Back in June, when Atwater Village's Thank You For Coming was announced — billed as L.A.'s first collaborative restaurant — few people knew exactly what the “restaurant residency program” would resemble. It certainly was a concept not easily described on a press release. But with TYFC's first artist residency, which launched Dec. 5th, running 6 to 10 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, a somewhat clearer picture has emerged as to what this free-for-all Kickstart project is all about.
The inaugural residency is titled “L.A. Novela Special,” a performance project by Cristina Victor of “Cooking with Miami,” which entails Victor playing the character of a fictitious Cuban cook named Miami, replete with a thick Spanish accent, colorful eyeliner, and a boatfload of Latina sass.
The idea is that you are eating at Miami's own café, decorated with Cuban flags and a neon flashing picture of the Virgin Mary, which is co-owned by her vaguely abusive husband. Near the beginning of the meal, the staff is quiet and tense, and occasional arguments flair up between Miami and her husband, until finally, after an hour or so, he is kicked out of the business, and the girls rejoice at their new festive all-female enterprise with a loud rumba-powered dance party. Meanwhile, you will be eating a Cuban slider with crispy onions, yuca fries with cilantro aioli, a watercress salad, and a slice of flan.
If it sounds like dinner and a show, it's because it pretty much is, except for some stark differences: the action seems completely improvised, and isn't contingent on the audience being there or not. That means someone could walk in to eat and find themselves in the middle of a bizarre multi-cultural argument with little to no context, which might be the exact point.
Although it's worth the experience, TYFC's currently sits in an odd section of L.A.'s cultural map. The food, while tasty, cheap and homemade, isn't compelling enough to galvanize the food scene, and its value as an art installation isn't quite radical enough to attract large swaths of the art community. That said, “L.A. Novela Special” is but the first of what TYFC hopes is many open-ended residencies, each which will have a blank slate to transform the space into anything they wish.
More straightforward is TYFC's lunch service, called Snak Stop, which runs Wednesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The concept revolves around a pay-what-you-want system and features a rotating cast of owners Laura Noguera, Jonathan Robert, Jenn Su Taohan and Cynthia Su Taopin, taking turns cooking simple home-style meals for guests. On the day I visited, it was a kale and shaved carrot salad, an open-facd pear and brie sandwich, a glass of celery juice, and a soft gingersnap cookie. A few cyclists stopped in for a pour-over coffee. If it reminded you of a stopover at a friend's house for a quick soulful lunch, then the TYFC crew would have likely felt as if they accomplished their goal.
Thank You for Coming: 3416 Glendale Blvd., Los Angeles.