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My (Fantasy) Restaurant


Busboy
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The Rusty Spoon

Aficionados of post-war, postmodern literature will recognize this as the name of the diner where the Whole Sick Crew often ended up after a long night of bop at The V-Note. The rest of the customers will be drawn in by the eight-foot cast-iron spoon I'll have some local artist hammer out for me and hang above the front door, proudly perpendicular to the building like some deranged ferrous flag in lieu of traditional signage or even spelling out the name of the place. Oh yeah, you got to be in the know to get into the 'Spoon. :wink:

Except for the spoon, it's all DIY. Gotta find a friend with an eye for cheap chic to buy the tables and chairs and mis-matched plates and forks and some starving artists to put paint on the wall. I'm sure it will be dark (but warm) and almost windowless in a neighborhood that that many people still don't feel comfortable walking around at night. Me? Cooking lessons and stages with friends in professional kitchens. My wife, who fears chaos, will sit quietly in the corner keeping an eye on the books and the service and her day job with health insurance. My daughter, who causes chaos, will run the front. Maybe a young dishwasher/runner/jack of all trades in the back and the front, depending where he's needed most. 30 seats in a small space. One menu. One turn.

It's not that I'm in love with mismatched glasses as a fashion statement or hate the idea of offering guests a full menu with vegan options. But my place is dedicated to feeding excellent food to the masses at the lowest possible tariff -- 3 courses and a smattering of hors d'oeuvres (and optional cheese course, of course) for a single, non-negotiable price. You're in or you're out: no half-price specials, children's menus or a la carte. And not that we don't try to accommodate requests, but it's a small kitchen, and it's me behind the line, fer chrissake, not Thomas Keller. And if you don't like what we have tonight, check back tomorrow -- we change every night.

But if you check the website or the chalkboard out front (or maybe we'll hang the day's menu from the spoon) and it looks good, it's going to be the best damn meal deal going. Pan-Med, I think, the kind of cooking that transforms inexpensive but high-quality ingredients -- tete de couchon, anyone? -- into delicacies, with a special nod to Greece and North Africa because we don't just want to be another Provence/Italian joint. A wood grill might be nice, too.

The kind of cooking that reminds you more of folk art than abstract expressionism and makes you wonder how come when your ma put a bowl of braised beef in front of you it didn't catch your breath in just the same way ours will. We know the farmers and we'll get to know the fishmongers, too: When a special comes along, we make it special for you, as well. Didn't know you liked mackerel, did you? And we'll be curing things in the basement. Lardo, for all my friends! Guanciale! Confit by the bucketfull!

Service that's homey but ridiculously professional, as though it's being handled by some Italian grandma that had been running the family trattoria for 40 years and now not only has eyes on the back of her head but also a kind of preternatural radar that allows her to sense every patron's needs almost immediately. A wine list that doesn't tax your mind or your wallet because it's only a single bottle of red, white and rose each (at least when we start) with a little something hidden behind the bar for dessert or a special occasion. We'll draw a line on the bottle and then charge you by the inch -- drink what you want and if you're the last customer of the night and not driving we'll split what's left in the open bottles when my family and I sit down to eat.

*****

So, who among us doesn't have a place in the back of our minds -- whether the best hot dog stand on earth or a three-star temple -- just waiting for the day we hit the lottery or quite this damn soul-sucking job and get to culinary school? Above is mine, a modest little effort but -- knowing the hours and pay restaurateurs live with and the cost of my teenagers' educations, not one likely to be realized soon. But, as I walk to work and the see the couple washing down the sidewalk in front of La Fourchette, as they've been doing every day for decades, I daydream. What do others daydream about. (And how does it reflect what you don't think you can find where you live)?

What are some others? Or, if you don't want to run one, what's the restaurant where you think about having a reserved table every night like?

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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Sounds wonderful, Charles. When it comes true for you, let me know as I would love to dine there.

