A year ago, the co-owners of the iconic Golden Ox restaurant in the West Bottoms - Steve Greer and Bill Teel - told The Pitch
that they were taking over the dining room
(the setting for the short-lived and kind of disastrous Bistro La Scala
in 2011) in the Clarion Hotel at 7000 West 108th Street. The "abbreviated" steakhouse in the suburban hotel was called the Ox.
By December, the deal between the hotel owners and the Golden Ox had reportedly soured, and Teel and Greer had stampeded out of the place. Greer won't talk on the record about the Ox but has told several Golden Ox customers that he wished the Clarion Hotel would "take the Ox sign down."
The sign isn't that easy to see, and the Ox-less restaurant in the hotel was customer-free last Friday when I stopped in to have a bite. I didn't stay very long.
The dining room was empty, half the lights were turned off, and the venue looked forlorn and, possibly, closed.
"Oh no, we're open
," said the cheery bartender in the tiny lounge across the hall. The bar was full - there were at least eight people in it, a couple of them eating - but the bartender abandoned her post to escort me and a friend into the dark, cold - I've been in walk-in coolers that were warmer - and empty dining room.
"You can sit wherever you like," she said, grabbing a couple of miniature clipboards. "We don't really have a rush tonight."
We sat down at a small table. ("Are you sure that one's clean?" the bartender asked. "I can wipe it down if it isn't.") Both of us were handed a little wooden clipboard that had a tiny one-page menu of, mostly, traditional coffee-shop dishes: seven appetizers, two salads, a burger and five other sandwiches (including a BLT and a chicken Caesar wrap); the sandwiches ranged in price from $9 for the BLT to $12 for a French dip on a hoagie bun. There wasn't a steak - or an entree for that matter - on the menu.
It wasn't an unappealing menu, but I don't like eating in empty dining rooms, particularly if they're gloomy and cold. We bid adieu to the nice bartender who was also doing double duty as that night's waitress.
"You come back now," she said, waving at us.
I waved back. I don't think I'll ever return, not even if you Ox me nicely.