Bayside Bowl - Portland, ME

THE UNOFFICIAL TRUNCATED GLOSSARY OF BOWLING TERMS


 


Anchor (N) – The member of a bowling team most likely to bowl the highest score and take bowling so seriously that any jokes about them in this definition will probably earn the writer a verbal or physical altercation.

 

Approach (N) – The period of time between addressing the pins and releasing the ball when one has absolutely no control over their legs.

 

Beer Frame (N) – On a team of four bowlers, if three out of the four bowlers hit a strike in one frame, the bowler who did not get a strike must buy a pitcher of beer for the rest of the team i.e. blinding genius.

 

Bowl a 300 (N) – Bowling a strike every single frame (including three strikes in the last frame); an event which, like the wendigo, is rumored to exist but few, if any, have ever been seen.

 

Bowling (N) – A sport that every young man wishes impressed women more than it does.

 

Bowling Ball (N) – A polyurethane sphere with three, finger-sized holes capable of humiliating a person with great athletic talent and making a hero of someone with none.

 

Bumpers (N) – Ball-deflecting objects on the lane adjacent that mean tiny kids will be constantly dicking around in your peripheral vision, totally ruining any chance you had of bowling a good game.

 

Celebrate (V) – (to celebrate) to act elated, either earnestly after a good bowl or, most often, ironically, after you throw the ball in the gutter for like the eighth time.

 

Field Goal (N) – When, on the second bowl, you roll the ball perfectly between two pins, like an idiot, hitting none; witnesses are required to raise their arms in mock “it’s good” fashion.

 

Frame (N) – The smallest unit of time necessary to prove you suck/are amazing at bowling.

 

Friendly Competition (N) – In the context of bowling, this word is meaningless. See: Cutthroat Competition, Silent Car Ride Home, Relationship Counseling

 

Gutter (N) – twin vortexes lurking just beyond both edges of the lane; rumored to make a thin, siren-like wail that can only be heard during an important approach.

 

High Five (N) – A slapping motion of two or more hands made after every single shot for like the first four frames and then everybody stops unless you’re just crushing strikes and then everyone wants some hot five-age.

 

High-Pressure Situation (N) – A period of time in which you actually care about chucking a ball at ten pregnant-lady-shaped painted logs while the earth itself is nothing but a subatomic dot stranded in the vast reaches of an endless, undying universe.

 

Just One More (N) – (an idiom, regularly used in reference to an alcoholic beverage) a thousand more.


 

Lane (N) – An oblong rectangle of parallel, oiled boards that, if stepped on, will cause you to perform at least ¾ of a split and humiliate yourself no matter how you try to play it off.

 

Lane Etiquette (N) – the act of checking left and right — to make sure nobody is already in their approach on a lane adjacent — before bowling your ball; the best way to avoid a fight with an anchor.

 

Nice Shot (N) – An idiom used as a combination of solace/encouragement when one almost hits a crazy-difficult split. Like, seriously, almost nails it.

 

Pins (N) – Ten painted pieces of wood, arranged in a triangle at the end of the bowling lane, imbued with the malevolence of Satan.

 

Spare (N) – The act of knocking down all the remaining pins on the second bowl of a frame, usually accompanied by the phrase, “It should have been a strike.”

 

Spare Ball (N) – A secondary ball used specifically for bowling spares owned by a bowler by whom you will be so badly beaten that your enjoyment of bowling will be permanently diminished.

 

Split (N) – A situation in which, after the first bowl of a frame, at least two remaining non-adjacent pins can go fuck themselves.

 

Slip (V) – (to slip) An awkward, unexpected motion of the foot; the scapegoat for every single bad shot ever bowled.

 

Strike (N) – An act after which one is permitted to either A: jump, scream, howl, and dance or B: shrug, act angry, and mutter, “Jesus… finally…”

 

The Zone (N) –  Roughly three beers deep.

 

Tots (N) – A delicious, crispy, potato-y lane-side treat and specialty of the Bayside Bowl kitchen.

 

Turkey (N) – A situation — heralded by bowling three strikes in a row — in which it is somehow acceptable to shove your hands into your armpits and flap your truncated, wing-like elbows while gobbling. Alternately, a hand on top of the head in rough mimic of a cock’s comb is also acceptable. Teammates are required to celebrate this decision, no matter how oafish the gyrations appear.

 

 


FOOD:

3.8

Bowling alley fare this is not. Bayside knows their way around a lane and a kitchen. The standouts are the burgers and tater tots, with a solid burrito and many more options. And if you don’t think tots go well with bowling then you, my friend, are mistaken.

PRICE:

7-10 Split

Average prices for above average quality. Burgs/Sandwiches/Wraps run around $10. Also, Moosehead beer is so cheap it’s almost like they don’t add it to your bill, either that or I’m drunk.

AMBIENCE:

No Country for Bowled Men

Nice, modern design makes for a rad, comfortable atmosphere that doesn’t get in the way of the main aim: bowling.

SERVICE: 

Five (star) Bagger

Seriously, the fine servers at Bayside are just excellent. Lane-side service, + they remember your tab + they are pleasant to be around. A++.

EAT OR SKIP:

Bowl

It’s a fine alley with great crowds and mighty grub. The real strikin’ deal.

 

Blue Rooster Food Co - Portland, ME



Looking through the verdant swaying foliage from the panoramic window in my bedroom, I almost convinced myself I didn’t have any animal hybrids at all — as if it were just solitary me in the midst of wild ocean on a tropical haven of solitude.

            Peering from under the sheets of my egg-shaped water bed, I realized that the previous night was one of the first good sleeps I’d had since the whole electrified wolfverine escape. I felt good. It’s interesting, when you forget what it feels like to just feel good, to not feel put-upon and heavy with problems that you can’t directly solve. This island, BloodSpew Cove — my island — is kind of a handful.

            The electrified wolfverine mishap was basically just a miscalculation on my part. Who knew they would be strong enough to gnaw through their steel enclosure’s bars? After devouring Ken Klatch, a really nice lackey, they absconded to the wilds where they’re now vigorously procreating. Looking on the bright side though, having giant, vicious, electrified quadrupeds isn’t the worst form of security against would-be snoopers.

            Unfortunately, I can’t spin the Tasmanian Marlin Man imbroglio. The three maimed interns aren’t going to dole out very good reviews after that one.

            To make matters worse Gloria Languardo, my unflappable assistant, was worried by this week’s gen-mod forum presentation in which I unveiled the SARS AIDS Cheetah.

            “What, exactly,” she said, “is the benefit of the fastest land-mammal imbued with both SARS and AIDS?” Well, she stumped me with that one. I was just thinking, check out this badass cheetah, y’know? Needless to say I tabled that project along with the invisible sentient Alzheimer’s cloud.

            I’m not all blunders thought. I mean, yeah, my Dad, Dr. Inferno, gave me this island. I named it BloodSpew Cove. The whole idea of filling it with heinous genetic mutant abominations was purely my initiative. I realize that the idea wasn’t anything particularly new — yeah yeah Dr. Moreau got there first — but I still brought it all to life.

            The actual problem — besides all these little mishaps — is that the third annual board meeting was coming up and all the investors would be here in a week. That means Professor Knife, Bill Hates, Señor Deathface, The Gay Phantom and the head of the board, my father, Dr. Inferno.

            This is the problem with our capitalist shackles; it allows no room for blue sky innovation! True progress — not to mention the entire structure of scientific inquiry — requires you to chuck a couple concepts against the wall and see what sticks! But nooooo, you have to be saleable, scalable, profitable and marketable from day one. No grace period, no try it out period! No, hey maybe in retrospect that radioactive crow-bear wasn’t the best idea. Just bam! Profit, profit, profit.