For me, the fantasy restaurant already exists. It's called elBulli and other than the possibility of dining there again, that is all it will ever be - a fantasy.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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I've had fantasies about buying the Ovaltine Cafe in Vancouver, down on the other side of Main on Hastings. Big walk-in fridge. All those chrome fixings on wooden doors. The butter patties with "butter" imprinted on them in case you got confused.....

I'd love to take that place over. Pipe Tom Waits through the overhead, and cater to the 2 a.m. to 5 a.m. crowd. Hire a couple of Beloruss heavies to watch over the cars out front......

And provide the sort of food that you're craving for after a hard night on the town, when you're shakin' in your boots and you need some fried kidneys to settle you down......

And then my wife slaps me upside the head and I give up on it.

But I love that neon sign.

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MFK Fisher once lamented the fact that so few of her dinner guests reciprocated with invitations to dine at their table, intimidated, no doubt, by the challenge of feeding her as well as she fed them. I gotta say, Charles, the quality of your writing here and elsewhere on eGullet lately may inhibit the sharing of other personal fantasies. Thank your for ecumenical references to food traditions that do not hail from Southern France.

I'm pinchin' myself for adding this, but I think you've got to have at least a few things a vegan can eat just as a courtesy to at least one of the farmers who is bound to fill your larder. And in the alcove over in the corner, passed on the way to the restrooms, a cluster of paintings, all of cheese danish.

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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My fantasy restaurant would be outside. It would be in Maine on the shore in the summer and the west coast of Florida on the shore in the winter.

It would be the same in either place. There would be about three acres of land abutting the water. It would be nice and grassy with picnic tables spaced not too close, not too far apart.

The restaurant itself would consist of one large grill thing, one large deep-fryer thing, and two large beds of shaved ice things.

It would be cook-it-yourself. One large bed of ice would be filled with seafood, the other with meat, ready to grill. There would be a table also, with lots of herbs and spices and seasonings that the food could be seasoned with before grilling. There would be individual little grill-things to stick the food in to grill by the people, who would choose what they wanted then season and cook it themselves. Obviously someone would have to stand by the grill to shout at them when they forgot to get their food on time. That (staff) person could have a lounge chair next the grill under an umbrella and they would be in charge of the boom box.

Over by the deep-fryer would be a big container of thin-sliced potatoes ready to deep-fry, which the people could also do themselves. Someone would have to sit there and supervise, too, I guess. They could have another lounge chair under an umbrella and I guess they would have to peel and slice potatoes too. Not as good a job as the grill one.

There would also have to be a brightly-painted cart set up with a cute little horse, or maybe a donkey, hooked up to it as if it were actually going to go somewhere. Obviously we'd have to change out the donkey several times a day so that standing there he would not get bored or overworked with all the petting and adoration that would come his way. This cart would be filled with baskets of readied salad stuff and big (disposable) bowls to put it in, with squeeze-on dressings there too. The donkey would *not* wear a hat, but he *would* have a friend who was a cat who would jump onto his back now and then and meow to him.

There would also be several of those outdoor-shower thingies, one high up to climb completely under if you happened to take a swim then wanted to wash off, one down near foot-level for those whose feet got muddy or sandy or whatever.

There would be three large iced tubs of drinks. One of sodas, one of waters, one of beers. One large table with paper goods and utensils.

Everybody would come in, cook their own food, hopefully clean up their own mess, and pay, based on what they chose to eat. I guess whomever sat near the donkey could be the money collector, too. The packs on the back of the donkey could be the "cash register".

Ahhhh. I am sighing in pleasure just thinking about it.

Hours: 11:30 to 9:30, closed Mondays.

:smile:

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I would love to see a prime steakhouse with no wine list. BYOB only...

Are you listening, Philadelphians?

We're listening, but the likelihood of something like that finding investors is slim. The amount of space you'd need, the swanky address, big staff/big payroll, the cost of ingredients, etc. makes a liquor license revenue stream de rigeur.

