Located in Old Town Whittier, the building you enter almost feels like the first floor of Superman's work "the Daily Planet Newspaper", but you enter into this darkly lit place and after your eyes adjust to the light, your eyes have to adjust to the decor. "Where are we?!" I think to myself. It looks like a live band bar and someone snuck in a cafe/ juice bar into the corner which is not too far off since they do have a tall fridges full of beers and even Sandwich and a Beer Specials.
"Was this a bar before?" I ask.
"Nah...it was a Quizno's" the manager says flatly. (wait for it...wait for it)...oh, he wasn't kidding.
So the vibe and energy is purely from the owner/ interior designers. One of the designers it seems is the owner's daughters who went to UCLA film school. It can explain the edgy college garage band look of the place. They do have an open mic night and bands that play there on a fairly regular basis, so the initial feel or a rock 'n' roll venue is not too far off.
(SNL's Stefon voice) This place has everything: Terrariums and "chicken coops" of old toys and mannequins, Psychedelic neon towels and Tour T-shirts of Rock 'n' Roll Bands pinned to the ceiling by the entrance, and pop art (something a modern day Andy Warhol would do) is on plywood cut outs which are on the walls and the ceilings everywhere else, and of course there is angry post adolescent photography up.
There's a theme of anti-establishment fast food with a paper mache Colonel Sanders wearing a rice patty hat (which I still don't quite get), and four fast food mascots beheaded above the beers. There's also a unique and creepy theme of pre- WWII Kewpie dolls that is everywhere in their marketing. I guess it symbolizes classic American innocence as a lost societal ideal that may have never existed, but wanted to sell. The film school daughter also did a stop motion animation film with the Kewpie dolls, which sounds like it was eerily creepy, too. There are also recycled pop culture junk that hides in plain view until you really concentrate on it like the clown head from a carnival water gun race wearing a fuzzy hat, clown shoes dangling over a pipe up above as a symbol of clown gang warfare dominance, a hanging Cowboy boot, and (what looks like) a rake used by Native Americans prior to American imperialism.
I'm I reading too much into the symbolism of decor? Maybe.
There's a help wanted sign on the door for a new cook, and you can feel the staff feeling understaffed. Frustrated amongst each other and compounded by the distraction of loud eclectic rock music, they try to not take it out on customers and callers.
I get the Veggie Beef Tacos which are great and has a cute little dish of cantaloupe on the side. It's flavorful and filling, but is in a pita as opposed to a hard shell or soft tortilla which I miss terribly especially when the pita starts to fall apart.
As for my friend's Veggie Beef Gyro, he describes it as "Perfect... Excellent... I love it!" I had a bite and it was very similar to mine, but the pita bread is expected and appreciated in a gyro.
Oh, and the name comes from the four Phoenixes that are crowning the building and the last two digits of the cafe. Not as mysterious and exciting as I had hoped.