I moved to Silver Lake in 2004, to a small apartment just up a treacherous staircase from what’s now Night + Market Song. Back then there were few options for eating and drinking. El Conquistador had fine mole negro and lethal margarita-like beverages. It’s gone now, replaced by El Condor, a better if not-quite-the-same Mexican operation. Dusty’s was the scene of many a mimosa-fueled brunch. Today there’s a Samosa House in its place. Allegria served what, at the time, seemed like revolutionary modern Mexican. It’s now where Ludo Lefebvre, Jon Shook, and Vinny Dotolo dish out churro french toast under the name Trois Familia.
And then there was the Casbah Café—sort of like if Central Perk moved to L.A. and got really into Ashtanga. You could pick up a coffee or a great loose-leaf tea. They had some simple salads—I was partial to the one with toasted goat cheese croutons—and a spread of sandwiches on baguettes and croissants. Fresh pastries filled the case, and a small shop in back sold woven tunics and Moroccan-style throw pillows and other housewares. The rickety bistro tables out front made up the social hub of pre-Intelligentsia Silver Lake. Disheveled artists, little dogs, and some of the area’s regular characters held court daily over steaming cups of chai.
Yesterday we said goodbye to the quirky Casbah Café when the business ended its 20-year run. Rumors are swirling over the circumstances behind the closure. This morning the owners issued a rather rambling statement explaining things from their side, which appears below in its entirety. If you can read between the odd accusatory claims of a media bias and references to “Super Pacs,” you get the sense that this is, as is usually the case, nothing more than the result of a changing neighborhood. Call it the Abbot Kinney Effect.
It’s true that Silver Lake now supports a thriving culinary scene, and the shutting down of legacy restaurants is, for the most part, the result of natural selection. The food business is hard, all the more so in a city with lousy long-term memory. And God knows the coffee scene has changed. So, yes, I’ll miss the place, but in the way I miss a friend who moved cross-country but who I never saw all that often when they lived here. And anyway, I know where else to get a good goat cheese salad.
So, rest in peace, Casbah. I’ll think of you fondly and miss leaning against your azure walls, watching the old Silver Lake dissolve with each passing man bun.
Here, the restaurant’s official statement:
“A bitter ending is always better than an endless bitterness. Casbah is a good example of a turning point in a neighborhood where reality switches from everyday common sense to the corporate world reason.
We stayed longer than reason permitted. We tried our best for the friends of Casbah, but what is impossible is impossible… so we were forced to go with no notice for ourselves either.
We had to pack up 20 years of a business over night. Silver lake as it was when we started the neighborhood is gone for good and we could not be the sole supporter for keeping silver lake as it started any longer. Casbah never meant to be in such an aggressive and abusive environment with closely surrounding corporate businesses just down the street wanting to be celebrities, just simply a beautiful and real place to be with interesting people.
We want to thank the people who’s children grew up on our corner and the people it saw everyday for 18 years, those who knew the staff by name. Thank you to those of which stayed working year after year, you know who you are. Those of which were unhappy were never forced to stay. We hope that other small businesses around Sunset Blvd. learn from Casbah. If you do not own your own building, you do not own your own business! For the business it’s worth nothing, for the landlord it’s worth everything. Casbah was unable to sell their business, though now forced to leave, it will be sold by… no one else, but The Landlord. Where was the media when a small business like Casbah was in need of their support when corporate America was jumping up at every Sunset building? Is it because Casbah didn’t pay for their ads? And after almost a decade of no write up’s, it shuts down and now it’s the time to take the article glory on a home run.
Casbah hopes that the people who make up Los Angeles, and the media which feed it, learn that if there is a small business that should be kept open, the bare minimum is not enough. Best wishes to the real Casbah supporters, the people who understood the quality of it and the difference between money-hungry corporations and small intimate rare businesses like Casbah Cafe. After all, this is the country for small businesses and entrepreneurship, n’est-ce pas?
“Quant à vous, suivez Mars, ou l’Amour, ou le Prince; Allez, venez, courez; demeurez en province; Prenez femme, abbaye, emploi, gouvernement: Les gens en parleront, n’en doutez nullement.”
La Fable de la Fontaine
-From the family that brought Los Angeles things from all around the world without billions of dollars and without any “super Pac” behind it.”