Faded Class (A Visit to Pittsburgh’s Mallorca)

We went to Mallorca this evening to celebrate our anniversary/Valentine’s day, and while it was good enough, it had that vibe that a lot of older restaurants that have had a good reputation for a long time do:  It was a dusty, dingy old place with mediocre food.

I’ve been to a bunch of these places around the city although they are by no means solely the domain of Pittsburgh.  The waitstaff is well dressed, usually in service tuxes.  They have a nice wine list and linens.  They have valet service and a coat check. You see a lot of young, inexperienced couples as well as handfuls of older locals who seem to know the staff.  The decor is wallpaper and painted wood, and in this case the paint was chipped.  Around the room lights had burned out and were not replaced. The hallway to the restrooms was filled with hardware and the men’s restroom itself had that vaguely damp, shiny painted floor and unkept toilets.

When our waiter rattled off a huge list of specials, we were intrigued.  Tons of seafood, wild boar, lamb shanks, duck.  I had the lamb shanks and Dawn the duck, and when it arrived it was…eh.  I’m not too well schooled in lamb but what I received was too fatty, not very well seasoned and just kind of blah.  The duck was ok.  Our salads were smothered in thousand island dressing, and I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was eating a Big Mac.  Sides came eventually and while the rice was good, the mixed vegetables seemed thrown together and old.  They also served homemade potato chips and they tasted fine but by the time they got to us they were soggy.  And why chips anyway?

Ultimately, it was a fine dinner, but I was struck by how restaurants of a certain vintage seem to fall into this trap where they stop caring about how the place looks or how food culture has changed and are content to do things as they always have.  They coast along on their reputation as the place literally falls apart and then one day the lights are out and the doors locked, as they’ve idled their way into oblivion.

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