b Papa Dog's Blog: We Go to a Grown-Up Restaurant

Papa Dog's Blog

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Saturday, October 15, 2005

We Go to a Grown-Up Restaurant

Mama Dog has been jonesing for aeons to try out this new trendy restaurant in Temescal, around the corner from our old apartment. Like most trendy restaurants in the East Bay, it’s run by a former chef from Chez Panisse and has a line out the door whenever you happen by. They don’t take reservations, so it’s been a big logistical conundrum to figure out when to go. This wouldn’t have been a problem in the pre-baby days, but with Baby Dog along we didn’t want to spend an hour waiting for a table and have her melt down before the bread showed up. The obvious answer seemed to be to go right as soon as they opened for business, which is 5:30, but that’s been hard to arrange. We kept thinking we could do it on one of my Wednesdays off, but one thing or another always came up to prevent it. In fact, we were supposed to go there for Mama Dog’s birthday dinner, but that proved impossible too. So tonight’s meal was a long time in coming.

The restaurant is in a site that was occupied since the dawn of time by a family-owned hardware store. One always had the sense of traveling through a time warp when entering G&G Hardware. There were window displays that seemed not to have changed since the 1950s. It was cramped and crowded and crammed full of stuff, and since their inventory didn’t seem to be in any particular hurry to go anywhere, you could usually count on them having whatever you needed. Mama Dog and I used to call it the grumpy hardware store because the family staff members were always getting on one another’s nerves, cussing each other out, and being sour though helpful to the customers. I know this doesn’t seem like a formula for success, but the fact they’d lasted as long as they had really made it seem like they could go on forever. I don’t know much about the story, but I think they got priced out of their building when the landlord caught wind of the former Chez Panisse chef’s interest in the site.

We arrived tonight at 6:30, as soon as we could after Mama Dog’s yoga class, for the long-deferred birthday dinner. One of the attractions of the place was that it was reputed to be baby-friendly, which proved to be true. I saw several babies there before us and several more after. The acoustics create a nice noisy babble effect, so the cries of no one particular baby are going to get noticed. Unfortunately, there already was a line out the door by 6:30. We were lucky, being a party of two (plus baby); our wait was only until 7. Parties of four were told to expect to wait until 8.

We had waited so long to go to this place, and half an hour didn’t seem like too horrendous a wait, so I said, okay, let’s do it. In our hurry to leave the house we’d forgotten to pack any books for Baby Dog to pass the time with, so to remedy that and to kill a few minutes, I wheeled the girl across the street to Walgreen’s to do a little shopping. You may assume, and you would be correct, that Walgreen’s is not the most literary-minded retail operation around. It took a while to find any books at all, and the pickings among the baby books were pretty slim. Mostly they were colouring books of mass-market characters like Arthur the Rodent or whatever else was hot a few years ago. I had said to Mama Dog, “I can just get some Disney shit or something and we can throw it out later.” Fortunately, I didn’t have to resort to that. There were two little cut-rate books, one about hippos and one about velociraptors, and I snapped those up. The hippo book was actually kind of a find. It had a squeaky hippo in it which Baby Dog took to immediately. The velociraptor book was shockingly irresponsible. It shows a little boy hanging out with a velociraptor, dining with him, and cuddling up to him. It details the various differences between their two species: I have hair and he has scaly skin; he only eats meat but I’ll eat anything. Yeah, plus one other little difference, kid: you’re meat and when you give it a great big hug that thing will fucking eat you. I can only imagine the lawyers breathing a sigh of relief when it was explained to them that velociraptors have been extinct for millions of years.

The most horrific thing I saw in Walgreen’s, though, was a stack of books called Great Illustrated Classics for Children or some such. They’re versions of classic adventure and other traditionally child-friendly stories, packaged in a format similar to Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew books. They were on sale for two for $5, and the top one was Call of the Wild. I thought maybe I’d buy a couple and stash them away until Baby Dog was old enough to have a more involved bedtime story. I picked up Call of the Wild – which is actually the first book she ever heard read – and flipped to the first page, ready to read that famous opening line – “Buck did not read the newspapers, or he would have known that trouble was brewing, not only for himself, but for every tide-water dog, strong of muscle and with warm, long hair, from Puget Sound to San Diego.” Instead, I saw some shit like this (paraphrasing from memory): “The day that changed Buck’s life started like any other” and blah blah blah. I dropped the thing like it had burned me. Which, in a way, it had. I felt like I’d just seen a sort of literary grave desecration. Made me want to rub my hands down well with the hand sanitizer Mama Dog carries around.

Well, we killed time with the hippo book and the idiotic velociraptor book, and when those wore out their efficacy, I walked Baby Dog up and down Telegraph Avenue until our names were called. We were seated in the very back of the restaurant, which was great, since Baby Dog could make even more noise and not disturb anyone. In fact, she was very well behaved until the very end of the meal. It was by that long past her bedtime and she was cranky and ready to sleep. She had greatly enjoyed the bread, which was very good and seemed to have been baked on the premises. She flirted with the two different sets of older people seated behind me and was in general a good and happy baby. Mama Dog and I enjoyed our meals, had some really good wine, and talked like adults while our baby stuffed her own maw and player with her books and daddy’s cell phone. I don’t know what the chances are that we’ll be able to get back there any time soon, but it was definitely worth a half hour’s wait to get in. Too bad about the hardware store, though.


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