Remember when the tiny little space that now houses Snackbar tried to function without a liquor license? Opened and closed in a virtual nanosecond.

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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I would love to see a prime steakhouse with no wine list. BYOB only...

Are you listening, Philadelphians?

We're listening, but the likelihood of something like that finding investors is slim. The amount of space you'd need, the swanky address, big staff/big payroll, the cost of ingredients, etc. makes a liquor license revenue stream de rigeur.

Remember when the tiny little space that now houses Snackbar tried to function without a liquor license? Opened and closed in a virtual nanosecond.

Oh, I was just thinking of a place like about the size of RX, or (the slightly larger and excellent) Ray's the Steaks here in DC. Not the Whole Grand Steakhouse Experience, but a limited menu of the kind of beef it's virtually impossible for the home chef to find, properly grilled, and served alongside (as I believe adegiulio implied) a bottle of Screaming Eagle from your home cellar.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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I'm pinchin' myself for adding this, but I think you've got to have at least a few things a vegan can eat just as a courtesy to at least one of the farmers who is bound to fill your larder.

I described something similar to Busboy's fantasy to my wife a couple of years ago. I figured one beef or pork dish, one poultry or fish dish, maybe a sausage plate, with the menu changing each night. Meant for simple family dining (think kind of basque-ish) where the main event is wholesome tasty food shared with those you love. She said that I needed to add vegetarian fare and maybe vegan. Nope. If your family has a vegetarian or a vegan I'm sure you can find places to accomodate you - but not here. This is carnivore country. If I failed because of that I would accept that but it's my place with my personal stamp on it so I get to choose. Hey, that would probably be the name of the place: Carnivore's Delight Family Cafe . Only problem with the fantasy is that I hugely fear owning my own business but that's another story.

Porthos Potwatcher
The Once and Future Cook

;

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I have my fantasy restaurant. Now if only I could get that fantasy staff... :laugh:

See -- that's why mine's so small. Not that running my family in the restaurant trade would be everyone's fantasy. But at least the people I fired would be less likely to sue.

PS: where? Which one?

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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I would love to see a prime steakhouse with no wine list. BYOB only...

Are you listening, Philadelphians?

We're listening, but the likelihood of something like that finding investors is slim. The amount of space you'd need, the swanky address, big staff/big payroll, the cost of ingredients, etc. makes a liquor license revenue stream de rigeur.

Remember when the tiny little space that now houses Snackbar tried to function without a liquor license? Opened and closed in a virtual nanosecond.

Oh, I was just thinking of a place like about the size of RX, or (the slightly larger and excellent) Ray's the Steaks here in DC. Not the Whole Grand Steakhouse Experience, but a limited menu of the kind of beef it's virtually impossible for the home chef to find, properly grilled, and served alongside (as I believe adegiulio implied) a bottle of Screaming Eagle from your home cellar.

Ahhhh. That's quite different. And yeah, that would be awesome. I haven't been to Ray's the Steaks but it's high on my list of places to try next time I'm in the DC area.

I read "prime steakhouse" and I'm thinking of a dark wood bar, lots of seats, a big staff, etc. The standard Whole Grand Steakhouse Experience.

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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I would love to see a prime steakhouse with no wine list. BYOB only...

Are you listening, Philadelphians?

We're listening, but the likelihood of something like that finding investors is slim. The amount of space you'd need, the swanky address, big staff/big payroll, the cost of ingredients, etc. makes a liquor license revenue stream de rigeur.

Remember when the tiny little space that now houses Snackbar tried to function without a liquor license? Opened and closed in a virtual nanosecond.

Oh, I was just thinking of a place like about the size of RX, or (the slightly larger and excellent) Ray's the Steaks here in DC. Not the Whole Grand Steakhouse Experience, but a limited menu of the kind of beef it's virtually impossible for the home chef to find, properly grilled, and served alongside (as I believe adegiulio implied) a bottle of Screaming Eagle from your home cellar.

