Oddfellows Chicken and Waffles

On the extremely rare occasions that I watch certain films or especially certain television programs featuring fashionably cool people (Sex and The City come to mind immediately) I am always gobsmacked by the amount of time these people spend leisurely sitting around cute round tables at outdoor sidewalk cafes, sipping mimosas and chatting away. It appears these people are able to enjoy several hours every afternoon with their dearest chums completely relaxed and rested, exercising their witty bones: a little tète-à-tète, a little repartee, topped off with a dollop of vicious gossip and a viscous ice cream sundae.

Do real people actually live like that? Of course not. Life is not leisure and conversation. Lunch is a short brutal orgy of quick gobbling, if it exists at all. Time is an illusion, lunchtime doubly so (Douglas Adams). In Texas at least, the weather is only conducive to al fresco dining a handful of days each year.

Still, you do drive by these places and see people sitting outside… sometimes. There they are, take a quick glimpse before you plow into the car in front of you and are late for whatever unpleasant task awaits at the end of the drive. They seem happy enough. Who are these people?

I’ll never know.

At any rate, the other day while we were visiting that pleasant oasis of interestingness in the desert sea of the big evil city, The Bishop Arts District, we realized that the weather, while a tad coolish in the shade and a bit sweltry in the sun, was bearable and we had an opportunity to dine out in the open. After considering a number of opportunities (most establishments had at least a couple tables out on the sidewalk) we had an appetizer tray in a couple of very well-worn comfortable Adirondack Rocking Chairs in front of Eno’s Pizza and Tavern and, as the sun set, headed on down to a place called Oddfellows for dinner.

Oddfellows seems to be gathering a following and I can see why. It is an open plan, with both sidewalk tables and an innovative and attractive set of open bench spots along the windows. It must be a popular hang out in addition to a place to eat as a number of folks had their laptops out and seemed to be settled in for the duration.

The bar dining spot at Oddfellows - a wooden bench, metal pipe for a backrest, and a log for a footrest. Our waitress has my wheat beer and Candy's wine.

The restaurant was attractive and had a good attention to details. While I was waiting in a corridor for the men’s room, I saw they had their larder on display (This may have been a fake shelf meant to impress… it doesn’t really matter) with such things as a dozen boxes of Cafe du Monde Beignet mix, gallon jugs of Frank’s Red Hot Wing Sauce, and large boxes of Bisquick, all comestible ingredients of necessity and quality. When they serve tumblers of water, they leave behind a glass bottle (like an antique quart milk bottle) of the cool stuff.

Candy ordered the Macaroni and Cheese with Buffalo Chicken. It was very, very good (I ate the leftovers later) – the Mac N Cheese was flavored with Blu Cheese which was great and the chicken was really spicy (Now I know where all that Franks’s Wing Sauce goes).

Looking over the menu, I was quickly drawn to the Chicken and Waffles. Who wants to live forever?

Chicken and waffles, a bottle of water and a wheat beer. This is truly the best of all possible worlds.

The waitress said that was her two favorite things. I’ll bet she always says that.

Now, recently, I have traditional Chicken and Waffles at a soul food drive in, and a modern take at a local food truck. Now was the opportunity to try some at a real restaurant.

The chicken was spicy and crispy, the waffles were nice and fluffy. What more do you want?

They come with butter, syrup and white southern gravy. I ate every scrap. My only complaint was that I was too full and stuffed and sleepy on the way home.

I’ll get over it.

The Soda Gallery

There are some really cool places in the Bishop Arts District. One of them is The Soda Gallery. It’s the place where you can hang out… and it gives the phrase “pop art” a new double meaning.

It’s a little art gallery and it’s a soda shop… it’s both.

So you can go inside and make a selection from their extensive collection of soft drinks – 30 kinds of root beer, Dublin Doctor Pepper, Nesbitt’s, Ramune (the Japanese stuff with the marble), and so on and so forth. They have a nice little table out on the sidewalk and I watched some groups buying sodas and sitting there drinking them. What a nice idea! I am so down on alcohol right now – it’s cool to find another option for social interaction other than booze or coffee.

And inside they do have art displayed on the walls. They had some really good stuff – screenprints of superheroes or comic book panels and other examples of local pop art.

I wish this place was in my neighborhood – but I’ll go visit when I can.

On the Soda Gallery’s website they have some examples of interesting soft drink ads… here’s some for your enjoyment.

Nesbitt’s Orange, from the 70’s. There is a lot of Robert Crumb psychedelic stuff going on here.

Japanese Fanta Commercial

It’ll Tickle Yer Innards!

