People take pity on empty bars, bleak little dives with dart boards and televisions. In a dead room, there's no need to shout, which makes for better conversation. Likewise, everyone gets a seat. Drinkers can spread out. No one scoops up the wrong pint.
Restaurants, however, are another matter. An empty restaurant sends an iffy signal: hungry passersby look in, see pristine white tablecloths, flowers in vases, neatly fanned napkins, a sparkling fish tank, servers lounging over Cokes at a back table, zero patrons, and start thinking they'd rather spend their money at a restaurant someone else trusts.
We could be describing many restaurants in San Francisco, but the one we're thinking of at the moment is La Vie
, a vaguely posh, Frenchified Vietnamese joint on Geary in the Outer Richmond. Yelp is flawed, but not altogether a horrible indicator of whether a random restaurant will thrill or make you ill. In the case of La Vie, Yelpers largely support
the fine experiences we've had: whole roasted crab, peppery and sweet, warm oily garlic noodles, and a really nice rare beef salad. Yet when we walk past, we rarely see more than a table or two filled. Could the lack of foot traffic on Geary be the problem? The close proximity to less formal establishments serving cheaper food? We wonder how they stay afloat. Do a few orders of drunken quail go a long way?
La Vie 5830 Geary (at 22nd Ave.), 668-8080