            BloodSpew Cove actually started off swimmingly; my fireproof mice were basically the hottest seller in 2011. They helped as an early-warning for stuff like carbon monoxide or actual flames. Only problem, of course, was that they were also bullet-proof, ageless and humped like mad, which any idiot who read the fine print would have known. Luckily, those lawsuits are still pending.

            In better news, Horatio, my chickenrhino wrangler, sang the praises of my new herding dog: the taser hound. Keeps the chickenrhino’s charge-pecking to a minimum, which means food bills go down. Great stuff.

            It’s hard enough to run an island in the middle of the pacific. Try adding vicious, crafty, ungodly critters to that mix. And then try to make it profitable. This is no banana stand operation.

            Supply-wise this island is a money suck. We used to ship everything out on my forty thousand cubic foot nuclear submarine, the Arc Too. But that’s been out of commission since 2010. I’m convinced that the more money a vehicle costs, the faster it breaks. Currently, we get all our supplies from Amazon.

            Six days out from the meeting, my father came for a preliminary inspection. His goatee, as always, was waxed to a full point.

            “So, you want to give me the run down?” he said. I hemmed and hawed that I was still in early stages of the presentation and wouldn’t want to divulge an unfinished draft.

            “You haven’t started yet,” he said, taking off his signature square, bright red sunglasses and rubbing his eyes. “Listen, Nate. This island is an opportunity. I realize that the economy hasn’t been kind to it lately, but the board is starting to get a little worried. You need to show them that next year we’ll be in the red, and not the kind of red we’ve been seeing recently.”

            I kicked some dirt under a lab table.

            “These escapes,” said my Dad. “This island is a death trap. Three maimed interns, Ken Klatch eaten two months ago, three lackeys who now have both SARS and AIDS. The escaped electrified wolfverines roaming the forest making it so Amazon has to deliver to my island for safety purposes? I mean Nate…”

            He stopped when he noticed a tear trace my cheek. He put a hand on my shoulder.

            “It’s OK. Just take care of those electrified wolfverines. Everything else should be fine.”

            His helicopter hadn’t even taken off before the alarms started going again. Another escape. Two decapitated lackeys later, we managed to goad the lobstergent back into his sand hut.

            It took forty eight hours in bed for me to break out of that bout of depression.

            I mean, in the beginning, I’d set out in hopes of conquering the planet with my heinous affronts to God’s plan. Right now? I’d seriously just settle for amusement park status. Y’know, ship in kids by the ferry load, tire the suckers out and then hit their parents' wallets with a gift shop at the exit. Man, that would be the life.



            Three days out from the meeting and things were actually looking up! We had to clean out the Snale tank — a whale-sized aquatic snake — and it went off without a hitch: no deaths. Surprisingly, lackeys are pretty hard to come by these days. They’ve got to be hardy, strapping and bereft of a single individual thought. Also, it helps if they’re of various nationalities; you don’t want to get slapped with the old “Arian Domination” label.

            It’s a great island though. My Dad bought it — along with several other remote, ominously-shaped islands (skull, bomb, middle finger, &c &c) — back in the nineties when it looked like property value would never stop soaring. Then when he got nailed by the market he sold all of them but his island and mine.  

            Two days to the meeting and still no progress on the wolfverine situation, but I had a brilliant thought. If I needed help, why not help myself?

            So, I cloned myself.

            I’m no idiot about cloning, I didn’t make some evil twin or anything. In fact, I added some ant genes to his makeup so he’d not only be more diligent but would take commands from me, his queen. Plus, I tattooed a big 2 on his face so I wouldn’t have to worry about any of those silly gunfight double binds with both of us yelling that we’re the real original at some indecisive lackey holding a quivering pistol.

            Needless to say my clone was a huge help. I gave him one tour of the island, showed him around the different boring jobs I had to do and boom, instant second in command. It’s amazing I didn’t think of it earlier.

            Last day before the big meeting and everything actually came together! Surprising to see. My clone pulled his weight in a major way. He even managed to herd all the electrified wolfverines back into their pit. That ant gene really put some diligent pep in his step.

            I felt good. I was getting things done and that really boosted my spirits. I beamed at the thought of the board getting to see my island then.

            Then the board meeting happened. In short, it did not go as originally planned.

            About an hour before the meeting, I was lounging on the picturesque vista by the praying manatee lagoon and my clone dropped by to give me an update. At least that’s what I was expecting. Instead, this clone had a huge five on his face and started to strangle me. So there I am about an hour before the meeting, beating my clone to death with a pina-colada-filled coconut to the chittering snorts of the praying manatees below. Quite a scene!

            Welp, turns out I put Queen ant genes into my clone instead of just worker ant so that was a faux pas on my part. Basically, my clone was clandestinely pumping out ancillary clones and cleaning up to keep me distracted. By the time the Gay Phantom arrived — he’s always the most punctual — in his invisible submarine, the place was pretty much bedlam.

            Clone 2 was trying to destroy every other creature on the island to make room for his brood of copies — I saw a clone numbered 59 suplex a security guard. I had to text Miss Languardo to get on the intercom and let all staff know that they needed to basically flee or be mercilessly destroyed.

            We ended up having the board meeting in Professor Knife’s Hover-Scythe.

            “It appears our investment,” I said, not even bothering to open the PowerPoint presentation I’d prepared, “will need a longer-term view.”

            My father and the board eventually agreed to a small downsize. Total, eschaton-level melt-down of an evil island was actually covered in our insurance package, so that was great foresight.

            I’m currently looking into office space around the Silicon Valley area. I figure we can have a cool office with like a Ping-Pong table, video games and maybe something edgy like a beer vending machine. That sort of stuff boosts morale. I want to make sure my staff and abominations don’t feel like they’re getting the short end in this deal. They’re the ones who really matter, after all.


 

FOOD:

3.5

Inventive dogs. Scrumptious tots. A great spot for a quick lunch.

PRICE: 

Cock-a-Doodle Deal

Wow that is a breathtakingly bad pun (if that can even be considered a pun). You’ll not pay much though.

AMBIENCE:

Cooped

Sitting inside consists of solely counter space around the outside of the room. Probably accommodates 15 comfortably. Fits the style of food perfectly though, plus the rooster décor is awesome.

SERVICE:

Struttin’ Their Stuff

Order from the cashier. Get food from the cashier.

EAT OR SKIP:

Eat

If you’re in the mood for a killer dog, solid sandy or some hot tots (hot in the “popular” sense, not spicy-hot), Blue Rooster will have you crowing. There is now a special nook in hell for me thanks to all these rooster puns.

Five Fifty-Five - Portland, ME



“You know barkeep,” I say to the barkeep. “this is a great salad.” He nods. “I mean, this salad…” I point at the salad with my fork and grunt. He nods again. There’s a pause where I look him in the eyes for a while and try not to blink.

            “It’s a great salad,” says the barkeep. He looks away and starts cleaning a glass. I blink.

            “I mean, I’d take this salad out to dinner.” I punctuate the last statement with a snort and a know-what-I’m-saying style vaudeville wink. The bartender raises his eyebrows and nods. He goes to walk away and I call him back.