The Raven

Ravens Pharmacy

500 West Jefferson Boulevard, Oak Cliff, Dallas, TX

Ravens Pharmacy, Oak Cliff

And the raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting

On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;

And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,

And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;

And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor

Shall be lifted – nevermore!

The Raven (last stanza) – Edgar Allen Poe

3 Men and a Taco!

Again, today, I consulted my twitter feed to see where the various gourmet food trucks were distributed around the city. A truck I had never tried before, 3 Men and a Taco, was set up on Davis Street in Oak Cliff. I have wanted to visit the Bishop Arts District, only a few blocks down from there, so I decided to make the drive clear across town.

Cutting across north of downtown I drove through the tunnel that the Woodall Rodgers Freeway has become. They have decked over the road for the new five acre park that is going in overhead. I was working downtown when the freeway was dug – it seemed like an enormous undertaking at the time – I can’t believe that they are now building a wooded park over the top of it. It will be very cool when it is finished – a nice addition of some nature to the edge of the Arts District.

I cut across to Oak Cliff and drove down to Davis Street. This brought back a lot of memories for me. When I first moved to Dallas in 1981 I lived with some friends that were remodeling a house in Kessler Park for a while. I remember riding the bus on those streets to my new job in the skyscrapers of downtown. For a kid that had been in Kansas for years this was really exciting and every day I would look out of my bus windows with excitement, wonder, and anticipation at the amazing future that was sure to come to pass. Well, I was young and didn’t know any better.

The street the house was on, Edgefield, is as beautiful as ever. It looks unchanged in thirty years, except the trees have grown almost together overhead and they were orange with fall colors – georgeous. The house itself was a bit of a shock. It still looked the same in the front, the classic Kessler Park Tudor Revival brick – but the entire back yard was filled with a massive two story addition – making the humble cottage into a gigantic mansion.

The truck was set up at Davis and Edgefield, in front of Urban Acres. I was a little late, so many of the choices were crossed off their menu board, but I chose a Coconut Mango Chicken (with Thai Pepper Slaw) and Sweet Potato Portobella (roasted and topped with an orange balsamic reduction). They don’t call these food trucks “gourmet” for nuthin’ – these were not your mama’s tacos.

As usual… it was very good.

3 Mean and a Taco - Gourmet Food Truck

The board with today's selections, next to the "Tip Monster"

The key to a Food Truck's success is to communicate with their customers. The Twitter feed and Facebook Pages have to be kept up, minute to minute.

Coconut Mango Chicken

Sweet Potato Portobella (this was really, really good)

Bánh mì at Walgreens

Nammi Food Truck at Walgreens

I had a day off of work and was being lazy when I began to feel a mite peckish. I checked my twitter feed and discovered that the Nammi Food Truck was setting up in a Walgreens parking lot on Beltline in Addison – not too far from my humble home. Some Bánh mì would hit the spot, so off I went.

One of the tough nuts to crack as gourmet food trucks become more and more common is where do they find a place to park. Restaurant owners tend to be powerful political players and always work to restrict their competition – especially mobile cavalry type competition that can swoop in on a moment’s notice and gobble up valuable customers.

Now I realize how difficult it can be to run a restaurant and sympathize with their plight. But I also don’t think that competition is always a bad thing. The more options people have the more they will eat out and the more business will be driven to restaurants in general. I’m in the minority on this, of course.

So the food trucks have to fight restrictive ordinances to find a place to set up. It is rare to find them out in the suburbs, so I was glad to find one at a Walgreens.

Addison is lousy with restaurants and all the parking lots were full with folks out for lunch from work. There were only a couple spaces left in the Walgreens lot. A steady flow of customers, about two or three deep were ordering at the little window at the bright blue truck. Everyone would order, then stand around typing on their smart phones while their sandwiches were put together. I waited my turn, ordered a grilled pork Bánh mì and pulled a cold Diet Dr. Pepper from a mound of ice in the front of the truck.

“Hey, I’m sorry, but I’m not allowed to sell you a Dr. Pepper here,” the guy in the truck said. “It’s a deal we have with the location.”

“Oh,” I said, “I guess they want me to come inside the drug store and buy my drink there.”

The guy nodded. I guess that’s fair. They give up a bit of their parking lot in exchange for customers that come inside for drinks and maybe some ibuprofen while they are at it. I almost went inside, but didn’t want the hassle.

I had writing to do, my first strong idea for a story that I had had in weeks, so I carted my sandwich off to the library, and filled my water bottle from the drinking fountain.

It was very good, by the way.


What I learned this week, November 18, 2011

Are you worried about the Mysterious Structures in the Chinese Desert?

