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LAX's 'Encounters' Restaurant Has Us Perennially Befuddled

July 10, 2009 at 3:57 PM | by | Comment (1)

The "Theme Building," that iconic spaceship-looking thing in the middle of LAX, has certainly had its ups and downs. It opened in the 1960s to great fanfare, though in subsequent decades suffered from the same neglect as the rest of the airport. In 1997 it was finally given a $4 million face lift and opened as the current iteration of "Encounters Restaurant." It's now billed as a Fine Dining @ LAX experience and is again covered in scaffolding.

The building itself is striking and almost disconcerting. The interior is consciously constructed as a kind of kitschy space-age experience, with low stools and lava lamps. While offering genuinely fantastic, panoramic views of the airport, the food is not fantastic and so you're paying for the view and the experience more than the cuisine.

Even so, we're a bit buddled by its existence. We learn from NPR that they were going for "a sort of a Jetsons-like '60s style, with the psychedelic lava lamps." The whole thing is too cute by half. The menu has disclaimers like "Any Spacecrafts with an Interstellar Crew of Six or More shall have an Automatic Docking Fee of 18% (In other words, an 18% gratuity will be added to parties of 6 or more)," and the kids menu is named the "Space Cadet (Kids) Menu."

And who's supposed to be going to Encounters? Is it targeted at kitsch-loving locals? Could be, but then the fine dining dishes and accompanying prices are off. Is it targeted at business travelers who miss their flights? Maybe, but then how do they convince people to brave TSA twice? Is it targeted at outgoing passengers who plan to "get to the airport early" to dine at Encounters? Perhaps, but then we have to reevaluate everything we think they know about human behavior.

We want Encounters to succeed. It's as recognizable an image of gritty, urban Los Angeles as any other. But there's a fine line between giving off a Disneyesque vibe and being a Disneyland knockoff. We're pretty sure they crossed it.

[Photo: Michael Zara / Wiki Commons]

Related Stories:
· Encounters Restaurant
· LAX Coverage [Jaunted]
· Los Angeles Coverage [Jaunted]

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History

This restaurant also has a very interesting history - it was actually designed by Walt Disney Imagineering!

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