            “C’mere,” I say. “C’mere and just smell this thing. Garlic, cheese, white anchovy,” I grab his lapel. “I mean you can just smell the smoke in this thing!” The menu boasts that they smoke the romaine and you can taste it — it’s tender too. The barkeep calmly waits until I release my grip. I keep eating, chuckling in awe as I do. After a couple bites I let go. The barkeep fixes his hair and goes to ask the other patrons at the bar how they’re doing. He’s a nice guy, this barkeep.

            “Y’know, barkeep,” I say, clinking my knife against my full glass of water. “I’d date this salad.” He laughs. “Seriously,” I say.

            I am serious. I would court this salad to the point of marriage. The bartender’s not even batting an eye. He’s just straight-facing a man saying that he’s falling in love with a salad. And I’m not kidding. Does he think I’m kidding? I’m not. Top notch service at 555. Just a pleasure of a place.

            “It’s beautiful,” I say. A beautiful thing to find love. I grab a passing server.

            “Who made this salad?” I nearly scream it at her. I can’t help it. A piece of romaine sticks to her nicely pressed collar.

            “I’m sorry, sir.” She says. “Are you asking where we source our ingredients from?” I shake my head, chuckling. What a great interpretation of my question. Wrong, but great.

            “Made it. Made the salad. Whose hands created this?”

            She levels an open palm toward the kitchen. “Our chefs, sir.” The barkeep is already back, showing his support. She’s playing me cool too. She must be twenty — a professional for her age. “Is there a problem with it?”

            “A problem?” I lean down and rub my face in the salad and grab her coat at the same time. Then I pull her close to my face so she gets a whiff of the dressing caked up in my facial hair and the pieces of lettuce and the crouton now lodged in my nose. “You smell that? That’s pure delicious.”

            She smiles at me and waits for me to let go. I give her some wildeye and snort the crouton out of my nose. She nods.

            “Good,” I say. This place is top notch. Five Fifty-Five, what a name. The whole bar is looking at me now — plus some patrons peeping from over from the dining area. I let go of her after looking around a bit.

            “We’re glad you like it,” says the barkeep.

            “Yeah, that’s great,” says the server. They’re so good they must be robots. Androids. Keeping calm with me grabbing them and snortin’ ‘tons. It makes me respect them.

            I bet in the height of Rome they didn’t have service this good. I could probably bring a severed lion head in here and they’d smile and ask how I’d like it done. Kings wish their retinues were this good. Such food. I grab the plate, dump it on the ground and body slam the rest. People watch as I writhe through the grub.

            “Really great stuff,” I repeat. The barkeep leans up over the bar and smiles.

            “It’s tasty,” he says. “I love that salad.”

            “Get the manager!” I shriek that one. By now I’m covered in all sorts of Ceasar Salad bits. The floor is kind of smeared with the dressing and I’m doing Caesar angels by the time he shows.

            “Sir, I see you’re enjoying the salad.” The manager is another smooth customer. I chuck an anchovy at him and he lets it hit his laundered suit. He doesn’t even wipe the white mark. Then I lob a handful of salad and he opens his mouth. Doesn’t catch any but I appreciate the gesture.



            “You guys have a vomitorium?” I ask.

            The server, barkeep and manager look at each other and shrug.

            “I’m sorry sir,” says the manager. “We don’t know what that is.”

             At length, I explain to them the fabled upper limits of excess in late Roman culture. The vomitorium, legend goes, was a place where full-bellied revelers could go to upchuck their meals so as to free up space and keep the fête fêting.

            “One sec,” says the manager. “Let me check with the owners.” He hustles out and leaves me with the server and barkeep. I try to get up and slip in the greasy mess. The barkeep rounds the bar and the server is already rolling up her sleeves to help me. I bellow at them to stand back. Wriggling like a snake, I make a fair tour of the facility. Keeping my arms locked close to my sides I slitheringly locomote around under feet and chairs. I even make a tour of the kitchen, hasty chefs step over and around me without complaint.

            Back at the bar I use a chair for leverage and haul myself up. Everybody is smiling and grinning, having a great goddamn time. Who knew a place like this could be so jovial. I salute them and make a sprinting leap out the front window. Laying on the street in a pile of glass shards and trickling blood I hear the barkeep crunch up next to me.

            “You forgot your salad,” he says to me. Sure enough he’s holding a little to-go box of salad that he scraped off the floor. I thank him profusely and limp home.

            Later that evening I pick out the ring on TV. Me and the salad get married three days later. It’s a tasteful ceremony at my childhood church. Not too many in attendance, just close relatives. You can imagine how I feel seeing the love of my life wheeled down the aisle by the manager. He even draped the pushcart in a gorgeous wedding dress. Those guys at 555 really know their service.

            Fifty-five years later and me and my Caesar Salad are still together. We have kids with two grand kids on the way. Beautiful family. Wonderful life. My Caesar Salad is a couples therapist and I’ve made enough money in aboveground swimming pool foreclosure to while away the days painting watercolors in my garage studio. Still-lives mostly — is what I paint — with the occasional landscape thrown in.

And there I am sitting in my garage when I hear a chuckle in the house — a man’s chuckle.

            Bursting in the door I find my salad on the table with the manager. He’s sitting across the table, a cup of coffee steaming in front of him. Sure, he’s got the lines of age but he looks healthy and great and he gives me a wave. I wave right back.

            “Manager,” I say.

            “Howdy,” he says. I shake his hand across the table, not realizing I’ve still got wet paint on there. I apologize but the manager just smiles. It’s a hell of a shock seeing him after all this time but we fall back into easy conversation.

            The toilet flushes and out comes the server, wiping her hands on a beige towel initialed S & M. Stands for Salad and Me.

            I wave to her and she motions for the barkeep to get off the couch and come say hi. They’re all still wearing the same stuff they were that one night way back fifty-five years ago.

“Happy anniversary,” says the barkeep. Anniversary? I’d forgotten all about that! Who could have goddamn guessed that fifty five years later here come these wonderful people back to celebrate the day I met my salad wife.

            We all sit in the drawing room and reminisce about the great times we had at 555.

            “And then…” the Manager is laughing. “And then he just commando crawls all around the dining room. The whole thing!”

            “No!” I say.

            “Yes. Yes you did!” The waitress points and laughs, tears rolling through the grooves of the crow’s feet etched beside her beautiful eyes.

“No I didn’t! I did not commando crawl!” I silence them with my hands, waving them down. They all go quiet except for little chuckles and hoos as they get the laughs out. Expectation is palpable in the air.

            “I slithered.” I say, and then I slither out of the room to the thunder of their laughter. Salad just sits there on the table. Man. 555. What super times. Stellar people. Really love that place.

 

 

 

FOOD: 

4.5

We’re talking the real deal here. A Caesar is a dish that is hard to mess up and equally difficult to improve. Five Fifty-Five improved it with the addition of smoked romaine leaves. Utter magic. Their burger is also insanely good. I have not yet had their tasting menu but I have been assured by reliable sources that it is, indeed, ballzerko. Full disclosure, I have only actually eaten the burger and Caesar Salad. Twice. Both were of such high quality that I have utter confidence in the rest of the menu. I will be sampling it soon.

PRICE:

$555

Is joke. Is funny. Kidding aside, it is a pricier establishment. In this circumstance, though, with price comes quality. This meal is worth every cent.

AMBIENCE:

Low Light. Just Right.

It’s the ambience you’d expect and desire at a place with such great food. Wood, exposed brick, sparse art, this is a comfortable nook to nestle into for a delightfully protracted meal.

SERVICE:

High Five

Another shining gold star goes to the service. Knowledgeable and prompt. These people deserve some mad tippage.

