You know how people are afraid of turning a street corner and suddenly realizing they are in the “bad” part of town? Or walking into a bar and seeing that’s it’s filled with bikers and ruffians? Well, I have the opposite fear. My fear is walking into a new place and realizing with horror that it’s fancy. That they don’t have bartenders, they have “mixologists.” That the clientele all look like they just walked off the set of “Girls.”
Of course, you’d think this would be a pretty rare occurrence but it happens more than it should because they’re sneaky now. Gentrification has ruined everything and everywhere. You innocently walk into what appears to be a dive bar when BAM. They just made it LOOK like a dive bar. Hand over $17 for that fancy beer you can’t pronounce, unsophisticated peasant.
Now, I realize what I am about to write next will give away my age and thus embarrass myself. Not my real age, of course. I’m not embarrassed about that. Being embarrassed about your age is basically apologizing for being good at not dying.
But it will give away my mental age and I AM embarrassed about that. Because I am a 36-year-old with the mentality of an 87-year-old. This is especially true when it comes to money. (You want how much for my gourmet coffee? Why, back in my day, it only cost an arm, not also a leg). But still, I feel I should share my experience because it’s time all of us un-fancy people band together.
All these fears culminated last week when my family decided to grab a bite to eat after my son’s soccer “practice” (and I use that term oh-so-loosely because he’s 3, they’re all 3, and so it more resembles extras running around in a disaster movie).
Let’s try a new place, we said. Let’s be spontaneous, we said. This is definitely a decision that will not blow up in our face, we said.
So, we strolled through our decidedly not fancy neighborhood until we came upon an innocent enough looking place. But then, just as we walked in far enough that making a quick exit would have been awkward, we noticed the Mason jars. The exposed ceiling. The iPhone photography on the walls. The white bartender…SPORTING DREADLOCKS.
And we knew, the color draining from our faces, that we had entered into a HIP ARTISAN EATERY (fancy slang for “we cannot afford this place”). It looked like every scene from “Portlandia” had been filmed there. And when we got the menu, which only had five items, plus a drink menu of craft cocktails that was 55 pages long, our fate was sealed.
We tried to make the best of it. I got what anywhere else would be described on the menu as “the truck stop special” or perhaps “the big breakfast”. Here it had a fancy unpronounceable name that looked like a Spanish word had a threeway with two French words. It consisted of fried eggs, bacon, toast and “holme frites,” which after some Sherlockian deducing, I figured out was pretentious speak for “home fries.”
(When I got home, I Googled “holme frites” and even Google was like “wtf…that’s not a thing.”)
A small cup of black coffee was $4 (I was too scared to ask for a refill). My trucker special was $17. (See? What did I say? 87-years-old mentally. I have to tell you exactly how much everything costs and then want you to be as outraged as I am. Why, I remember when a pack of smokes was $2 and a gal could get a free cocktail with a little flash of leg, dearie).
And forget a kids menu. While places like these don’t “actively discourage you from bringing in your kids,” they actively discourage you from bringing in your kids. Which is why they ate the ancient Cheerios and raisins lying at the bottom of the diaper bag that had been in there since my youngest was still renting out my uterus.
But I will give the place this. It was delicious. And the place was beautiful. And the service was impeccable. Because I’m not here to insult these kinds of places.
You want fancy? Great. You want a small menu curated by an actual fancy chef? Fantastic. You don’t spiral into a rage when you have to spend $24 for a cheeseburger? Bully for you!
There is nothing wrong with any of that. There are people out there who will pay out the butt for local, fresh, organic, seasonal fare. And good for them. They will likely live very long lives with very clear skin.
So, I’m not saying get rid of these places. I’m saying stop making them look like a normal place I can afford until I sit down, see the menu and die of an aneurysm. Because the only way I am paying $24 for a cheeseburger is if it also gets me drunk. Very drunk.
It’s simply a matter of timing. I am not mentally, emotionally or financially able to eat at one of these places currently. I am at a place in my life where I need you to fling some chicken nuggets at my whiny toddler and throw some mushy mixed vegetables into my crying baby’s gaping maw so I can take three minutes to choke down something comforting and deep fried. Anything other than this is stressful and confusing and it makes me angry because I am an 87-year-old woman.
So, please, stop making fancy places look not fancy. Or, at the very least, if you have your heart set on that industrial-chic aesthetic, put an old lady out front who whispers to shabby families like mine before we walk in “they call home fries “holmes frites” here, sweetie, keep walking.”