MEMOIR BY RESTAURANT
My longest relationships have been not with people, but eateries. If this were my actual memoir, it would be entitled PARTY OF ONE: How I Ate Out. Thanks for this idea, @mandi
- •Good Stuff Burger (1988-1994)My after elementary school joint. Would stop here with my mom before heading to piano lessons, or Hebrew school, or auditions (starting around '93). A sorta healthy, family-run burger place in West L.A. First place I ever tried a veggie burger! Scene of one of my earliest culinary creations: they had squeeze bottles of condiments at the counter, and I would combine ketchup, yellow mustard, mayo, and ranch dressing to make a special sauce for my fries and veggie burger.
- •Islands (1995-1999)Cheesy tropical burger chain. There was one close to our house, and another slightly closer to my high school. One of my first memories of feeling like an actual adult was the post-show cast party, after the Fall play my freshman year, crammed into a booth in the back with all the talented older kids I revered. I'm sure @zoe was there too. Nachos, California soft tacos (cheddar cheese, sprouts, tomatoes, kidney beans, ranch dressing?!?), sickly sweet fruit punch in a frosted mug.
- •Spudnuts (2000-2001)Off-campus privileges! During the ironically named "Nutrition" (20 minutes between 2nd and 3rd period), Juniors and Seniors would jump in cars and scoot over to this strip-mall donut shop a few blocks away (Venice and Sawtelle). It was always a quick hang, but fun. I'm not saying I ate a donut every day, but... on certain occasions "Nutrition" was defined as a maple bar and a Red Bull.
- •McConaughey Hall aka MoCon (2001-2002)Freshman year at Wesleyan. My dorm was steps away from this massive dining hall, so I ate most of my meals there. The food was nothing to write home about, but the salad bar was crazy long. Saw a friend take off his clothes in there for kicks, saw Blonde Redhead play (it was a sometime event space - Miles Davis, Nina Simone, MLK Jr., & Gloria Steinem had all appeared there in the past), saw the future director of Beasts of the Southern Wild eat a bowl of penne covered with vanilla soft serve.
- •Athenian Diner (2002-2005)If I had to pinpoint "my spot" in Middletown after Freshman year, it'd have to be the 24 hour diner out on Route 66. Barely remember the food. Was probably drunk. Props to my other Wesleyan-adjacent haunts: Neon Deli, Little Tibet, It's Only Natural, Cantina, Mama Roux's, Udupi Bhavan, Japanaica II, Fortune Wok.
- •Joan's On Third (2007-2014, on and off)Two blocks from my longterm L.A. pad. I'd meet there for breakfast, brunch, coffee, lunch, dinner... I was always there. The folks who worked there all knew to give me the KCRW discount, which I continued to take advantage of even after my card expired. There was this great older guy Nino who ran the show out front. He was my dude. One day he vanished, and that was the turning point. For me, the food went downhill, the clientele became unbearable, Nino was gone. It no longer felt like my spot.
- •Cafe Gitane (2009-2013, on and off)First went to Gitane while killing time during a New York trip. Walked by during an off-hour, had iced mint tea and avocado toast.. all was right with the world. Later I meet a new friend, Matt. Turns out he's a regular there, and we bond over our love for the place and its beguiling waitresses in the green dresses. When I'm in town, I too become a regular! Write there all day, get drinks comped, go out with waitresses post-shift! Nobody I know works there anymore. I can't bear to go inside.
- •Juice Served Here (2013-2014)Cold-pressed spot opens up around the corner. After mild cynicism ("Just what we need, ANOTHER juice place.") I try it & find their offerings rather delicious. But what's more, it's a mellow space, the people who work there are lovely... THIS IS THE IDEAL PLACE TO WRITE! I become the Norm of J.S.H, standing at the counter with my laptop from morning until close for a few months, working towards a deadline. Drink a ton of free juice. Nobody I know works there anymore. I can't bear to go inside.
- •Schwartzwaldstuben (November 2014)Went to Berlin last fall for a palate cleanse. Began writing something new. Was hoping to "find myself," or something like that. Began frequenting this Southern German place a few blocks from my flat in Mitte. It was a truly memorable trip, and I remember it as tasting like spaetzle, maultaschen, kaiserschmarrn & beer. My last night in town the waitress gave me a German menu. I said, "Ah no, I need the English one." And she was like "Oh you're in here all the time. I thought you were German."
- •Oh wow I left off VEGAN GLORYWent there at least twice a week for seven years. They knew me but I don't think they knew my name. Only time I got anything for free was the one time I found a cleaning brush bristle in my noodles. I hope to eat there again even though I no longer live around the corner. Bulan in Silverlake may become my new Vegan Glory, as it's around the corner from my sublet. We'll see what happens...