EAT OR SKIP: 

Eat

It is not necessarily my go-to nice restaurant in Portland, but it is a staple. You will walk out pleased as punch.

Mea Culpa


I apologize, this week there will be no Drunch. The discerning Drunch audience deserves the highest caliber of post and this week would have fallen far, far short.

 

In the best form of apology I can muster, please enjoy this brief, curated list of some of my personal favorite Drunch posts (BONUS: Remember what Drunch was like before the pencil-y pictures!).

 

 

SOME O’ THE BEST IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER


Ladies and gentlemen… I present to you... the Monty’s Grill All Stars! Click to get pumped!


Wherefore canst thou gorge on fried chicken sup? At Giordano’s, verily. Clicketh, please.

 

You know Paulo Profundo? Man could body slam a redwood! Plus, I saw him drink the whole Bloody Mary deal at Fernando’s! Gollee, just give this a click!


 Visit Harvest to re-experience the Urmas horror that is Uk-Bong the Feral Nutkin. Bend your claw and click.

 

SHAME: 

5.0

I am dirt.

PRICE:

Self Respect

The mirror is my enemy.

AMBIENCE: 

Fog of Dismay

This world is a prison.

PENNANCE: 

1,000 Lashes

Not enough.

FORGIVE OR SCORN: 

Forgive

I beg of you.

Shays Grill Pub - Portland, ME



ANYWHERE BUT SHAYS

(In the key of C)

 

Why do I appear to slur and stumble on this merriest of days?

I’ll tell you true, ‘til my face is blue! I was anywhere but Shay’s!

 

I took a trip to Phippsburg and fished for lobsters there,

Their pincer claws clacked angrily as they met the ocean air.

No, with good Gary, merrily we paddled Casco Bay,

The gulls in flocks of bastard culls cawed at us from the quay.

 

Oh wife please I swear it’s true where I’ve been today.

Rip off the ring and call off the thing! I was anywhere but Shay’s!

 

In Kennebunk I met a monk and passed a calm repast

No it was Boston, I lied, Austin that’s where I parked my mast.

Was it New York, where I put a fork into a hedonistic meal?

Or San Francisco, where I danced to disco in a suit of shiny teal?

 

Oh son please I swear it’s true where I’ve been today.

Set your room aflame and curse my name! I was anywhere but Shay’s!

 

In Kathmandu, I swear to you, I strolled the whole New Road

Or on the Nile, for quite a while, I drummed upon a toad.

I played some chess in Bucharest and mated with mighty ease.

No, it was with Putin, rootin’ tootin’ I went shootin’ in the trees!

 

Oh brother please I swear it’s true where I’ve been today.

Spill kindred blood in mud my bud! I was anywhere but Shay’s!


No, to the moon, I truly zoomed in a rocket made of steel,

And chock a block with dusty rocks I enjoyed a picnic meal.

Or far on Mars I shook the foot of a ghastly purple slug.

His grip was tight and with mighty might he gave me a Martian hug!

 

Oh father please I swear it’s true where I’ve been today.

Call me a liar and damn me to fire! I was anywhere but Shay’s!

 

I beat the yeti in a fair bet he, graciously, shook my hand!

I fought the Chupacabra with a candelabra in the Yucatan!

For the morn a unicorn took a ride upon my back.

But when I asked to switch he ditched and ran away, alack!

 

Oh Papa please I swear it’s true where I’ve been today,

Grab your gun and make me run! I was anywhere but Shay’s!

 

With force of will I forced my form to dissipate to dust

And back in time I bushwhacked to an age ‘fore guns and rust.

With Ogg and Utt in darkened hut I scratched out the whole deal,

For good and all I taught them to shave stone into a wheel!

 

Oh mother please I swear it’s true where I’ve been today.

Disown your own son publicly! I was anywhere but Shay’s!

 

In truth I briefly died and spent some time up with the lord,

Around us angels’ trumpets blared, the music of a horde.

He gave me quite a lecture on what was right and wrong,

Go up and see and he’ll agree to the veracity of this song!

 

You reader there I swear it’s true where I’ve been today,

Close the page in rage you sage! The truth? I went to Shay’s!


 

FOOD:

4.4

The best bar food in Portland. The fries have a crunch few can best. The burgers are top notch and sangitches are in the top two in town. It’s nothing revolutionary here as far as selection goes, but what they do, they do so damn well.

PRICE:

Check please

$9-$10 for most things you want. Burgers, sangitches, salads. Plus, they’ve got drink specials falling out of their pockets. Half-price this, $1 that. Very very good.

AMBIENCE:

Alpine-ish

I don’t know what makes me think this place belongs at the base of a ski lift, but consider it a compliment. It’s got a nice, cozy (yet not cramped) atmosphere that just makes you want to hole up, eat delicious food and demolish beer-like objects.

SERVICE: 

You bet

Service has been top notch every time. And believe me, the sample size of my Shays experiences is vast.

EAT OR SKIP:

Eat

Let me burst the happy bubble here a tiny bit. If you’re in Portland for 2 nights, you probably don’t need to eat at Shays. That’s not a slight on Shays, just a testament to the amazing culinary scene in Portland at the moment. However, if you live in Portland, Shays is a goddamn miracle. Every time you go it delivers on everything you want and need. It is the most failsafe option in this entire city, providing delicious meal after delicious meal like clockwork. I love Shays. Seriously. I love Shays.

 

Starlite Diner - Moscow, Russia

             Biting into the burger, I felt a tear in my eye. Outside, cars hummed through frozen air along Strastnoy Boulevard near Moscow’s center. M. watched me bite into the burger with anticipation. She’d brought me to Starlite Diner because she wanted to see how a real American reacted to this simulacrum of Americana. Moscow was her home. It certainly wasn’t mine.

            Nestled next to Tchaikovsky concert hall in Aquarium Park, Starlite Diner doesn’t so much stick out as appear by surprise. To get there, M. and I caught the subway and braved a brief, frigid walk. Through puffs of ghostly breath, I spotted the diner, looking as if a tornado had carried it straight from Kansas and plopped it here in the wintery heart of Moscow.

Constructed from materials shipped all the way from Florida, Starlite Diner is a piece of authentic Americana. Right down, or up, to the neon sign — a shooting star with the name emblazoned in both English and Cyrillic — perched on its chrome top.

M. had wanted to take me to the Starlite Diner for weeks, but something had always come up. Now, on this Saturday morning two days before my return to America, after three solid months of negative temperatures and a thimble of cumulative sunlight, I was getting a taste of home.

I ordered a burger called “The Really Big Shawn,” consisting of three patties, chili, cheese, jalapenos and bacon resting upon a bed of fries. The menu suggested I bring an appetite for it. I did.

My second bite of the burger brought more cheese, mild chili and smoky bacon. I chased the burger with fry after crinkle-cut fry and saturated the lot with hearty pulls on my vanilla milkshake.

It didn’t feel as though I was simply eating a burger. It was much too good for that. I was releasing pressure from the almost constant difficulty that had characterized my stay in Russia. My stay thus far had only been three and a half months. Three and a half months of sleeping on a modified couch in a flat with five roommates, walking to and from work in the oppressive, half-light of Moscow’s unyielding winter, always having a little less money than necessary, eating the same cost-cutting meals and being cut off from extensive human contact by an impenetrable language barrier. Not that I’d had any illusions going into the situation that it would be easy. But, originally, I thought I could cut it. And, in total, it wasn’t even the worst situation to be in, mostly uncomfortable. That’s why the tear, the relief at the thought of home, came as such a shock.

