Taco Escobarr - Portland, ME

In the faint moon shadow of the cactus, he waits. A shape of silent repose, he sits shrouded in a single soil-stained rag whose tattered ends caress the earth. Dreaming, or at least trying to dream, of feasts long past that can only now be served in the banquet hall of his mind. This is the burden of he who lingers.


The mesa—where the dead dry mud fissures beneath even the lightest foot—is his home. The visions do not come, yet. His stomach snarls in impotent wrath. Nestled into the cool earth, he labors to shake loose the husk of his physical form. In this place—the mesa that abuts the sea ahead and the black valley behind—the spring of life can only burst from within. All else is gone.


He gazes out at the darkness beneath his eyelids. It starts as a search, scouring the haunted flashes of fake light. Then, as always, faintly, as if from afar, the aromas appear.


No rock or thistle of this desolate land rivals the scents recalled by the mind of our dreamer: warm, pliable tortilla, buttery lengua, crisp spines of cabbage and vinegar intermixing with the smooth tang of cilantro. Then, the one he knows too well, the inorganic nip of festive polypropylene lights—thousands of them—hot and pervasive.  This is the place of the feast. He has found it.


Nostalgia overwhelms him and the power of it jolts him from reverie. Along the razor’s edge of the horizon, an indigo sun falls out of sight. The dreamer clutches his threadbare blankets as the specter of his breath appears.


He’d never expected to dream of it, the taco place from a different lifetime. In fact, he’d thought his own memory unable to reach that far into the vanished past. It had come unbidden, unexpected, yet with a vicious force ,unrivaled by other visions,  had it thrust itself upon him.


Surely, this meal would shake the mind’s heavens.


Eyes closed, he tries again. The aromas surround him in a rush. More, this time: thick, savory beef, pork and pineapple and fried white fish. Masterfully, with the subtle motions of his mind, he delves deeper into the meal.


From the unseeable kaleidoscope, a shape coalesces. Square. Tall. A table, black and smooth appears. The dreamer sits before it, perched on naught but empty space. He runs his hands over the rubber guards that line its edge. A stool slides below him and the touch of it is as a baby’s skin against a mother’s lap. He sighs. As if from the ground, sibilance creeps into his ears, the sound of comrades, friends and strangers locked in easy dialogue. Their muffled laughs and jovial gasps pull walls up from the very ground. His mind is letting go of the other place, the vast tomb of reality. In mesh with itself, his mind feeds off its own creation.


Mariachi corpses on the walls rest in jolly caesura. A muscle-bound luchadore explodes from trompe l’oeil brick, a maiden in his crooked arm. Lights, yes, the smelly lights themselves, march across the ceiling, their green and yellow and orange glinting in countless rows. Yes, this is where the acrid smell is from: the lights. But that smell is already in the back of his mind as he thinks it, shoved there by the appearance of an obsidian pillar before him.


Could it be? Glistening and smooth, it rises like a miniature Olympus, stretching to meet the heavens, uno cerveza. Negra Modelo. Casually jutting from its rim, a slice of lime. Of its own accord, the lime squeezes down the neck, sizzling at it plops into the ice cold quaff. With dream-numbed hand, our man reaches to grasp it. And grasp he does, like the drowning man the hand of his brother, he holds it firm, feeling the dew of its crystalline sides cool his fingers. He lifts, pursing his lips to kiss the drink in that blissful moment of connection that is every first sip. The bottle mouth rises to meet his, tectonically slow in its glorious arc. The dreamer’s eye is wet, he holds back a sob as the bottle grows closer, close enough to smell the foil of its neck, the lime melding with the frothing drink and then a gunshot.


His eyes open, and he looks to the west. Fire. Smoke rises in plumes. It can only be the banditos of the new world, raking the countryside for provisions. Looting and burning all they pass, these moral-bare men and women, a malicious forest fire, diligently consuming whatever is left of the earth.


Our man snorts, miffed. He has watched them come and go many times, hidden like a chameleon among the sanguine boulders of the mesa.


He readjusts his position and closes his eyes once more. In an instant he is seated at the table. The refreshment is empty; sweat rings glitter at its base. But glory. But beauty. But holy of all holy. Now a meal rests before him: tacos.


A platter of tacos sits steaming, in fact, soft shells laying flat beneath bales of seasoned lengua, tangy cabbage and thinly sliced radish. Their earthy scent fills his nostrils, intoxicating his starved mind.


Hot sauces reveal themselves as his gaze rises beyond the plate. He chooses one, deep brown and thick. Carefully, with trembling hand, he portions out spots upon the filling. Melding with sour cream, the redness of the sauce is revealed in microscopic dots.


The dreamer folds a taco and lifts it from the plate. Juice, light and steaming, drips from the opposite end, pattering to the plate.  The crack of another gunshot sounds out, followed by a dog’s muffled bark, this time closer. They are coming.


Our man’s meal quavers, his vision threatening to fade at the distraction, but he holds it firm. He opens his mouth until it becomes a yawning cavern. The meat’s intoxicating smell, one he remembers too well, is only a memory and thus as sweet as his mind can make it.