Fear no more, there is a simple explanation.

Do you need writing motivation? Do you like Kittens?

Here it is – Written?Kitten!

On of the essential techniques of art is to be able to reduce complex reality to its bare essential truth. Minimalism.

A master of this is the artist Gregoire Guillemin. I really love some of his work.

Take a look at this – famous people reduced to their bare minimum. How many can you identify? The groups are especially fun.

Here’s some more, divided up, some identified. I wish I could do that.

Why Does McDonald’s Keep Bringing McRib Back?

I have never ordered or eaten a McRib in my life. I don’t think this article is going to change my mind. I especially like this paragraph:

McDonald’s relationship with the pork industry goes back to the McRib’s conception. In 1972, Roger Mandingo, a University of Nebraska professor, received a grant from the National Pork Producer’s council to develop a technology that bound small “umarketable parts of the animal” into a formation that looked more appetizing. In other words, he figured out how to mold tripe, heart or stomach bits into something that looked like a choice cut of meat. Let’s say, the ribs.

MMMM, sounds like some gosh darn good eatin’

What’s the McRib made of, anyway?

The 10 Types of Writers’ Block (and How to Overcome Them)

  1. You can’t come up with an idea.
  2. You have a ton of ideas but can’t commit to any of them, and they all peter out.
  3. You have an outline but you can’t get through this one part of it.
  4. You’re stuck in the middle and have no idea what happens next.
  5. You have a terrible feeling your story took a wrong turn a hundred pages back, and you only just hit a dead end.
  6. You’re bored with all these characters, they won’t do anything.
  7. You keep imagining all the reasons people are going to say your story sucks, and it paralyzes you.
  8. You can’t think of the right words for what you’re trying to convey in this one paragraph.
  9. You had this incredibly cool story in your head, and now you’re turning it into words on a screen and it’s suddenly dumb.
  10. You’re revising your work, and you can’t see your way past all those blocks of text you already wrote.

I think the blonde dancer is Terri Garr.

New Orleans – St. Charles Streetcar

The grandest ride in America was the St. Charles streetcar. You could catch the old green-painted, lumbering iron car under the colonade in front of the Pearl and for pocket change travel on the neutral ground down arguably the most beautiful street in the western world. The canopy of live oaks over the neutral ground created a green-gold tunnel as far as the eye could see. On the corners, black men sold ice cream and sno’balls from carts with parasols on them, and in the winter the pink and maroon neon on the Katz & Besthoff drugstores glowed like electrified smoke inside the fog.

—– from The Tin Roof Blowdown By James Lee Burke

The St. Charles streecar in New Orleans is one of my favorite things in the whole world. If you have never ridden it, put it on your bucket list. Now.

The best time to ride the streetcar is at sunset on a hot late summer evening. The windows open and the breeze from the motion sweeps the sweltering afternoon away as the purple sky darkens beyond the southern mansions and ancient oaks. You sit on the wooden seats jostling as the machine tumbles down the neutral ground. The lights flicker mysteriously and each new section of track is greeted with a flash of lightning, a clacking cacophony, and a whiff of ozone from under the wheels.

The streetcar becomes a time machine… no… not that… it is a timeless machine. The streetcar is exactly as it was ages ago, the floods, Katrina, countless Krewes from countless parades gone except for the risible plastic beads hanging from the trees, the mansions, the music, the food… all are distilled into a parallel pair of rails and high voltage overhead that lumber from the edge of the French Quarter way out past Tulane and Audubon park.

The streetcar is not only a tourist attraction – you share your ride with office drones from downtown banks, lawyers from big firms, and dishwashers nodding off after a long day – the heartbeat of a city brought cheek-to-jowl together. It isn’t very fast – waiting for riders making change at the old-fashioned boxes, drivers bracing themselves to swing heavy levers, stopping at lights while the cross traffic fights out of the way. You can almost walk this fast. But you get there and the getting is everything.

When we are in town we usually stay in a bed and breakfast on St. Charles not far from Tulane and when I wake up in the morning I always like to lay in bed and listen for the streetcars. When you ride them they are all jangling and jump but somehow, from outside, they are smoother, slick steel wheels and sliding commutator sparking along. A bell at the intersections if the cars don’t move fast enough.

Like all of New Orleans, it’s hard to figure out why there aren’t more fatalities along the route, with the traffic, walkers, runners all thrown together with few signs and fewer rules. But they get along, somehow. They always do.

Inside the St. Charles Streetcar

One of my favorite spots is this unassuming little coffee shop at St. Charles and St. Andrews. I like to sit out front, sip my coffee, and watch the streetcars go by.