Many years ago I did a nighttime political radio show on WSMB. There was a peculiar sales package that was used all the station then for all its evening programming. It was called The Parade of Progress and it was a hodgepodge of disjointed businesses in which the commercials were all live reads of thirty seconds each. I remember only one or two of those businesses, and one of them was called Trep’s Auto Repair, on Bienville in Mid-City.
I chuckled at that memory every time I drove by Trep’s all these years, just as I did today walking into the new Sidney Torres restaurant called Trep’s, in homage to the auto repair shop that once stood in that space for so many years.
I love the look of Trep’s (the restaurant) because it reminds me of something in L.A. Industrial, Dark, indoor/outdoor, peppered with trees throughout the outdoor dining space, and bordered by shrubbery that will one day completely insulate it from the din of Mid-City traffic.
The menu includes all the usual suspects for a casual place: spin dip and housemade chips, ahi tuna nachos,
boudin eggrolls, gumbo, a burger (regular and veggie), a hot chicken sandwich and cochon de lait sandwich. And more.
All of this is perfectly adequate. We got the spin dip and chips which was not even good enough to finish, and that is saying something for us. That implies that it was bad, but it wasn’t. It just didn’t make us want to keep eating it. So we didn’t.
It was the Marys, so one of us had to get the burger. Described on the menu as a complex mixture of short rib, brisket and chuck, we expected a hip two patty job with oozing American cheese. The cheese was American, it did ooze, the lettuce-tomato-pickle combo was elevated by a thick slice of tomato that was actually red. And soft. So rare.
The bun was exceptional, almost excessively studded with sesame seeds, which again, is unprecedented. I always thought there was no such thing as too many sesame seeds.
The burger patty mix might have been great, but mixed meat should never be so mixed and so worked that it is hard. True here, so I wasn’t motivated to eat enough of this to really taste the meat. The overall product, red tomato notwithstanding, was also not worth finishing.
Across the table, ML was attracted by a chopped salad, but I talked her out of it in favor of the cochon de lait sandwich which sounded appealing. It definitely was.
This was smoked pulled pork with a coleslaw that included perky pickled vegetables and a spicy mayo. This was a very nice bite of food. The bread was unusual, almost gnarly, but I soon realized this was the fabled French bread roll from Don Phuong bakery, the original home locally of the Banh Mi. This loaf of bread was flaky, and very dense, superior to the local version of the classic.
Every time I have run across this French loaf, it stands out. All together, this was a really good sandwich.
Both of these sandwiches were served with fries, which came as regular and truffle. The implication that truffle fries automatically means that the fries are fresh was shattered here. These fries were also totally ordinary, and again, not worth finishing. At least it was consistent.
None of this was brilliant, most of it really ordinary. But it was quite pleasant at Trep’s, the service was well above the norm, and it was, overall, worthwhile for a leisurely lunch in Mid-City.
But as I left I couldn’t help but think that most of the food I eat in restaurants falls into the ordinary category. Fully 90 percent is just fine, not bad, but okay. Most of it I don’t need to eat again, and maybe I don’t even need to finish what’s in front of me. Of that 90 percent, maybe less than 5 percent is actually bad, and the 10 percent is really good.
And why is that? Because dining is a social exercise, and the food is just the “reason” for being there. But it seems to me if food is being served, why not make it delicious?
Is it that most people don’t really care? Or do they even know it? And shouldn’t someone in the kitchen know it?
It just seems with all the restaurants out there, and all the money behind them (like in this case, Sidney Torres) the ratio of great food to not should shift some from 90/10.