The pace of his dream slows with every yearning second. The food’s parabola stretches for miles until he and the bite are an ocean apart. Still, the man dreams and the mouthful of sustenance advances, surely and unyieldingly, it searches for his waiting maw.


The banditos are getting closer. He can hear gruff voices mixing with the grating cackle of women. The squeaking joints of their carts rattle across the untamable sand.


Why would they be coming here, thinks the dreamer, holding the two parts of his mind separate so as not to lose either. One watches the progress of a taco infused with that most delicious spice: pure hunger. The other’s worry grows.


There is no reason for them to come to the coast. There is nothing here but the turbulent union of rock and sea. No matter, thinks our man, what I must do is clear. I must finish this bite.


There is nothing left upon the soil for anyone, even the banditos. Perhaps they know that. Perhaps they’ve come to march into the sea in one final, ritualistic dousing of their ever-burning flames. Perhaps they are simply aimless, wandering like our dreamer, without purpose. Whatever the cause closer, they came. Closer still.


In the feasting part of his mind, the dreamer is almost at his journey’s end. The taco hovers, an inch, less, from its destination. A single bite, that is all he wishes for. One  simple gift to himself from the endless bank of his memory. He can give it to himself; he knows he can. He must simply let all else fall aside.


He dives full into the dream. The mariachi skulls look eagerly from the walls. All other tables are empty now and simply our dreamer sits solitary in the place. The lights above twinkle and sway in a phantom breeze. With grace and care, the taco slips past the threshold of his mouth, steam fills his nose and his taste buds prickle in anticipation. His jaw shuts on a mighty bite, its savory fullness finally trapped in the ravenous gullet of his mind’s creation.


It tastes pretty good. I mean, thinks our dreamer, yeah this is fine. It’s not the best taco he’s ever had. I mean, like, compared to other tacos it’d be like a seven. But it’s not a bad taco. Solid.


With this final thought, the yips of the banditos are upon him. It is too late to run. Our man keeps his eyes shut and lets what may happen do so.




3.0 Stars

Both the tacos and enchiladas are solid. The ample options for filling, from seasoned chicken to battered fish to pineapple-y pork Al Pastor, are tasty. Nothing to stop the show but a good legitimate meal.


Friday Lunch

With a beer you’ll be around the $20 mark with tip. Entrees hover around $10. Not unreasonable.


United States of A-Mexico

Aside from the B-Movie posters in the bathroom (which are legitimately awesome) the rest of the décor is cool, if not trying a bit hard. Also, the lights that are strung up from the ceiling legit smell. It goes to the back of your mind pretty quickly. But in a place made for eating, that hot, beach-ball smell of party lights isn’t necessarily the most appetizing.


Fool Me Twice

Escobarr’s biggest problem. Not the servers themselves, they tend to be quite nice, I'm talking the actual pace of the meal. I’ve been there, twice now for lunch, when, being one of three people in the place, it’s taken over an hour to get food. I suspect it’s a lack of chef-help, or something behind the scenes, but this place seriously needs to figure something out, because nobody has that much time for pretty-good Mexican. Especially with other, superior, options close by (Taco Trio, El Rayo).



I would have said eat if the service, of late, had not been so weak. Other than that, Taco Escobarr is a perfectly legitimate Mexican spot that’s taken great strides in recent months to make itself up to par with local standards. But sweet mamma, do they need to do some hiring in the kitchen.



Novare Res Bier Café - Portland, ME

I am a red-blooded, ruddy-handed, glint-eyed American man. And you know what I want? Beer. Don’t give me this mumbo jamma about what beer I can and can’t drink. Beer’s beer; that’s about the truest statement I think has ever been put to page.


Beer’s not about snobbery. It’s about guys who want to get a good haze on, shoot some cornhole and maybe pinch an ass-cheek or two. When I set up at the bar with a couple of Dupont Bierre du Miels there’s no pretension there. That’s just a man enjoying some hops, barley, water and tinges of esters and citrus.


So don’t start telling me, “beer is the new wine.” I’ll put you in a barrel and stomp you with my bare feet. I’m a beer man! I don’t care if it’s a Budweiser Lager or a Kerkom Bink Hopverdomme. I know what’s accepted to drink as a confident, virile American man: beer.

If it’s not some variation of brown I cannot drink it down.


You might lament the fact that we’ve got craft breweries coming out our tits. All these bearded, tattooed overall-wearers pumping out doppelbocks, doppelhop-trippels and all whatever-the-hell else… but that’s all just beer! Samuel Adams’d be high-fiving the piss out of our collective American hands for getting so much sauce out there. It’s just a proliferation of the American spirit! And don’t try to tell me that we’re late to the party, that all sorts of German and Czech beer traditions outdate the founding of America itself. I don’t care who did it before us; we still did it first.


You think because I’m drinking a Belgian Vapuer Cochonne that makes it any less American? Wrong! Soon as that barrel rolls onto American soil it’s imbued with the stars, stripes, Indian tears and blessings of Jesus H. Christ himself.


