209 World Way, LAX, Los Angeles, CA 90045
Review by MaceVindaloo
In actuality, the alien looking building in LAX is a multi purpose icon.It was completed in 1961 as the centerpiece of the airport and designed it to reflect the "modern jet age times." i.e. think Jetsons. Beneath the suspended-in-mid-air restaurant, there is a City of Los Angeles information station (called "The Ambassador's Office") which is surrounded by some very pleasant gardens and public spaces dedicated to the employees of the airport.
It's a bit like entering a funkadelic hotel lobby with "atomic starburst" flooring motifs and curves everywhere. We've been in buildings erected for the New York City World's Fair (same vintage) with similar features and it always feels like "Sex and the Single Girl" very shagadelic!
You step in the elevator and push the button. The doors close and lights flash, the elevator panel glows, and sound effects make you feel you're going into another world ...
Why and how does this happen? The interior decor was crafted by the Imaginears, the division of Disney responsible for thinking up interiors, rides, etc. as a total immersion experience for customers. They did their job well ... you step out of the elevator into a swinging cantina of the "future" as dreamed up by those in the 1940s, but built in the 1950s. Yes, that's right ... the Disney folks. They did the 1998 renovation, and it's possibly the very best rendition of this hokey Americana style I've ever seen (and I actually LIVE in an authentic circa 1959 building of that period, near the double-tower space-ship-like pavilion as depicted in Men In Black). I hate Disney people but it is the *good* and envious sort of hate. (See the blog about ***holes ...)
The interior took advantage of the space-ship-like 360° view, and nary a straight line anywhere inside. Alas, the only things to look out toward was the Los Angeles International Airport runways. So don't look outside; look instead at the tabletops, the bar, the chairs, the hostess station, and especially look at the bathrooms! Everything is stardust and glitter and glass and plexiglass blobby lenses embedded in enamel and steel. This is what you thought the future would be like when you were watching your Saturday morning cartoons as a much younger, more bright-eyed, and optimistically innocent human.
The plates were made specifically for them by Syracuse China; upstate New York is actually famous for making institutional, cafeteria, and diner dinnerware, and this stuff comes from one of the more famous potteries in the Fishes Eddy area. (The other big one was Buffalo.) This is odd, considering that California has some famous mid-century potteries, some of which are collector pieces for the vintage stuff. Must've been cheaper to get the multi-color plates done in New York then shipped. Too bad the design of the plates are not as good as the design of the space.
Alas, the service was okay, and the food was unremarkable. You'd figure a place which is such a showpiece of funky pop-art would have clean menus, at least! There seemed to be some effort to be "fusion pan-Asian" which makes sense considering Los Angeles is in the Pacific Rim. We ordered Thai-style chicken wings with peanut coconut sauce, a Romaine-based salad, and a turkey avocado sandwich ... this IS Cali, after all, and we are obligated ... The garnishing chiffonade was wilted, the salad utilises the internal yellowy leaves (not so appealing and not really good flavor) in the mistaken pretext they might be more tender, and the wingsauce was tasty but the wings were served NASA hot and burned us. The prices were okay ... might be better off not being too hungry when you come. It didn't suck, but the food definitely did not live up to the decor.
Here's an idea ... bring a sandwich and eat it in the quiet garden, have a drink at the bar upstairs, instead of eating a whole meal. The garden is nice and has benches throughout. It seems to be uncrowded. Some people were actually sunbathing there and on the staircase entering the area. Californians are weird ... I mean, I'm from a nastier, more easterly city, what if I'd had a bad day and wanted to step on them and watch them pop like bugs???
This is really the type of place you go to because it's an icon and a sort of museum in that sense. At the base of the structure is a memorial against the many terrorisms we've suffered, including such things as the civil right struggles, wars ... it's really about human rights. It's very pretty. Unfortunately, since 9/11, the observation deck platform beneath the restaurant and above the gardens has been closed. So why reserve an elevator just for the Observation Deck??? It's been how long since? Very annoying.
All in all, it was much more enjoyable experience than just sitting and waiting for your flight to board and listening to babies scream and cellphone yakkers. It's even worth coming a bit earlier to make sure you get here. You can enjoy a drink at the funky bar, sit on a Spacely Sprockets style stool, watch the tourists dressing and acting as if they were all International Men and Women of Mystery. It's fun!
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