Ahhhh. That's quite different. And yeah, that would be awesome. I haven't been to Ray's the Steaks but it's high on my list of places to try next time I'm in the DC area.

I read "prime steakhouse" and I'm thinking of a dark wood bar, lots of seats, a big staff, etc. The standard Whole Grand Steakhouse Experience.

Yeah, I agree that this is just a fantasy. The high food cost of prime beef alone would require wine profits to offset. But, I still prefer my own wine list to that of most steakhouses, and would gladly pay $20 to have them open my juice and provide me with glasses.

"It's better to burn out than to fade away"-Neil Young

"I think I hear a dingo eating your baby"-Bart Simpson

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I want to be the pastry chef for a place like the Rusty spoon, or perhaps own a tiny little boutique/pastry shop that sells imported linens. A tiny little counter and a few tables where you can sip your press coffee with a pastry after you've bought your exquisite jacquard kitchen towels or Provencal floral tablecloth.

No molten chocolate cake, Chocolate Orgasm, Death By A Thousand Chocolates, etc., just the classic Frenchy-French stuff I learned in c-school...old-fashioned things like creme Bavarois, mille-feuille, eclairs, tartes au citron, or for the restaurant, clafoutis and souffles. Perhaps a homemade ice cream, in whatever flavor strikes my fancy that day.

Edited by hjshorter (log)

Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

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Some years ago I visited a pal who lived on the shore somewhere on Chesapeake Bay. One afternoon we took off in his boat and tied up at a crab shack. The deck had dozens of picnic tables, affixed with rolls of absorbent brown paper that was pulled out for each new party. Our server dumped a big bucket of boiled, seasoned crabs onto the table and handed each a mallet. A bucket of beers in ice and we were set.

I don't remember if they served much else - which is a factor in shaping my fantasy restaurant. There is a place at a marina here in Portland harbor that I worked BOH years ago that I always thought would make a perfect Lobster and steamer clam venue. Picnic tables, lots of drawn butter, good slaw, potato salad and a thumping reggae soundtrack. Maybe a seasonal fish of the day but nothing else. I know I'm missing non-seafood items and desserts, but hey, it's a fantasy, right?

After I worked there, it changed hands a few times and after a renovation became this.

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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Some years ago I visited a pal who lived on the shore somewhere on Chesapeake Bay.  One afternoon we took off in his boat and tied up at a crab shack.  The deck had dozens of picnic tables, affixed with rolls of absorbent brown paper that was pulled out for each new party.  Our server dumped a big bucket of boiled, seasoned crabs onto the table and handed each a mallet.  A bucket of beers in ice and we were set.

I don't remember if they served much else - which is a factor in shaping my fantasy restaurant.  There is a place at a marina here in Portland harbor that I worked BOH years ago that I always thought would make a perfect Lobster and steamer clam venue.  Picnic tables, lots of drawn butter, good slaw, potato salad and a thumping reggae soundtrack.  Maybe a seasonal fish of the day but nothing else.  I know I'm missing non-seafood items and desserts, but hey, it's a fantasy, right? 

After I worked there, it changed hands a few times and after a renovation became this.

I haven't eaten there so I can't say too much about it, but the thought of a perfectly good seafood shack turning into a spot that spells "Grill" with a phony "le" tacked onto then end saddens me.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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My true fantasy restaurant would involve a time machine for surely it would be Paris' Cafe Anglais during the days of Chef Aldolphe Duglere and especially uring the days that Anna Deslions visited there. To dine with the Goncourt Brothers with Sainte-Beuve and others of their ilk on some of Duglere's marvelous invnetions.

Second best I suppose would be Barasserie Lipp sitting opposite Hemingway and then to Deux Magots to dine with Sartre.

Third best, Procope to share a table with either Voltaire, Benjamin Franklin or Karl Marx.

