The Carvery desperately wants to be what it is not—and Pine Avenue deserves better

Sitting at the bar inside The Carvery was, admittedly, a bit strange for me. Owned by the operators behind Shannon’s, Pine Avenue’s last bastion of divey-ness, here I was, with a wide, open-air bar drinking a French 75 and watching the mass array of conventioneers pass by and, by the minute, peek their head in to grab a seat.

Surely, there was confusion in the design, seeing as how the building’s art deco origins have been married to raw, industrial decor, creating an awkward but comforting fit into the Pine scene—which, let’s be honest is not for locals but for the people who spend their money here while convention-ing; conventioneers, the wealthy(er) and the clubbers that travel in to party at Sevilla.

As for the rest of Long Beach? We have our enclaves and this strip just happens not to be one of them.

Still, while sipping my drink—I forgave them for the Beefeater gin while still charging me $11 because the cocktail was genuinely great—it was the details that began to creep in: Yes, there was that odd mix of art deco and industrial details, but also the comic sans font on the menu advertising a $44 ribeye and, most importantly, the details about the food, the people, and the way those people were treated.

This was my second visit—after an admittedly disastrous dinner; we’ll get to that in a bit—and I decided to go for lunch. Around 12:35 p.m., I noticed a conventioneer. Tired, seemingly rushed and likely in between sessions at a convention that had brought some 14,000 people into the Downtown, he had been standing at the front for well over two minutes before coming over to the bartender. With a thick accent, he politely said: “I have a reservation for 12:45, for six, and I was wondering if our table is ready.”

“We’ll be right with you.”

Forthright and succinct, for sure.

The place, which was growing more and more crowded with a hungry lunch crowd, was clearly understaffed. He smiled uncomfortably and stood back. My anxiety was with him, glancing around, the spots that could fit six people were all taken.

It was 12:55 p.m. when one of the tables magically gets up to clear out. By then, the conventioneer’s party had arrived, checking their watches and looking at the table that by 1 p.m., had remained uncleared. At that point, the man re-approached the bartender, asking if the table could be cleared.

“We can’t get to it right now but we’re trying to.”

This time, curt.

At this point, the line was out the door. Eventually, 20 minutes past his reservation, the group was seated. At the same time, my $18 “prime rib” sandwich appeared: sad heaps of low-quality roast beef-veiled-as-prime rib shoved into a roll, lopped with melted provolone made as unappealing as possible (and, in all frankness, reminded me of the $10 French dip sandwich at—you guessed it—Shannon’s, where one can also score a prime rib sandwich for $14). The beauty of prime rib, with its layer of inner pink due to long, low-temp roasting, was nowhere to be seen; a sad realization because, at nearly 20 bucks, I had hoped for the best. The au jus, an oily concoction, sat next to a rather nice horseradish cream but was far too salty for generous dipping.

My “works” potato was simply a baked potato with sour cream, butter, and chives—your option at dinner as a $7 side—and, well, there was my $30 lunch.

The thing with The Carvery is this: your title is a proclamation; you’re a space specializing in meat cuts, a concept that has been over four years in the making. Given this, when you send out a dishearteningly overcooked $44 ribeye, ordered to cook as medium-rare, smoke and mirrors can only get you so far.

When your server, after being told said steak was vastly overcooked, replies with, “This happens all the time,” there is no excuse that you’re “still finding your footing” when you’ve been open for five months. (Yes, your server said this as well and no, I wasn’t looking for compensation; I was looking for what I know you’re capable of offering.)

When you use marketing images like this steak or this beautiful slab of prime rib to advertise your plates but your filet mignon comes out looking like this, slathered in an unnecessary sauce, and your prime rib comes out looking like, well, this

When the $26 grilled mahi, ordered with broccoli and gorgonzola potatoes au gratin, comes out looking like a lonely pile of What-Is-This? with a single broccoli floret and mango salsa acting as the only spurts of color…

When the three times I was asked if I would like the leftover food to go, I said, “No thank you” and the server didn’t ask why…

When your bread-and-butter—visitors, out-of-towners, exhausted conventioneers already spending too much money—are left ignored or rudely dismissed, overcharged and disappointed, these are the details I am talking about.

In a city that desperately needs a high-quality, mid-range steakhouse, if you have a cook who can’t cook a steak properly at a place called The Carvery, you need to face that reality head-on. Because Pine Avenue deserves better.

Until then, at least enjoy the cocktail while people watching.

Brian Addison is a columnist and editor for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or on social media at FacebookTwitterInstagram, and LinkedIn.

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Brian Addison has been a writer, editor, and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food and culture to transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 16 nominations and two additional wins for Best Political Commentary for his work at KCET and Best Blog for Longbeachize, a section of the Long Beach Post. Brian currently serves as a columnist and editor for the Long Beach Post.