            M. asked me how it tasted. I told her with grunts, surreptitiously wiping the tear with my napkin. She’d been a fantastic guide and good friend to me the months I’d spent in Russia. We’d gone to Gorky Park in the rain and toured the stern grounds of the Kremlin and Red Square. She had deep knowledge of Moscow’s history and tended to show her city in a brighter light than what it appeared to me, an outsider. Obviously, having grown up there, Moscow was her home, and she loved it.

Outside, snow fell, each flake evenly spaced; I couldn’t have told you if it had just been snowing that day or for weeks. It was the type of snow that one simply had to bear, which fit rather snugly into the greater Russian spirit, it seemed. From learning more about Russian history: life under the tsars, life under communism and now life under Putin, burdens to be lived under appear to be a birthright. But given the weather, the culture and the political climate, Russia — as far as I saw through the people I met — is a place where people bear hardship not even as a matter of course, but joyfully, snickering behind hardship’s back, as if to collectively say “you think this is bad?”

            The Starlite Diner itself was started by an enterprising American, Sean Mckenna. With all the American and European ex-pats living in Russia, he’d guessed there was a market for good, wholesome Americana, and been right. The interior is as art deco as one would expect in any Johnny Rockets or local stainless steel dining car. The menu is the same laminated poster-sized litany of items, with lots of pictures and ample English. The seats are the same squeaky plastic linoleum and the waitresses all wear aprons and dresses straight out of Happy Days. From outside, it most certainly feels out of place when considering it beside the concrete scowls of most other Soviet-era Russian architecture. But the weirdness soon fades, as the flawlessness of the execution brings even a dyed in the wool American like me back to a place like home. And that’s why I was sad.

            I was sad because I wanted to go home. The sad part not being the feeling of longing for home, but the realization that I really, truly yearned for home.

            Never before had a country broken me like Russia did. And I don’t want to chalk it up simply to Russia. It was a perfect storm of components, every part of my life there had been difficult in some way. And thus, the easy familiarity of Starlite Diner got the better of me. I thought I was stronger and that made me ashamed. I came to Russia because I knew it wouldn’t be a cake walk, I knew it would be colder and harsher and more difficult than, say, Amsterdam or New York City. But I didn't expect it to actually be so hard. And it made me feel both in awe of the people like M. who not only lived there but loved it with a fiery, passionate devotion, but small and weak in their presence.

            To the Muscovites I worked with the cold was never that cold. The long workdays could have been longer. The grey, sunless sky was much more dense last winter, and the winter before? Don’t even speak of it.

            Russia taught me my limits — how much closer they were than I had expected.

            M. had told me more than once that Moscow was the greatest city in the world. And to her it was. She’d grown up there, knew her way around, spoke the language, and relished in the difficulty that the weather brought.

            Living in Maine now, I think I understand what she felt. I know what it means to live in a place considered inhospitable by many. That’s part of the allure. Actually, it might be more than simply a part. Everyone likes to feel tough.

            Perhaps if I’d been slated for a longer stay I would have gotten through it. I would have hardened to the surroundings and kindled some rough happiness in my frozen chest. But that’s not how it worked. I was broken and I left, tail between my legs, defeated by something I still don’t understand.

            Starlite Diner was a panacea: everything I could have needed. M. probably knew that and that’s why she brought me there. I ate everything on my plate and everything in my glass. I wolfed it all down while crying a single tear of lonely patriotism.

That tear was surrender. That tear was weakness. That tear was my broken spirit crawling out, slain, decrepit and pitiable — for all to see. I don’t even think M. noticed.

 


FOOD:

3.5

Good old fashioned legitimate Americana. Well made shakes, fine burgers and more options than you can shake a vintage Chevy stick shift at.

PRICE: 

Pocket Rubles

Moscow is damn expensive almost everywhere you look. This is a rare deal that really feels like you’re getting bang for your buck (razzmatazz for your ruble?).

AMBIENCE: 

Beaver Cleaver

Gosh golly jee jiminy jillikers.

SERVICE: 

спасибо

Moscow, like Portland, ME, has not collectively mastered the art of serving patrons. HOWEVER, Starlite has great service. Check plus.

EAT OR SKIP: 

Eat

If, for some unknown reason (special agent shenanigans), you are in Moscow, go to Starlite for a healthy, hearty dose of home (if that is your home… traitorous spy!).  Anyway, yeah Starlite is great. Go there and be happy, or sad, your choice.

 

Empire Chinese Kitchen - Portland, ME

Marti stumbled onstage.  Upon touching the polished wood his thick-soled prescription shoes let out a hideous squark. Draped in an ill-fitting suit, his shirt half-un-tucked, his tie askew and a distinct mustard stain on the crotch of his black pants he turned to the audience with a mole-like squint.

            The audience roared. Nearly one hundred thousand of them were packed into the stadium to see Marti perform. The house lights had come down and only the varnished brown stage, Marti and his instrument were lit. Camera flashes popped from the darkness of the crowd. Marti sneezed wetly into his tie and then scratched his boat-like posterior.

            To say that Marti moved with ungainly slowness would be an affront to both words. He was a hoving slug of a man. His instrument lay across the stage, glinting like a dentist’s tools under the harsh spotlights. Upon reaching center stage, Marti got tangled in his own feet and toppled like a warm tower of cheese. Instantaneously, a severe, black-suited man with commanding eyebrows appeared from the wings and helped Marti to his feet. The clapping had died to just a thunderous din, hoarse voices shouting Marti’s name from every nook and cranny of the packed amphitheater.

            Upon getting Marti upright, the severe man melted into the wings.

            Marti’s skin had a sickly pale sheen of grease. After wobbling to some sort of steady standing position, he flashed his teeth at the audience. They were tiny, each with ample breathing room in its space in Marti’s gums. At Marti’s direct recognition of the assembled crowd, pandemonium took hold.

            Marti waved a grotesque claw of a hand, nails yellow and long, and the top nearly blew off the place.

It was time for Marti to perform.

            Marti took what seemed to be his first steps in the direction of his instrument. His hands shook and sweat had formed two black half moons beneath his arms. Like the visible stink that emanated from Marti’s ovoid frame, the giddy anticipation in the place was palpable. They had come for Marti, and here, in all his glory, Marti was.

            With a languishing plop, Marti lay himself on the cold metal of his instrument. Its seat was form fitted to fit Marti’s ungainly proportions.

If one expected — finally seated in his instrument — an eerie calm to descend on Marti’s stricken, shaking face, they would be wrong. He continued to fidget and generally look miserably nervous. Something appeared horribly wrong. Yet the audience seemed either not to notice or actively love Marti’s discomfort, because as soon as his ghastly rump touched the shining metal of his instrument’s seat, the collective roar became a howling typhoon.

            Marti lay there, bathing awkwardly in the adulation of the audience as the severe man appeared again. He lifted a colander-like apparatus from behind the instrument and placed it on Marti’s grease-slicked head.

At last his fidgeting ceased. The instrument began to hum and the audience dove into a buzzing silence.

            From its center, the chair and Marti himself began to let off a hazy glow. Slowly, steadily the instrument began to pulse with ethereal light. The audience fell completely silent and their faces were illuminated into glowing ovals of anticipation. Marti’s torso, or the region just above it, shook with a terrible violent whiteness before disappearing. Marti and the chair had vanished.

The audience gasped. But then, beneath their exclamations and whispered excitement, a low note pierced the turmoil.

It was beautiful.

