Sarah Anne Lloyd, 2011.
With Seattle weather hitting a whole other level of shittiness and a week of local news that ranges from antagonistic to>"/>
Sarah Anne Lloyd, 2011.
With Seattle weather hitting a whole other level of shittiness and a week of local news that ranges from antagonistic to just plain soul-crushing, it seems that 2011's Black Friday is going to be particularly goddamn morose. As days get shorter and work begins to feel endless, the demand for a substantive, yet sensational escape from the drudgery of reality becomes more and more pronounced. That's why, this week on TV Dinner, we will attempt to bring that much-needed level of tawdry sophistication to your trays, following the hedonistic gangster chic of HBO's Boardwalk Empire with a doggy bag from the tall, clandestine booths of late-night traditional American fare purveyor 13 Coins.
The Cuisine: While it might've been cute to review prohibition-adoring gin joints Knee High Stocking Company or Tavern Law alongside the 1930's American drama, you can't exactly put a Sidecar in a travel mug and bring home the effect; their cocktails are superb and often painstakingly accurate to the source, but their best plates aren't quite as evocative to the time period and run a little on the small side, even if they're a perfectly delicious cocktail accompaniment.
That's why 13 Coins (125 Boren Ave N.) felt like a much better fit for the bombastic character drama, whose idea of "small plates" is limited to something put in a grizzled World War I vet's skull. 13 Coins loads its plates heavy, providing for a comfortable night of spirits for embattled career drinkers just as well as carefully measured liquor aficionados.
I got the Beef Stroganoff, 13 Coins' Wednesday special that provides ample reason to drag yourself over for some hearty midweek takeout with an $18 price tag--relatively modest to the large, soggy pizza you might've gotten instead. The entree envelopes every bite of its meaty, starchy indulgence with a warm, gamey sauce that provides a full-bodied, succulent bite for every last noodle, veggies and chunk of beef, while still providing enough precious runoff of that rich brandy demi-glace for your sopping pleasure. Seriously, for the meat-friendly amongst the audience, I challenge you to go into your kitchen find a food that this sauce doesn't immediately improve (then I want you to try it for yourself, just to show yourself how humiliatingly wrong you are).
If that weren't enough, 13 Coins' commitment to 24-hour dining makes a stout, respectable dinner possible after even the most exhausting late shifts spit you onto the street at an unholy hour. It isn't just a charming rest stop for the working man -- it is a lacuna for everyone worked past the bone who needs a sense of comfort that normal business hours simply cannot accommodate.
The Entertainment: HBO dramas have certainly built themselves a reputation in the past decade or so, bringing massive casts packed with talent into painstakingly detailed, wildly varied environments. That said, Boardwalk Empire, the Martin Scorsese-backed exploration of Prohibition-era New Jersey may very well be HBO's most ambitious undertaking to date. In fact, Boardwalk has introduced a cast of characters so prolific, the network felt the need to release a cheat sheet detailing the doings of a mere majority of the important players between seasons.
After the show took an Emmy home for Best Director, it appears to have absolutely no intention of narrowing its scope. Not only have more compelling, three-dimensional characters been introduced to the narrative, but the second season has already taken spirited, impactful jaunts to New York and Belfast, all the while dealing with the initial, visceral stirrings of America's Civil Rights Movement and sideplots with iconic '30s figures ranging from heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey to alleged Great Gatsby inspiree George Remus.
Of course, those flashy historical touches wouldn't mean nearly as much if there weren't a solid, human element to keep us emotionally invested. Steve Buscemi provides for an ideal leading man to shoulder that responsibility in Nucky Thompson, the Republican political boss whose corruption is undisputed, but in the true HBO anti-hero spirit of protagonists like Tony Soprano or Al Swearengen, will often provide a begrudging moral center for a world positively ravaged with arrogance and brutality.
However, Nucky is just the centerpiece of the deep pool of vibrant characters that make Boardwalk Empire worth following with notepad in hand. Also knee-deep in the squalor that made Atlantic City such a storied respite from American prohibition are fierce rivals on both sides of the law. Michael Pitt (The Dreamers, Last Days) plays Jimmy Darmody, a young war veteran manipulated towards Nucky's throne by his vengeful mother and power-hungry father to Shakespearean perfection. Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road, My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done) plays Nelson Van Alden, a prohibition agent of staunch Christian faith who is almost methodically dissected by the vices of Atlantic City; Van Alden might not be ready to decide whether that is for better or for worse, but he does seem utterly determined to take Nucky down with him either way.
All of these volatile ingredients and many more culminate into a complex web of intrigue that is careful to never let its blood get too cold with conspiracy before shoving another dose of chaos and moral ambiguity into its audience's face. Boardwalk Empire never cowers from diving headfirst into the nuanced controversies of its chosen setting, but also makes sure that hotblooded modern audiences have something to sink their teeth into.
The Pairing: If you're looking for something with some serious substance to it that has still enough grime and excess to keep your viewing or eating experience interesting, 13 Coins and Boardwalk Empire are well worth your late nights. While this period in American history might not be quite as dark and thoroughly corrupt as it was in the reign of the 18th Amendment, Boardwalk Empire provides a dramatic, entertaining groundwork for understanding the universal, time-tested motivation behind it all -- while the fulfilling, well-crafted portions of 13 Coins make it just a little easier to swallow the pill.