Appetizers
January 15, 2010
Orphan postscript: Most unusual restaurateur ever?

A few weeks back, I wrote a review of a new breakfast place called Orphan. Though the employees were pleasant enough and the service was decent, my thoughts overall were rather unkind. Not only was the food disappointing and exceptionally bland, but the conduct of Orphan owner Christopher Pendarvis seemed bizarre.

As readers know by now, I overheard -- scratch that, I couldn't help but hear -- Pendarvis interviewing a job candidate at a table in the middle of the restaurant. Not only was the interview location poor judgment, since I really don't feel like hearing where a 20-year-old sees himself in five years while I'm trying to eat French toast -- but the questions were ridiculous. The topper: "Are you having sex with your girlfriend?"

Not long after my review was published, Mr. Pendarvis wrote a letter to editor at The Bee in which he questioned my motives for doing the review. The suggestion was that I was being vindictive. Despite Mr. Pendarvis' boast on his Web site that he is a visionary, I had never heard of him and I certainly had no intention of slamming the restaurant. I wanted to let him know that I visited Orphan with every intention of having a good time and letting readers know about a place I could recommend. Contrary to popular belief, I NEVER visited a restaurant expecting I will be able to slam it. I only go to places I hope I will like. In fact, I have bailed out of several reviews of mom-and-pop eateries after one visit because writing about it just wasn't worth it. Who wants to read about a little operation that is so-so or worse? I decided to go forward with the Orphan review because the place was in a prominent location, had received a lot of attention and there were good crowds early on. Plus, it's pretty hard to screw up breakfast.

After reading the letter, which was not published, I called Pendarvis to try to clarify a few things. The call did not go well, but it may have cemented his standing as the most unusual/baffling restaurant owner in and around town.

When I asked him what he was getting at regarding ulterior motives, Pendarvis replied, "I'd rather not say."

When I asked him for specifics in the review that he thought were unfair or untrue, he replied, "Actually, I never read the review." His letter never addressed his interview questions or any other specific criticisms.

"If you never read the review, why did you write a letter complaining about it?"

"Well, people told me about the review. I don't like the media. My employees were upset about it."

When I tried to tell him about my problems with the food, he said, "I really don't care what anybody says."

He added, "You should know that we ordered new cups."

The old cups were too wide, too shallow and the coffee got cold way too fast, I had reported.

He said, "Those cups were made in the U.S.A. The new cups are made in China."

"See Christopher, that's an interesting detail. If you had told me that, I might have mentioned it, but when I called you, you said you "don't talk to the media."

"All you had to do was turn the cup over and see for yourself."

"But I would have spilled cold coffee on my lap."

Pendarvis insisted the food was good and that "we are constantly striving to get better."

When I told him I planned to return to see if things had improved and perhaps upgrade Orphan's 1-star rating, he paused for a moment, then said, "If I find out you are in my restaurant, I am going to have you thrown out."

At least read the review before you try.

On October 14, The Sacramento Bee will temporarily remove commenting from sacbee.com. While we design the upgrade, we encourage you to tell us what you like and don't like about commenting on sacbee.com and other websites. We've heard from hundreds of you already and we're listening. Please continue to add your thoughts and questions here. We also encourage you to write Letters to the Editor on this and other topics.



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