            The note rose and snaked its sibilant way through the air, as if sung for each individual specifically. Simply one note blanketed the stadium, immaculate in its pitch and timbre. It made you feel heavy, pushed down into your seat with the beauty of it. As the note trailed off and the stillness of the theatre was nearly complete, the visions exploded into view.

            Pure thought made manifest: primal views of the neuron’s potential, not of a specific idea but of the kernel of an idea, not a happy vision but a vision of happiness incarnate. Sights, with now glorious sounds emanating from them, glittered on the stage and with each pulse of their unthinkable shape ruined the crowd with the ecstasy of their presence.

            Marti’s mind had made this. This shifting, coagulation of joy that now entranced the entire audience and millions watching remotely. There was no execution by Marti involved. Pure and simply put, these were the potential of Marti’s thoughts. A vision into the unknown realm of could, where the power of his untapped dreams were allowed to escape.

            At first, many tried to play the instrument, including men of incredible caliber and executional skill in every other realm of life. Piano grandmasters, writers, doctors and the highest-minded physicists all had tried their hand at it. But what the instrument amplified was not execution, but the opposite. So those with little, those losers, those outcasts, those good-for-nothings found that their talents far outstripped society’s elite. Beauty sprung from barren soil, not fertile ground. In other words, the machine ran on potential, not execution.

            Tears of joy painted the audience's cheeks. Spouses hugged, children held their parents clothes, lovers squeezed each other’s thighs, all sobbing and laughing at the purity of an emotion so perfectly raw. Like transposition into the very heart of both their sweetest nostalgia and highest triumph, the people were engulfed in the sight and sound that Marti’s mind expelled. The tones were more meaningful than any instrument plucked or blown. The sights were more arresting than the birth of a first child or the naked back of a newfound love. There was no Marti and the audience during the nearly three-hour show. It was simply individuals by themselves, alone with not what they thought they wanted but with what they needed at a fundamental level. Marti presented them with what they had been denied by the very structure of their minds: purity, clarity and unmitigated happiness. And it was not a cheap empty happiness but a lasting appreciation of the full, tragic beauty of our brief station on this floating rock and the significance and impossibility of us all being here at this exact point in time, striving valiantly — together and alone — to find meaning in nothing.

            At last, the stage went silent. Every member of the audience sat mute, basking in the afterglow of their mutually departed bliss. Marti lay in his chair, fidgeting, sweat ringing his waist and crotch. The severe man slipped beside him and removed the helmet. With ungainly gyrations, Marti wiggled himself out of his seat. The crowd remained in stunned silence as Marti wobbled to the center of the stage. Marti bowed, revealing an ominously dark stain on the seat of his pants. A mile away, a flock of crows were startled from a pine tree at the explosion of cheers.

            A retinue of security guards rose from below the stage, holding the frothing masses back. Marti hobbled away from the instrument, now lying inert and sodden. He only fell once before disappearing behind the silk curtains of the stage.

           

 

FOOD:

3.9

Well-prepared and flavorful, this is Empire’s strong suit. The dishes each have a unique feel and match their price in terms of sophistication. Really great stuff.

PRICE:

Early in the Month

It’s not expensive, per se. But it won’t be your go-to spot when the well is starting to run dry.

AMBIENCE:

Wood Enthusiast

Wood, bamboo, other types of carbon. A spare, cohesive space with just enough decoration to give it an authentically hip feel. Very nice job.

SERVICE:

The Catch

This is what spawned the review. In its raw, conceptual form, Empire is everything you want: great Chinese fare, cool atmosphere, reasonably-ish priced. In execution, it all falls apart. I’ve been to Empire at least five times in trying to give it the benefit of the doubt. Unfortunately, every single time I’ve been there something has gone wrong. My first experience was of being stranded by the bar without service for a two-hour meal in which my appetizer of choice ran out after I had ordered it. Second time was much the same as the first, much waiting by the window seats. Third time I tried sitting in the main dining area and there was literally an aphid in one of my dining-mate’s noodles. Fourth and fifth were a bit better but still included basic misses like not getting utensils before our food, long waits, missing servers and water that stayed empty the whole meal. I don’t want you to think of this as purely the servers’ fault, it’s not. This seems like a fundamental flaw in Empire’s very structure. Something needs to be worked out with either the food preparation or the communication, because as it stands, food takes way too long and is way too inconsistent. I want to like Empire so much because the food and ambience are so great, but there is no escaping the vortex of unhappiness that has been my experience dining in.

EAT OR SKIP:

Eat

I’m not going to say skip it, because I know it’s great. I didn’t even mention the concert venue upstairs, which is also awesome. Empire is a great place it just really needs to get its act together before I go in there to eat again.

 

 

Silly's Restaurant - Portland, ME

Dear E-mail Subscriber,

 

I'm excited to announce Clown Boss Inc.’s newest line of high quality office gags and gifts! Our team of Hee-Hee-searchers has been hard at work to bring you Clown Boss Inc.’s best offerings to date. We hope you enjoy our comprehensive catalogue of yuck-tastic items.

 

Sincerely,

Dick Dogpile

C.E.O. Clown Boss Inc.

 

 

Clown Boss Inc.’s Summer Offering:

 

CEO Bell Collar

“Hey, check out this video of a dog humping an exercise ball!” *dingling* *dingling* “You know what? Let’s go over those numbers one more time.” Never worry about a surprise visit again. With the CEO Bell Collar, everyone’s on the job — as far as the CEO knows ;)

 

The Dog Ate My Excel Spreadsheet

Fudged the numbers? Need an escape from the reality of a sinking bottom line? This e-pooch will take care of any dour document! If the bean counters in back are asking where the records have gone, just say “Oops! The DOG must have eaten them!”*

 

*The Dog Ate My Excel Document is not a valid legal defense as established by Clown Boss Inc. VS Great North Savings And Loan

 

Workin’ Hard or Hardly Workin’ Office Hammock

Trade in that Herman Miller Aeron for something a little more… relaxing. With complimentary cube hooks and drywall screws, this hammock can go up anywhere. Made of the finest sailor’s twine, our hammock is spill proof, tear proof and stretch proof. If only it were sleep proof! Make every day feel like Saturday with the Workin’ Hard or Hardly Workin’ Office Hammock.

 

Prank Slip

What is that at my desk? Is it a pink slip? Did I just get fired? Oh Jesus, this is awful; this is terrible! How am I going to get my kids through school? Money was tight already since Sheila got laid off from her second job and the medical bills to get her ankle fixed were already looming and where will we go? Oh no oh no oh ho ho! It’s a prank pink slip! Clown Boss Inc. you’ve done it again! What fun!

 

Farting Business Card Holder

It’s a pleasure doing BRAPness with you! The Farting Business Card Holder will have potential investors holding their sides and shaking your hand at the same time!

 

*BESTSELLER* Clownin’ Around Powerpoint Expansion Pack

Featuring sound effects like goose honks, baby coos, Bronx cheers and over fifty different kinds of laughter, this pack will spice up any Powerpoint presentation! Plus, with new transitions like Pie in the Face™, Clown Rips the Screen™, Seltzer Spray Wipe™ and Boioioioing™ viewers won’t want to wait for the next slide!

 

“Broom Parking Only” Novelty Sign

Have a female coworker or boss that’s a bit of a bi— we mean WITCH?! Hang this novelty sign in her office for a lighthearted way to show her she could bear to loosen up a hag hair or two! (“Broom Parking Only” Stencil coming soon!)

 


Squirtin’ Security Cam

Catch a crook — or your co-workers — WET handed! Replace you security cams with these watery watchers.* Don’t worry, they’re motion activated for equal opportunity soakings.

