A Food Critic's First Day on the Ground, Part 2

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In my dreams, everyone looks just like this
On Friday, we ran the first part of Sheehan's Day 1 odyssey in Seattle. Right here? This is part 2. And keep coming back for more as our new critic tries to get lost, get found and get acclimated to his new city.

Barbecue is my comfort food, the deep and black and pulsing core of my food-junkie's heart. Like a hound dog, I can smell the stuff from great distances, can feel it in some delicate and finely-tuned barbecue organ nestled in my brain where useless things like my conscience and sense of restraint ought rightly to live.

The Frontier Room (2203 1st Avenue) was dim and pretty much empty. I took a seat at the counter for a cold Corona and a half-rack of St. Louis-style ribs, served dirty and naked--no sauce, but crusted with a deep rub--and immediately started pestering the waitress working the long stretch of stools full of nobody.

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"I'm new here," I said to her. "Been in town all of...six hours, I

guess. And while I'm glad to have found you and these here ribs, I'm curious: Where else is there to eat?"

She asked what I was hungry for. I told her sushi (again). She told me

there was a place she liked on Queen Anne that she couldn't remember the

name of, another one down in the International District called Maneki that was awesome. I wrote both down on the back of my hand, stripped a rib clean with my teeth, and chased it with half my Corona.

"What about a diner?" I asked. "Something real blue-collar. Chicken-fried steak for breakfast. That kind of thing?"

She came up with The Hurricane Cafe (bonus points because it was open 24 hours), then went and grabbed one of the cooks from the back who said no--that I should go to the Five Point Cafe over on Cedar Street.

The waitress went wide-eyed and agreed. "That's an experience," she said. "You should go there."

Both went on my hand. The Five Point got a star by it. Any place that can make a barbecue waitress go all goggly, I'm there.

Beside me, a skinny guy with a scarf around his neck and delicate, pianist's hands came in and ate three plates of oysters by himself, knocking them back silently like the shells were full of moonshine and he was a man with something to forget. After that, he had a bowl of spicy gumbo and a glass of wine. The boy could eat, for sure. Just watching him, I was getting hungry all over again, so I said my goodbyes to my new friends (who'd also come up with suggestions for where to eat hot dogs, cheeseburgers and Japanese food while we whiled away a slow afternoon) and hit the streets, turning toward the water and what I thought might be the direction of home.

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I bought a cup of green tea from a shop that appeared to have no name, wandered in and out of cheese sellers and bakeries, argued over piroshkies with a man on the street (but didn't eat any, which seemed to piss him off an inordinate amount) and then, across the Street from Pike Place Market (which had me giggling and half-crazed, running around like Augustus Gloop in the Chocolate Factory), found Turkish Delight where they sold doner kebab--another thing that's basically impossible to get in Denver since the one Turkish restaurant that did closed about five years ago. This left me no choice but to stop in for my third (fourth? fifth?) lunch of the day. I can't tell you if it was a good doner kebab or a bad doner kebab because all it was to me was a doner kebab which, on balance, will always be better than having no doner kebab at all.

It was a good day. For a first day, it was very nearly great. Stopping in an alley to share a cigarette with a couple of black-aproned servers, I looked back and realized two important things. One, I'd only covered maybe 10 blocks of walking and had found more to eat than most small towns would have in total. That was a good feeling, knowing that I had months and years of exploring yet to go.

Two, I had no idea where I'd parked my car.

"Is there a parking garage around here somewhere?" I asked the servers. "Maybe near an Irish bar, somewhere on Western?"

They pointed me in the right direction, more or less. I found a parking garage, anyway. Even if it wasn't the right one. There was a hot dog stand there, though. And not far away, a seafood restaurant. An oyster bar. A different Irish bar that I hadn't seen earlier. I just smiled and dug my hands into my pockets. I figured I'd find the right garage eventually.

And in the meantime, that hot dog place looked interesting.

 
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