“How long have we been here?” I asked my friend Summer. “And how soon can we leave?”
On a Saturday night, that was our reality as we sat uncomfortably at one of the most awkward restaurants I’ve ever been to. After a long study session at our favorite coffee joint, Lyon Street Cafe, we ambled over to the intriguing neighboring restaurant called Marcona on Lyon.
From the countless times I had walked past this place, I had noticed two things about it: it seemed to have a relaxing atmosphere, and it seemed hipster and fun. Unfortunately for us, it was neither of those things.
Shivering from the cold and laughing as we hustled inside the building, we were met with several blank stares that harshly bore into us. Despite the startling and confusing entrance, the host sat us down with a sweet smile, positioning us at the countertop overlooking the open kitchen area. We blatantly ignored the dead looks from waitresses, cooks, and customers alike while perusing our menus, but something about the atmosphere still managed to affect our moods.
A quick glance at the menu revealed just how expensive and classy the restaurant actually was. With little cash in our pockets, our only choice was to narrow in on the cheapest items, which we discovered was food off the kid’s menu, something that because of our age, we did not qualify for. Appetizers and small dishes were our next, and only, options. With that in mind, I settled on their charred beets, an $8 appetizer, and Summer ordered a chicken skewer of similar pricing.
A look around us told us that we had just entered a restaurant geared towards older (and richer) customers. Swallowing that thought of unpleasantness, we nervously chatted. Within minutes, we were interrupted by a kindly chef from the kitchen area who presented us with a small dish of complementary Marcona almonds that were seasoned with rosemary, sea salt, and some sort of oil.
His welcome and the taste of the nuts completely brightened our experience. He seemed overwhelmed with the number of customers but, overall, grateful and content with the work he was doing. The salty tang complemented the buttery taste of the Marcona almond which tasted surprisingly different than a regular almond; safe to say, the tiny dish was devoured within a minute.
Ten minutes later, our food arrived. Even in petite servings, it all tasted grand. The charred beets were served cold with yogurt, and the way they cooked the beets elevated their usual taste. The crunch from the seasoning and from the charred parts of the beet was a surprising touch. It sadly wasn’t as filling as I hoped it might be, but it was an appetizer so I couldn’t have expected much more. Aside from the beets, the chicken skewer also retained a certain elegance and flair despite the fact that it was chicken on a stick. The sweet and flavorful sauce accented the texture of the chicken well, and every bite I snagged off Summer’s plate was incredible.
From the sweet chef and the delicious food to the queasy atmosphere, Marcona on Lyon Street was definitely an experience and not at all what I had expected. Although nothing in their advertising seemed this way, I believe that their target customer age range would be over 25 years old, making it hard to be enjoyable for less mature customers like myself.
I’m hoping that my visit was simply a bad night, as my experience was quite contrary to what most people had encountered there, based on the glowing Google reviews. But before passing final judgments about Marcona on Lyon, I’ll certainly be visiting them again to hopefully have a better time.