, onion, red pepper, salsa, rice, cilantro, chips, and maybe a cup of black beans. Totally worth the fancy-pants price tag of $7.50. I too failed to finish mine, but with the help of some heated-up corn tortillas the rest made a very filling dinner. You can also add avocado for a buck. But honestly, do you really need it?
A couple of notes before you head on over: Bring cash or you’ll have to use their little ATM thing, which charges you $2. Also, bring a take-home container or it’ll cost you 50¢ a box. You bus your own tables and grab your own water at the counter. It’s all in the name of keeping overhead in check so your food can remain as cheap as it is. Win-win.