 

*Squirtin’ Security Cam contains no video equipment. Not a suitable replacement for actual security cameras.

 

“Beware of Dog” Food Label

Worried about coworker’s getting after your precious snacks? Slap on this hilarious sticker to keep them OUT!

 

Three Stooges Sexual Harassment Seminar Series

Who better to explain the nuanced details of proper office conduct than Larry, Moe, Curly and their buffoonish pal Shemp. Over the course of these six gag-packed VHS tapes, the stooges yuck and slap their ways through lessons like: Why Does She Wear It If I Can’t Have a Feel?, Guys Don’t Wear Dresses, Right?, and Woop Woop Woop Woop Woop Nyuck Nyuck At Office Functions is Inappropriate.

 

“I’m With Stupid” Designer Tie

Hand sewn by the fashion experts at Charles Tyrwhitt, this gem will give everyone in the office a lighthearted ribbing. Made with premium fabric, this is fashion that gets funnier every time you wear it or your money back!*

 

*Refund not guaranteed

 

“Liquid Breakfast” Travel Mug

Tired of coming to work with a warm beer? Pour a cold one into this handy travel mug for all your A.M. imbibing needs. The hydra-cool™ liner means your beer stays colder and fizzier longer. Never shotgun a hot Budweiser by the dumpsters again! Plus, its average travel mug contours make for inconspicuous highway drinking. Like we say in our infomercial: If your beer’s in here, you’re in the clear!

 

Foul Scented Faux-breze

Designed to look like any old “Fresh Linen” Febreze, this gag spray is sure to get anyone gagging. Mist some chuckles with scents like, BBQ Toots, Hot Road Kill and Pipe Burst. Stick it in an office bathroom or better yet, your boss’ private commode. Powerful Febreze technology means this is one joke that’ll last for days.

 

Wacky Stretchy Montblanc Business Pen

Signing important documents just feels better with the Wacky Stretchy Mont Blanc Meisterstuck Solitaire Royale Business Pen. Over three feet of wobbly, jiggly smooth-writing hilarity.

 

Water Cooler Joke-A-Day Calendar

Give your co-workers something — other than your social skills — to laugh about. This hilarious set of 365 jokes from one-lining yuck master Henny Youngman is sure to have them howling. Spit out chestnuts like, “The food on the plane was fit for a king. ‘Here, King!’” and “My Doctor grabbed me by the wallet and said, ‘cough.’” After a couple weeks of Henny’s knee slappers, your coworkers will be lined up at the water cooler to hear the next, “Take my wife, please!”

 

See anything you like? Contact our shipping specialist Nerma Grotongue at clownboss1985@geocities.com with your desired item(s).

 

 

 

FOOD: 

3.5

Fully loaded is probably the best term to describe Silly’s cuisine. The Birdhouse in My Soul is an open-faced chicken sandwich with lettuce, tomato, guacamole and bacon crumbles. Then there’s Good Will Fishing, which is basically a fully-loaded fish taco with all the fixings like mango & basil coleslaw, scallions, red peppers avocado and more. And these are just two of probably fifty or more items. The menu is extensive and thought out. Definitely a place that rewards repeat customers. Though their strong point is their milkshakes: pictured above is the Hippy Hippy Shake, a chocolate, malt and peanut butter (yes, actual peanut butter) filled shake, topped with pretzels. Pure madness.

PRICE:

More food less $

Pretty much every meal is big enough to take home so it’s basically two meals for the price of one.

AMBIENCE:

Kitschy Hodgepodge

The atmosphere is unique in a transporting sort of way. Step into Silly’s and you are IN Silly’s. Colors and odd furnishing choices abound. It holds up to its name, but in the best possible way.

SERVICE: 

Good Times

I’ve had a hiccup or two when going there late (close to their 9:00 closing time), which is totally understandable. At peak hours the service has been solid. They're a fine, cheery bunch.

EAT OR SKIP: 

Eat

Silly’s is simply a fun, tasty Portland staple. Since it’s a bit out of the way, I don’t get there as often as I’d like. But when I do make my way to Silly’s that day is a good one.

 

Otto Pizza (Revisited) - Portland, ME

Yeah sure there are a lot of people who have been wrong ever.

 

In 1927 H.M. Warner — then the CEO of Warner Brothers Entertainment — said, “Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?” In 1943, Thomas Watson — then the chair of IBM — said, “I think there is a market for maybe five computers.” In 1962 Decca Recording said, “We don’t like their sound and guitar music is on the way out.” This was in reference to signing an unknown band called the Beatles.

 

So, yes people have been wrong. Resoundingly and boldly wrong. Consider me one of those people.

 

Upon access to new information, I have found that a view I once held was not completely formed. It was based upon a wealth of experience, gathered over an ample period of time. However, one single dinner has thrown my entire previous viewpoint into question.

 

The fact was that I didn’t particularly care for Otto pizza.

 

The fact is now that I both really enjoy Otto and am a certified dingleton.


 

My gripes were based upon my experience with Otto’s slices and takeout pizza: the crust was either damn chewy or just brittle and dry as all get-out, and in addition the overall amount of toppings going onto each slice seemed to be declining.

 

Harsh criticism? Certainly. But in trying to be objective VS all the other pizza I had ever eaten, this was the most honest information I had on hand.

 

Also, this is not to say that I didn’t enjoy Otto. I actually frequented Otto fairly regularly for a slice, it being the most refined pizza Portland has to offer.

 

Then, just last week, I actually bought a full pizza to eat in at Otto. See, I had only had Otto by the slice — even when eating in — and also had only sampled takeout. These forays into the world of Otto pizza were satisfying but less than stellar.

 

However, with a ricotta, mushroom and sausage pizza steaming in front of me, I felt a sweat come on. It looked absolutely incredible. Cheese blanketed the pie. The sauce glistened. The mushrooms and sausage gave off heady waves of fresh aroma. It looked like it had been pulled from the brick ovens of some Italian deity: Zeuseppe, or perhaps Athenardo.

 


It was a work of art. 


And the taste? Melt-in-your-mouth ricotta. Savory mushrooms mingling with tart and sweet tomato sauce. A crust the likes of Mario Batali would applaud: browned, crisp exterior with a pillowy soft interior. True and utter mastery.

 

And as I shoveled slice after slice down my fibbing gullet, I realized that I had to right the wrong I’d committed. Which is not to say that my previous beliefs were unfounded. But simply to say that my due diligence had been far from done.

 

So here is the rectification: the slices and the take out of Otto? My opinion still stands. Sitting in at Otto and getting a fresh, made-to-order pizza? Now you are in business my friend.

 

I was wrong Otto. I did you wrong. I apologize for my wrongness. In my error there was no truth and now that truth has been rectified.

 

Your pizza, Otto, is exceedingly good when fresh. When slightly less than fresh, I must again be honest, its caliber is reduced. Maybe this accusation can be leveled at  most pizza places, but never have I experienced a more apparent dip in overall deliciousness than at OTTO.

 

Wow, that made Otto sound bad again. But seriously. Otto is great on the reg. The brittleness of the crust is but a single part of their slices: their toppings still rock, the sausage and Vidalia onion will remain my go-to into infinity and they’re a great restaurant to drop in for a bite. The exception is that if you get a full pizza made to order and eat it as it has literally just come, steaming, from the oven, it is so much better than great. It is transcendent.

 

That’s my apology, full and all. Otto — and your proprietors and your employees — forgive me for my transgressions. I will be back for your pizza. And so, I hope, will many others.


