Tuesday, October 13, 2009

La Va Cafe : Philadelphia

I'm struggling to think of a restaurant or a cafe that had a more awkward environment to eat than La Va Cafe.

My gf described it as "loner laptop cafe," where everyone was absorbed in their laptops, there was no conversation whatsoever and there were only the sounds of the slightly louder than normal indie-rock music.  

We felt like outcasts for having the audacity to not bring our laptops, to order something to eat and god forbid, to talk.  Or in a more positive light, it was like being a teacher in an elementary school, where all the little kids had to abide by the no-talking, no-eating rules, but you didn't.

I can't really blame the La Va Cafe staff for the atmosphere; the guy was perfectly friendly and accommodating to our ordering food. The interior is warm-colored and the furniture interesting. But there was just such a strange vibe there that made me want to laugh out loudly while I was there.

Anyways, as for the food, minus the hummus, it was rather miserable, mainly I suspect because of an operations issue, apathy or both.

Chicken Platter - The chicken was earlier over-cooked and reheated to a luke-warm state at order. Parts of it, most on the edges, were really tough to eat. The pickled vegetables, while flavorful, had a texture that seemed like they had been sitting out for quite some time - they just didn't have that crisp crunchiness that pickled vegetables should have. The hummus was only the redeeming part of this platter and I suspect it was because hummus keeps fairly well in the refrigerator and requires no prep.

Grilled Chicken Sandwich - grilled chicken, american cheese, lettuce, roasted peppers & pesto. Your typical unsatisfying, mediocre cafe grilled chicken sandwich. The vegetables of course suffered the same traits as the chicken platter.

I'm a little surprised that this cafe had so many people. Perhaps this place has great coffee, it's the only cafe in the area and/or it's the free internet that draws people here. Because it's certainly not the atmosphere or the food.

La Va Cafe
2100 South St, Philadelphia 19146 (Map)


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  2. Strange. I haven't a clue as to who you are, yet somehow, I've come to think fondly of you as a culinary compatriot from the insightful reviews that garnish my Google Reader. That said, I'm slightly disheartened by your experience at La Va. I actually made my way there with a friend a few weeks ago, and fell in love with the cafe. We ordered the hummus, a braised chicken platter (possibly a daily specials), and a mushroom bureka to share. The latter fell short of expectation, but it was juxtaposed by the rest of the meal; we found ourselves extolling praise on the hummus and the remarkably delicious chicken platter. The tea, loose-leaf sakura, was also quite wonderful. My one qualm about the meal was perhaps the general ambiance. My friend and I had planned to spend our Saturday catching up, but soon found the permeating silence of the cafe too uncomfortable to engage in a real conversation. (Not to mention, I am paranoid that people bring laptops to cafes as a cover for eavesdropping.) But despite not being able to swap intimate details of recent personal mortification, my friend and I still enjoyed a lovely afternoon at La Va. So, here's to keeping fingers crossed you'll make a return visit if you are ever in the area -- even if just for the pickles (also delicious)!

    By the way, many, many thanks. I do appreciate your updates so. Your coverage of the Chinatown bakeries have inspired me to quest for the holy grail of taro bread. I'm inclined towards Mayflower Bakery on basis of their near-perfect bread. Nevertheless, they really skimp on the taro filling, leaving much to be desired. This city needs more taro...

  3. Hi Stephanie, thank you for your kind comment. Given what you said, I will do my best to return to La Va Cafe to give them another shake. Certainly, the interior of the cafe was warm and inviting, so it's kind of sad that the ambiance was the way it was. As for the chicken, I will say that the platter was flavorful, so perhaps it was just a matter of the timing of our arrival that made the freshness an issue.

    Re taro buns, be sure to let me know if you find a good taro bun here, since I've yet to have tried one that would make me say wow.