The Netflix Cafe Is Now Open—Is It Any Good?

Netflix Bites opened June 30, and the reviews are rolling in.

Back in June, Netflix announced it would be opening a dedicated pop-up restaurant, Netflix Bites, featuring dishes developed by the stars of its various cooking shows. Time flies when you're binge-watching, and the themed restaurant has already opened its doors for its inaugural weekend of service. Will this new venture end up in the top 10 of Netflix's best ideas, or will it get canceled mid-season?

When Netflix initially made the announcement, the company made sure to emphasize how jam-packed the menu would be with celebrity dishes: The limited-time cafe features the work of chefs who also host cooking programs on the platform, including Curtis Stone from Iron Chef: Quest for an Iron Legend, Ann Kim from Chef's Table: Pizza, and Nadiya Hussain from Nadiya Bakes, and many others. Despite the star-studded lineup, the announcement was met with less than enthusiastic reactions from the public.

Most online reactions were making jokes at the platform's expense and had little do with anyone actually looking forward to trying the food. Posts about Netflix cracking down on password sharing, its recommendation engine, and the quality of its shows were rampant.

Many jokes were also made about the chosen name for the pop-up. Netflix Bites, many pointed out, is a double entendre that implies both "this place serves food" and "this place is bad." However, those jokes were likely welcomed by the company considering its social media presence. The Twitter handle for its comedy programming is @NetflixIsAJoke.

Does Netflix Bites bite?

The pop-up is now open at the Short Stories Hotel in Los Angeles, and from the initial chatter following its debut, it sounds like the restaurant is living up to the reputation people expected it to have: a marketing gimmick with a subpar food experience.

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Despite the celeb-chef-backed menu, some critiques on Yelp call out the food as being obviously pre-made and overpriced.

"None of these dishes stood out as memorable," one reviewer wrote. "I guess you're paying for the experience mostly."

Another reviewer seemed to corroborate that appraisal. "My overall impression was that each chef gave them some dishes that could be prepared mostly ahead so they could have quick turnover of tables," they wrote. "Seems to be mostly about money not a great food experience:(."

It should be noted that not all of the reviews on Yelp—ten total at the time of this writing—are negative. Some reviewers praised the dessert offerings and the service.

"Dessert tried the chocolate orange blossom baklava, That was my favorite dish from my tasting," said one three-star review. "It was so delicious and light."

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Writers at The Daily Beast had the opportunity to preview the experience and found it to be too high-concept. The issue was not the food's quality (the dessert was once again exalted) but rather the idea that future guests would be paying high prices for a restaurant that the writer called "a tourist trap."

"The restaurant feels like Applebee's got a Netflix sponsorship," wrote reporter Fletcher Peters. That lines up with what one Yelp reviewer had to say: "The decor inside is fun and colorful and branding is on-point. Come for the good vibes and novelty, but don't expect much from the food."

The Netflix Bites controversy

The Daily Beast review also points out that Netflix Bites is located just down the street from the Writers Guild of America West headquarters. The WGA is currently on strike as it tries to negotiate livable wages for its writers, and Netflix is one of the streaming services that the writers say embodies the problem with the current compensation strucutre. Google reviews similarly call out the restaurant for this "tone deaf" timing and location (and also for being overpriced).

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Comments on the official Netflix Bites Instagram account also range from criticisms of the food and pricing to flat-out condemnations, telling Netflix to pay its writers instead of opening up this pop-up.

"I'd rather this energy go into helping the writers and producing good shows," said one commenter on Instagram. "No one asked for this and the average person isn't going to the pop up. This leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Pun intended."

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