But all is fair - I'm a dreamer.

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I don't remember if they served much else - which is a factor in shaping my fantasy restaurant.  There is a place at a marina here in Portland harbor that I worked BOH years ago that I always thought would make a perfect Lobster and steamer clam venue.  Picnic tables, lots of drawn butter, good slaw, potato salad and a thumping reggae soundtrack.  Maybe a seasonal fish of the day but nothing else.  I know I'm missing non-seafood items and desserts, but hey, it's a fantasy, right? 

You've basically got my fantasy except I'm avoiding the Maine winters and have added the elements of a children's book and some hot oil. :laugh:

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My true fantasy restaurant would involve a time machine for surely it would be Paris' Cafe Anglais during the days of Chef Aldolphe Duglere and especially uring the days that Anna Deslions visited there.  To dine with the Goncourt Brothers with Sainte-Beuve and others of their ilk on some of Duglere's marvelous invnetions.

Second best I suppose would be Barasserie Lipp sitting opposite Hemingway and then to Deux Magots to dine with Sartre.

Third best, Procope to share a table with either Voltaire, Benjamin Franklin or Karl Marx.

But all is fair  - I'm a dreamer.

So, Rogov - would it be the food or the people that are most important in your fantasy? :rolleyes:

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My fondly-held fantasy of many years is quite like Charles's, sharing many aspects incl. specifically the three colors of wine on each table, with the occasional bonus fantasy level of one, the red most likely, having been vinted by Ivan and me, drawn from an unseen cask and served in a pitcher or carafe. It has long been one of the most important facets of the fantasy to live above the store, but since acquiring a barn, I sometimes picture serving in its finished upstairs. Either has a fixed-price daily carte, rustic and elegant.

Ivan, charming, gracious, and with the sympathetic ear of a good bartender, will fulfill his own fantasy, which is to host. The 15-year-old and his mad skilz will serve and bus & more. I cook, whatever suggests itself to me from the accumulation in my head and in the garden and at the farmer's market.

Priscilla

Writer, cook, & c. ● #TacoFriday observant ●  Twitter    Instagram

 

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And what if you woke up one morning, and the restaurant fairy had visited you, and suddenly, POOF, you had your wish granted. Would you wake up with sweaty palms? Would you ever sleep again?

One must be very, very careful about what they wish for.

Teaser: I have sweaty palms right now.

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And what if you woke up one morning, and the restaurant fairy had visited you, and suddenly, POOF, you had your wish granted.  Would you wake up with sweaty palms?
Yes, but that happens now anyway. :laugh:
Would you ever sleep again?
No.

I might serve lunch at my little place. Two soups, and a small selection of sandwiches, to eat after the shopping and before the pastries. :smile:

Edited by hjshorter (log)

Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

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Buy a small ship, like in the 180-200 foot range. Pull the engines so I don't have to employ a watchstanding crew full time. Net over the maindeck with mosquito mesh and put a couple dozen tables out there. Fantail/stern would be the lounge, with the best collection of Carribean and African rum I could put together (maybe some cigars for sale, too, when the wind is right). Dogfish Head 60 IPA on tap, that's for sure! Perhaps a banquete on the bridge seating 6 for VIP occasions.

Call it Vessel and put a lot of thought into making the Ladies' washroom a comfortable place.

Menu... Mediterranean fusion, changing to reflect the seasons and whatever produce is good right now. Scallops on linguine with hummus alfredo, duck tagine, maybe a nice Eggs Benedict with prosciutto di Parma and organic eggs on little foccacia rounds with Sauce Maltaise, because who doesn't like breakfast for supper now and again?

Music? Morphine, Brubeck, the Specials--Crom have mercy, anything but Jimmy Buffet and Bob Marley. Good live jazz combos if available in whatever mythical city will grant a permit for this enterprise.

This whole love/hate thing would be a lot easier if it was just hate.

Bring me your finest food, stuffed with your second finest!

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