(For those who like seeing people eat their words, click here to see the full previous review of Otto's Pizza.)

 

 

FOOD:

4.1 Stars

(Previously 3.7 Stars)

That’s right. I’m rounding Otto out to an uneven 4.1 out of 5 stars. Takeout and slices remain at their previous 3.4-ish, while eating in with a whole, fresh pie comes up to about a 4.5 (really it’s that tasty). Round ‘em out? Comes out to about a 4.1. What? You know basic math and you think that’s wrong. Yeah, come over here and prove it! Prove my gut wrong with your dirty numbers.

PRICE:

Boutique

It’s not cheap, but if you’re coming in for the real thing, it’s even more worth it.

AMBIENCE:

Comfortable Nook

I dined in the smaller bar section this time around. Simply a narrower version of Otto’s main room. Low light, dark wood and tile. Melike.

SERVICE: 

Mamma Mia

Again, top notch service. Doesn’t sound like much, but in Portland — as I’ve come to find — this is actually a fact of note.

EAT OR SKIP:

Eat

Eat there. You can also get slices or takeaway, but if you want the true experience of why Otto exists in Portland, Maine, get that whole pizza fresh. So fresh.

Ohno Cafe - Portland, ME

Praise be to Breakfast Sandwich #1!

 

ALL: Praise be!

 

His holy matrimony of savory and of hot and of sweet is the divine trinity that binds us.  And so too does it bind today’s sermon.

 

Let us pray.

 

ALL: Thy bun be crisped. Thy meat be fresh. Thy egg be unbroken until it is. Amen.

 

Please rise. In the name of Breakfast Sandwich #1 of Ohno Café we give thanks.

 

*PAUSE*

 

Please be seated.


 

Today, we turn our holy praise to the three divine qualities of Breakfast Sandwich #1. For in each — in its own way — lies the Truth.

 

On the mountaintop did not the prophet Elizaeus find the bagel? And into that bagel did he not put the egg? And upon that egg did he not lay the prosciutto and the cheese.

 

ALL: He did.

 

And it was good.

 

Firstly, we praise the savory. It represents the necessity in our lives. Without the savory our egg sandwich would simply be sweet and hot which is an abomination and should be smote.

 

ALL: Smite it, oh Lord.

 

The egg and the prosciutto and the cheese imbue the holy creation with its savor. It is the basis of all that is venerable and good in our Sandwich.

 

Though make not the first mistake, in thinking that savory is everything! It is not all of life! And this mistake — the notion that savory is all there ever need be — is the folly of so many.

 

I have walked among the wretched masses that take unto their mouths sandwiches unfit for the eating: those microwaved, frozen, abominations. Jimmy Dean! Tyson! Smart Ones! Thy names burn my tongue.

 

Though hear me! We must not hate those that dine upon these poor excuses, but pity them! They have chased the savor downward and worship a false idol! For they know not what joy they miss. Like Saul, the scales cover not their eyes but the taste buds of their tongues!

 

This is why, like the savor itself, we must gently salt the wound of their pride. It is our divine right and duty to put them on the true path, the righteous path to Ohno absolution.

 

ALL: And so we shall.

 

Secondly, we praise the sweet. Delivered within the joyous gift of syrup that calls us to remember the innocence of our youth. But as always, we must be careful in its amounts. When I was a child, I acted as a child does. Now that I am a man, I must act as a man. We do not douse the sandwich with the syrup! It is the sparing sweetness that gives our savor more power.

 

A bit of childishness in man is no fault, but never too much. This is the lesson of our maple-glazed prosciutto.

 

As it was said by Saint Jerome, “He is both the sweetness and the savory. The carrot and the stick of butter. He is all.” And so we must remember that in everything is there soft, easy beauty and hard truth.  

 

Third, we praise the Tabasco. The Lord said, “be not afraid of Tabasco! It is but the soft lash of my love.”

 

ALL: We will endure.

 

For what else is hot? Where else do the fires never cease? Of course, Tabasco is but a reminder of the depths below. It is the reminder that sin is everywhere! Even in the Lord himself! After all, how sweet does sin burn?

 

He knows us more deeply and fully than we may ever know ourselves, and that is why he reminds us of our fallible nature! It is no coincidence that the sting of the heat lingers long past the taste of his glory!


 

For I myself have sinned! Yea, even a holy prophet can find himself indulging the devil in his tricks. Indeed, Sandwich #1 can only be got from Ohno and that is right. That is good. But should not such simple ingredients: egg, cheddar, Tabasco, maple syrup and prosciutto, on a bagel, be able to be made by a man such as I? But no! Our hands are not fit to combine such a meal. For I tried!

 

ALL: *GASPS*

 

Yes I tried, in the folly of my past, I tried. And indeed, it brought me to ruin. Over-hot prosciutto. Maple-soaked buns. Burnt egg!

 

ALL: Lord have mercy.

 

This is not our place! And the Tabasco is but the gentle reminder in each bite. No! It is our sacred duty to lift up the breakfast sandwich! The one true lord is the source of our joy and we must rejoice in Him alone.

 

ALL: And so we shall.

 

Let us pray.

 

ALL: Holy, Breakfast Sandwich #1. Give to us the goodness that is your savor, the patience that is your sweetness, and the guidance that is your heat. Amen.  

 

Now please join hands as we sing Hymn Number 83 “Glory (Hallelujah) Thy Number is One”

 

(VIGOROUSLY)

Ris’n from wheat and egg and meats. Glo----------ry Number One.

King of all ye breakfast treats, Glo----------ry Number One.

 

Born each morn of holy toil, Glo----------ry Number One.

Rest his girth ‘pon bed of foil, Glo----------ry Number One.

 

Spice of earth! (Jalapenos He)

Sweet of trunk! (Oh Maple Tree)

 

Glo----------ry Number One.

 

ORGAN INTERLUDE

 

Gift of Ohno, gift of light, Glo----------ry Number One.

Bulwark of yon daily fight, Glo----------ry Number One.

 

Eat’n with everlasting love, Glo----------ry Number One.

Divine sup from high above, Glo----------ry Number One.

 

Spice of earth! (Jalapenos He)

Sweet of trunk! (Oh Maple Tree)

 

Glo----------ry Number One.

 

And now turn one to the other and exchange your love as Breakfast Sandwich #1 would wish.

 

ALL: Good morning to you. And to you.

 

 

FOOD:

4.3 Stars

I know I focused almost exclusively on Breakfast Sandwich #1 here, but it really is that good. Certainly my favorite breakfast sandwich in town by a fair margin. However, the other offerings at Ohno are worthy of praise, Breakfast Sandwich #2 for instance, which is full of avocado, tomato, smoked gouda and turkey.

PRICE:

Just some dawl-ahs

About ~$5 buckaroos, will get you pretty much any breakfast sandwich. Not the cheapest, but certainly not expensive for what you receive.

AMBIENCE:

Bodega

Made for takeout but there’s still enough space to sit inside and enjoy the nearly ever-present hubbub. Though you may see approximately everyone you know.

SERVICE:

Ring ‘er Up

Pretty much all you do is order and wait, so service doesn’t really factor in much.

EAT OR SKIP:

Eat

Just, yes. Ohno Café is such an excellent stop if you want a memorable breakfast bite. Again, even if you normally don’t fancy Tabasco, get the Breakfast Special #1. It’s just so good. The weekends won’t be as quick as weekdays, as the lines can get a bit heftier, but this is no NYC Cronut. You’ll get your food and it will be good.