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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Kitschy Cuisine

I don’t remember the first time I went to Mars restaurant, but my experience at this time warp of an eatery is always the same. Many months will go by between visits and I inevitably forget that they don’t accept reservations.

“Hi, I’d like to make a reservation” I say cheerfully into the phone
“We don’t take reservations” is the response by the clearly annoyed voice on the other end of the line.

Crap, now she knows I’m not a regular, regular.

“Ok, well, is there much of a wait on Saturday around 6?” I ask

It being Friday, I believe I may have thrown her off the scent enough for tonight and have a hope in hell of sneaking in without a connection being made. Maybe I should disguise my voice just to be sure.

Mars is the kind of place that you walk in and immediately consider walking back out. The experience may be best described as the feeling some have towards blue cheese, you know that it’s edible, but just can’t stomach taking a bite. Mars has been around since the 1920’s but sports a healthy 1970’s motif. The smell of smoke greets you like a punch in the face and the excessively loud, often tasteless conversations of the herds of rowdy locals lead you to believe that there might be an actual punch in the face before the night is over. Spinning, honeycomb like devices dangle from the ceiling, whirring precariously off kilter in a futile attempt to clear some of the blue haze. At least one person is smoking a cigar. Wood paneling, artificial flower arrangements and Great Wall of China sized photo enlargements of the area glow in their plastic, backlit cases.

“How many?” the greeter (and I use the term loosely), asks
“Two” I respond with a hopeful glint in my eye
“We’ll call you” and with that, I’ve been dismissed.

I know better than to provoke a sigh/eye roll from this woman by asking ‘how long?’ and quickly scan the perimeter for a place to hold up. Ok, spot between the two drunks arguing over the Bears and Packers or.....or….come on…. spot at the piano.

Piano it is, but this is no victory. A yellow haired woman of about 70 sits behind the piano belting out all your favorites in a raspy voice, Georgia on Your Mind? Wait, did I say Georgia? I mean, Wisconsin. Cute. Leaving on a Jet Plane; for Wisconsin? Right, double cute. And so it goes, glass after glass of merlot, song after song cleverly altered to include Wisconsin. Well at least no matter how drunk I get, I won’t forget where I am.

An hour into the ordeal I’m finally seated awaiting my food. Why did I come here, again? Before I can formulate a response, the answer is placed on a seemingly clean (as best I can judge by tea light) plate before me, ribs. Or to be accurate, the best ribs I’ve ever had. Slightly sweet yet tangy meaty goodness graces my lips. Ahhh, Mars, I’ve missed you.

A neighboring table of 20 begin a round of ‘Happy Birthday’ and I’m asked to join along, what the heck, we’re all family here right?

Satiated and a bit tipsy, I zigzag around other tables of happy customers on my way towards the door, all the while rifling through my purse for an addition to the piano players tip jar.

*

1 comment:

Philip said...

Places like this are the best. Doesn't matter if it's Joe's, or Whitey's in Arlington VA, Quanset Pizza in Waukegan IL, The Brew Pub in Rochester NY, Tabletop in Alexandria VA, Joe's Philly Cheese Steaks in Alexandria VA, Bluebird Cafe in Logan UT, or Stans Burgers in Provo UT.

They are off the path, they have cult following, usually have lousy service, dirty plates, but the best atmosphere and food :).