One of the weird quirks of this job is that, while I am supposed to be absolutely au courant on every big (and most of the little) restaurant openings in this town, I can't actually attend any openings. For reasons of anonymity, ethics and, quite frankly, common decency, I must avoid grand openings, friends-and-family dinners, press events--all the stuff that restaurateurs do in order to celebrate (and generate publicity for) their new enterprises.
"He say you Blade Runner..."
Because of this, I rely on spies, freelancers, friends--my network of culinary field agents--to keep me informed and let me know how things look when very, very new restaurants finally open their doors to the public. And much as I do dearly love my dinner commandos, depending on them leaves me in the awkward position of trying to imagine what these places are like with nothing more to go on than their Twitter posts, Facebook updates, middle-of-the-night phone calls and (often hung-over, occasionally still drunken) morning-after debriefings.
For example, Kevin Davis had his first F-and-F dinner last night at Blueacre Seafood. I had a man on the inside, of course. And what do I now know about the place? It's blue, curvy and the portions on the salads were really big. Oh, and the bartenders apparently pour pretty stiff.
Still, this kind of thing does tend to exercise my imagination. And since this morning, I was heavily into imagining what it would be like to eat at the blue, curvy, well-apportioned Blueacre, it got me thinking about other restaurants I would only ever be able to eat at in my dreams. So while I'm waiting on a more comprehensive report on the state of Blueacre, I decided to post this: A completely non-judgmental list of my favorite fictional restaurants, the ones that I'd like to be sitting at right now while I wait for my cell phone to ring. In no particular order...
The noodle bar, Blade Runner
For those of you not as obsessed by Ridley Scott's masterpiece as I am, this is the noodle bar where Rick Deckard (aka Harrison Ford) is found at the beginning of the movie Blade Runner. I have spent decades dreaming of becoming a regular at this place--slumping around a dystopian L.A. in a cool trenchcoat, ducking in out of the endless rain for a #2 with noodles, ignoring Edward James Olmos when he comes looking for me... A lot of my reasons for becoming a restaurant critic are deeply, psychologically tied up with my love of this wholly imaginary restaurant. And while most people might envision a sun-lit field full of wildflowers and unicorns and groves of PBR trees when they go away to their happy place, this is mine.
Lard Lad, The Simpsons
Despite the occasional coming-to-life of the 50-foot tall mascot, Lard Lad Donuts remains the pre-eminent Springfield donut shop. Actually, as far as I know, it's the only Springfield donut shop. And while there might be many other restaurants in the hometown of The Simpsons which pique my curiosity (namely Prof. VJ Cornicopia's Fantastic Foodmagorium & Great American Steakery, the Texas Cheesecake Depository and General Chang's Taco Italiano), Lard Lad is the only place where I'd want to hang out.
Trivia question for you Simpsons fanatics: Can you recall any episode which actually showed the interior of Lard Lad? I know of only one...
Milliways, the restaurant in The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
"Ladies and gentlemen," he said, "The Universe as we know it has now been in existence for over one hundred and seventy thousand million billion years and will be ending in a little over half an hour. So, welcome one and all to Milliways, the Restaurant at the End of the Universe!"
Why the Restaurant At The End Of The Universe (from the book of the same name by Douglas Adams)? Because I have managed to talk, weasel, beg and bribe my way into all sorts of restaurants where I didn't belong over the course of my career. Russian mob bars, secret Ghanaian house restaurants, last-minute reservations at Le Bernardin--I've done 'em all. And I would consider it a personal challenge to get a window seat at a restaurant so exclusive that the only way to get a reservation is to travel back in time after eating there and make one for the day you just ate (alternately, one can invent a parallel reality where one already has reservations for dinner, but that seems rather tricky). Also, I hear the drinks are pretty good.
Rick's Cafe Americain, Casablanca
Why Rick's Cafe Americain from Casablanca? Because I'm one classy motherfucker, that's why. Because there are days when I want very badly to live in a black-and-white world, smoke at the bar and wear a hat. Because in terms of pure, expat cool, Rick's has always been the standard by which all other restaurants are judged.
Also, I've just always wanted to hang out with Peter Lorre. That dude was just freaky.
Paradise, Big Night
In case you're wondering, the name of the restaurant run by Primo and Secondo in the movie Big Night was Paradise. To my mind, the name was absolutely appropriate.
Big Night stands as one of the only great restaurant movies ever made--the only one which managed to show both the front of the house and the back of the house in a form that was at least recognizable to most working cooks. Restaurant people love this flick (with good reason). And while I have eaten entire menus (including timpano!) based around the one prepared by Primo in anticipation of the arrival of Louis Prima, what I really want is to have been at Paradise on the one night when it was the greatest (imaginary) restaurant in the world.
Titty Twister, From Dusk Till Dawn
If I've got one restaurant left to visit in my life--one night left to live, one drink left to have--I want it to be the Titty Twister, as featured in From Dusk till Dawn. Why? Because if I'm going out anyway, why not go out in the sleaziest strip club and bar in all of Mexico while surrounded by truckers, vampires, Quentin Tarantino, George Clooney and Salma Hayek?
I don't believe they serve food at the Titty Twister (and if they do, I'm not real interested in sampling it), but putting down some mezcal (three shots neat), chasing them with a cold beer and kicking a little vampire ass? I think there are worse ways for a person to spend their last night on earth.
Okay, so that's my top-of-my-head list of favorite make-believe restaurants. I can think of about a dozen others that I didn't include here, but now I'm curious what you people think. So answer me this: If there was just one fictional restaurant that you could visit, what would it be and why.
You know the drill. Answers below. Bonus points for coming up with totally obscure locations and/or reasons why they're awesome. Double-bonus-points if they're somehow Seattle-related (and no, Cafe Nervosa from Frasier doesn't count).
Now have at it. If I get enough good answers, I'll package them all together into a canonical Top Ten sometime next week. If I get enough bad answers, I'll just never stop making fun of you people.
Finally, I swear to god, the first one of you that names the diner from Seinfeld, the coffee shop from Friends or the Prancing Pony from Lord of the Rings is getting banned from this blog for a week, no appeals.