Thursday, January 15, 2009


The walls are red, the plates are square, and the pan-fried calamari is spiced with cumin and pretension.

It’s not a bar.

It’s not a restaurant.

It’s a lounge.

You know you’re in a lounge when they don’t just plate food, they present it. Presentation involves disguising the fact that “dinner” consists of only 4 shrimps by stacking them vertically. Vertically! It’s brilliant, really. I can hardly believe I’ve wasted so many meals eating plain old horizontal food; things just don’t taste as good when they’re not piled on top of each other. And if there were just 4 little shrimps sitting forlornly on my plate, my brain might think “Four shrimps! What a rip-off!”, but when they’re artfully arranged into a leaning tower of shellfish, my brain thinks “What a delightful mountain of deliciousness!” Presentation doesn’t stop at stacking though; it also includes an ostentatious and often inedible garnish that usually looms larger than the main course itself.

You know you’re in a lounge when the wait staff is hired to stand around looking pretty – literally. Their main qualifications include trendy haircuts, cute dimples, and an all-black wardrobe. Once they’ve nailed the “I don’t hurry because I’m pretty” work ethic, they move on to the “I’m just doing this until I get my big break” attitude and the “God you people fucking bore me” look. Then they mostly stand around discussing their love lives and car payments while customers starve and eventually get their own drinks.

You know you’re in a lounge when they use some pompous euphemism for French fries on the menu. Call them frites all you want, but I know the truth: you’re just too goddamned lazy to come up with an imaginative replacement for them. Who do you think you’re fooling?

You might be in a lounge when some of the tables and chairs are replaced with – get this! – couches. You know, for lounging. And for sitting awkwardly in your dress, wondering how many germs are lurking in the fabric, and increasing spills by 86% (because what else would you do with your $18 martini other than have half of it coat the already-sticky, definitely-wobbly, and more than an arm-length’s away side table?) And please note: when I referred to “replacing” those tables and chairs with sofas, what I really meant was not removing them at all but just squeezing them into the already-tight dining space. Because if someone’s ass doesn’t brush your spaghetti carbonara, you’re not really living it up. But boy, if you’re strewn on a sofa, you must be having fun. You might actually start harbouring the delusion that you are “funky” or “with it” if you’re the kind of desperate middle-aged man who hasn’t realized yet that’s tragically out of touch. But there is nothing inherently cool about couches. Hey lounge: know who else has couches? My grandma. And she also serves drinks, and trays of compartmentalized food we used to call the cheese and pickle platter, but I suppose if we started calling them “tapas” then she could start charging us a cover, right?

You might be in a lounge if the nicest thing the newspaper reviewer could think of to say was “Dan Aykroyd ate there once!” and Dan Aykroyd probably had the right idea. A lounge is a place to see and be seen, and then retreat to your hotel room, crack open the mini bar (where drinks are so much cheaper) and have a shawarma delivered to you from across the street.

You’re probably in a lounge if the menu uses an excessive amount of quotation marks. For example, the menu might offer seared “rare” yellow fin tuna. You expect that quotation marks tell the reader something unusual is happening here: either you have a reservation about using the word, or you’re using it ironically. In this instance, we may guess that the tuna is not exactly served rare. However, when the same menu includes a dessert comprising of carrot cake and “frosting”, I really start to wonder what is so objectionable about the supposed “frosting.” Putting random quotation marks around things makes them sound ominous. Like maybe you shouldn’t trust the “frosting.” Like maybe someone’s pulling a fast one on us with the “frosting.” Like maybe it’s safest just to skip the “frosting”, if that is it’s real name.

You’re likely in a lounge if you hear the word ‘atmosphere’ thrown around a lot. Posh is what these places aspire to be; coolness is a great way to justify the exorbitant prices, and possibly the only way, especially when other negligible factors such as the quality and (god forbid you should ever leave a lounge sated) quantity of the food just don’t cut it. In fact, you’re almost certainly in a lounge if you pay 138$ before taxes and tip for a drink, an appetizer, an entree and dessert, and you still leave hungry.

You might be in a lounge if there’s a special menu that comes after dinner but before dessert. In another world this might be accurately named the cheese menu, but you’re in a lounge, so nothing is ever so easy. Instead they have to call it Quebec Thermalized cow milk, with triple cream, and bloomy rind. Because to call a rose by any other name....I mean, you’d still order it if they said they’d thrown a couple of cheese slices over some saltines and microwaved it, right? Oh, excuse me, they would never stoop so low as to serve it with mere crackers. In a lounge, it’s served with fig-walnut bread or some other snobby carbohydrate. That’s another thing about lounges: you’ll notice that everything on the menu has to sound at least vaguely disgusting, or else you’d never know you were eating something "innovative."

I'm not a hater, though.
Oh no.
I can bring the shi-shi with the best of them. I can drink martinis that took 30 minutes to arrive at my table like nobody's business. I can cross my legs and accidentally knock the napkin off the lap of a lady sitting 3 tables away and apologize with a big phoney shit-eating grin like you've never seen before. I can fit right in.

Just promise me we can stop at McDonald's on the way home.

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