April 30 2012 06:39 PM

Gaslamp restaurant is awesome one night and hideous the next

The soggy salt bomb
Photo by Amy T. Granite

Even though it was just happy hour, I was skeptical about Las Hadas Bar and Grill (558 Fourth Ave., Downtown), half-expecting it to be a cross between nearby chain restos Rockin' Baja Lobster and TGI Friday's. And that's the general, cynical sentiment of locals hunting for food in the Disneyland of San Diego—the closer you are to the Convention Center, the higher your chances of winding up with a plate of tourist-trap fare priced at a premium.

But, everything we ate was fresh and well-executed. Plus, on Sundays, happy hour is a 10-hour event. I was anticipating another visit, which came sooner rather than later, because my photos from Round 1 didn't do my first, stellar account justice.

The second visit was where Las Hadas' evil twin, Las Hades, took over in an epic tale that you wouldn't believe if you'd read it on Yelp.

Pleasant Latin music from the week before was replaced by a blaring, wretched oldies station, and previously wonderful service that constantly cleared plates and asked how the food was at every appropriate turn bordered on non-existent—even though there were three people waiting on us.

This time, the chile verde cheeseburger ($7) that was so delicious on the first visit was practically inedible. We ordered two, and both were grossly prepared with an abundance of greasy cheese that shone through the mayo-slick topping. But, the worst offense was the seemingly salt-crusted beef patties between soggy buns.

Our three servers didn't check back until we'd filled up on sides, long abandoning our salt-bombed burgers. A different excuse followed each of my complaints, highlights being: "Maybe the cook poured too much salt on by accident." Then: "The fries are salty; maybe the fries did it."

At the beginning of the meal, we'd requested separate checks; of course, one bill came, totalling the entire amount.

I requested that my friend's burger be taken off the bill, because she ate just a couple bites. "Let me see what I can do," a server said, walking away with my credit card.

A $7 correction was debated for more than 10 minutes. We watched the management huddle before the owner paid us a visit to say that since we'd eaten all our food, we'd have to pay full price. I even tried telling him that I'd returned to take a better photograph for a positive review in CityBeat, and as if he didn't hear a word I said, he taunted, "Go ahead. Write it!"

My credit card was returned, charged the full amount.

If Godzilla and Gordon Ramsay reproduced, it was their lovechild that possessed my body in what has to be one of the worst restaurant meltdown scenes in the Gaslamp Quarter's history. I made sure that everyone in the restaurant, and all along Fourth Avenue, knew what the fucking problem was.

What's usually an upbeat column turned sour this time. In two weeks, I'll be back with my usual findings on the best grub in San Diego.

Amy blogs at saysgranite.com and you can follow her on Twitter @saysgranite.


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