Seven Restaurant Reviews

Sleepaway Camp Nurse’s Office, Reeders, PA, Summer 1989

Thousands of pinholes ripple across a deep gray-black background, releasing faint beams of pure white light, until the whole scene is gently washed away and replaced with the visual confirmation that I’ve just been punched in the face by my bunkmate Mason, who wears a silver signet ring engraved with the island of Jamaica, has a mostly shaved head with a swooping blonde pile of hair that always stubbornly covers one of his eyes, and is currently grabbing his crotch and screaming at me to "SUCK IT!" -- to which I have no witty retort. My mouth feels and tastes like it is full of pennies recently excavated from a freshly opened bag of soil. The red, white, and blue frozen Bomb Pop the nurse gives me is a pleasantly surprising antidote. 

Crystalline cherry. Lemonade hacked from a fantasy tundra. The calm plastic perfection of floating in fake blue lake.

*  *  * 

John’s Hopkins Dining Hall, Baltimore, MD, Summer 1996

I pick up a chicken leg, but I bite through a thin sheet of marshmallow soaked in grease to discover a tightly wound cable of fresh rubber bands underneath. I retch and drop the raw meat on the cafeteria tray. 

I swear off eating animals and remain a vegetarian for several years.

*  *  *

The Only Mexican Restaurant Open on July 4th, Omaha, NE, Summer 2002

"We’re vibrating in unison," I think to myself. I snap to and hear our host woozily mumble, "He traded the car for a painting, and now we have to walk everywhere." He sounds and looks like a weightless scrim balanced on a scaffold of fine needles. Dehydration is catching up with me. We just spent thirty minutes smoking spliffs and walking down the middle of the street through shuttered downtown Omaha. My mouth is a slick of metallic blood juiced from a human tomato. All I smell is tar. The three entrees he ordered sit untouched in front of him. I devour a huge plate of enchiladas, rice, and beans, and then immediately spend a very uncomfortable fifteen minutes in the brightly painted, immaculate bathroom. 

Omaha takes July 4th very seriously.

*  *  *

Unnamed Wine Bar, Marseilles, France, Fall 2008

Cold french fries and a small metal bowl of tomato sauce to dip them in. Two squat glasses of ice alongside a carafe of rosé.

Pleasantly diluted strawberry juice to wash down the ideal leftover meal you’d never invent yourself.

*  *  *

Two Amy’s Pizzeria, Washington, DC, Fall 2015

A can-I-feel-at-home-here test after months of self-imposed despondence typical of a recent NYC emigrant. The task at hand? Obtaining the appropriate take-me-straight-to-bedtime swagger. This takes bravery and conviction: on top of an enormous meal of almost everything on the menu, a Negroni before, two glasses of volcanic red with, amaro and espresso after, and when the family leaves to get the car while I settle up, a very fast Fernet & Coke with the bartender.

I’m forever in love with the feeling of floating, and toward home is always the best direction.

*  *  *

Barbacoa Tent on the Highway, Near Teotihuacan, Mexico, Spring 2019<

Laboring under the illusion that blue is not a natural color, bolstered by the inescapable proliferation of the horrifyingly addictive Blue Raspberry (Latin name unavailable) in my adolescence, and not considering the Peruvian purple potato truly "blue," my mind is focused on seeing the blue taco. The lamb is buried for two days. I bite into a bone, cracking a 25 year old filling which I don’t get fixed for two years. The blue taco is real.

The essence of gently coaxed smoke. A testament to burial. Homage to what can’t escape the earth.

*  *  *

Tomato n Basil Pizzeria, 4th Ave, Brooklyn, NY, Pre-Pandemic Spring 2020

Hanging threads of mouth roof skin linger the next day, stalactites of accreted regret, but not about the slice itself. 

The slice is exactly what it is supposed to be.

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