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Saturday, September 20, 2014

Will hot dogs and hotcakes finally fill all those empty tables at this Echo Park cafe?

The big picture windows, bright lights and a corner location have made all the empty tables at Lot 1 cafe hard to ignore. For months now, it’s been painfully obvious to anyone passing by this Echo Park restaurant at Sunset Boulevard and Laveta Terrace that it’s been struggling. It’s uncomfortable to watch but how can you not notice?

The tiny cafe opened its doors last May in a renovated building painted jet black and Tootsie Roll-brown. Foodies and food critics soon descended on the place, drawn by a skateboarding chef, Josef Centeno, who created something called a Baco and generated a lot of press. The restaurant’s 15 minutes of foodie fame were quickly exhausted. Before Summer was over, Centeno rode away from Lot 1 amid a dispute and a lawsuit (never trust an adult man who rides a skateboard) with the owner, Eileen Leslie. Next came another chef and a brunch menu. He left, too. On Thursday, a sign on green poster board out front reflected Lot 1’s current culinary shift:

Chili Dog
Root Beer Float
$5

A sign has also promoted a $6 all-you-can-eat pancake special and something called a Death Dog. Leslie, who had taken a lot of heat on food blogs following Centeno’s departure, said she was willing to tell her side of the story. I didn’t hear back from her for a while until I got an email from her late Thursday night. Not only has she taken over the kitchen but said the health department has approved her plans to expand the restaurant and will soon add a “recession proof dinner menu” featuring Mediterranean & Italian dishes.

Good to hear. I will certainly give it a try. The rest of you, of course, can just watch.

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