That’s the American way! Take what you like and call it yours. Pizza comes from Italy? Wrong, it comes from a hut. Shrimp and grits is Cajun? Wrong again, Cajun is a seasoning and you can get the hell off my porch. There’s only one ethnic group in America and that’s American.


How do you like us now, Euro-zone? The American capitalist powerhouse is hoovering your beers right out from under your raised noses! I’ll tell you who John Galt is; he’s the bro wearing Chubbies who just beat you at pong. Merci, danke and děkuji!


You know what we don’t import? Humility. Why should you when you’re the best?


I’ll tell you right now that you can’t wow me with your fancy romancy French wines, stink-cheeses and boner bread. You dare to put a half-glass of grape juice in front of this old dog’s mug? I’ll splash it on your petticoat. But if you set me up with a goblet of Bavik Petrus Blond, why I’ll kiss you on both cheeks.


Now I can’t speak for no California liberals because I’m not about to tour Napa on a Segway. But I won’t even argue about wine vs. beer. All wine tastes like to me is surrender. What I will argue about: the statistical importance of OBP vs RBI over a cool Blaugies Darbyste.


You know what that cool draught’ll be washing down? America’s holy tubed meat-grail: hot dogs. Will they be red dogs and not the traditional frank? Sure. Will they be covered in kimchi and Korean mayonnaise? Why the diddly not? You can try to take the hot dog out of America, but by G-d you can’t take America out of that wiener.

That's a Kim Jong Dog, son. 

See, I’m just an average guy who likes his facts in black and white—preferably white. Republican or Demoshat. Rich or poor. Beer or wine. Tell nuance to apologize then get its sorry ass back to Canada.


What I’m saying is, I’ll drink a De Glazen Toren Cuvee Angelique. I’ll drink a Het Sas Leroy Paulus. I’ll even drink a  ‘t Gaverhopke Koerseklakske Saision. Because those are beers and beers=America. You got another opinion? I’m not listening. To me, a beer is a beer no matter if it tastes like burnt wood or a dandelion in orange juice. Because if beer ain’t just American anymore, what is anything? Who am I? How did we all get here? Who are you? And where do you get off trying to argue that steals matter more than slugging percentage? Huh?


Is that what we were talking about? Sorry brother, I’m kinda ripped.




3.5 Stars

You’re coming for the beer; let’s just get that out of the way. The food is still solid, but you’re here for beer.


As You Like It

With beers ranging from $4 to ~$15 (the norm being around $6-$8) you can end up spending quite a bit if you so choose. The food is right in the same range.



Indoors it’s all rocks, wood, mortar and low-ish ceilings. Outdoors you’ve got a run-of-the-mill porch (that’s quite large). The inside exudes character, the first and foremost source of aforementioned character being the formidable wall of taps behind the bar. Add to that multiple rooms (some you can’t even enter without club-member status) and you’ve got yourself an interesting joint! Think wine cellar meets bier garden.


How Packed?

On the weekends it’s normally hopping (don’t even pretend I intended that pun), which means you’ll have to wait a bit longer to get your order in. Weekdays you’ll feel like a pampered schoolgirl.



It’s by far the most impressive beer joint in Portland. The food is worth ordering if you’re hungry, with some pretty audacious menu items like Kim Jong Dogs (red hot dogs smothered in kimchi and korean mayo), or the Ban Mi. The real reason you’re going is to try a beer you have never heard of, of which there is ample supply.



Five Guys Burgers and Fries - Portland, ME

I should what? Review Five Guys Burgers and Fries?


Yeah, OK… sure, like I’ll just debase myself by doing that. Uh-huh. A place with a name that rhymes for tit’s sake I’m laughing so hard at you right now.


Have you ever even seen me in a Five Guys? Like ever? No? Well maybe that should tell you something about the type of person I am. Like, mainly, that I am not a person who would just saunter into a red-and-white-tiled chain burger joint being like, “yes, I should review this!!!”


Or what, do you think I’d… like I’d, like I’d go there clandestinely? Like I’d actually wrap myself in some sort of taupe trench coat and black fedora disguise and show up one minute before Five Guys opened at 11:00 AM so nobody I know would have any chance of seeing me there? Yeah I hope you’re laughing at that image too.


One regular bacon chee for this guy. Pfffffff. Oh yeah, right. *Said in a snarky, unserious, nasally voice* I’ll have caramelized onions and ketchup and mustard and hot peppers and lettuce and tomato please. Thanks Dennis!


Right? Is that how I would sound?


I really can’t believe you’d even entertain the thought that I’d review Five Guys seriously… like a chain burger joint deserves a review. Jesus, I’m laughing. You think a burger with a soft, warm bun, juicy meat and vast array of toppings—fused by American cheese into a steaming block of savory joy deserves consciously-written words of either praise or dislike. What, did you think this blog was not called “Drunch” and, in fact, called “Dumb-ch?” Huh?




Funny stuff, man. What a joke…  you actually thought I should go into Five Guys and review their burgers and their fries? So—so let me get this straight—you were thinking that I would actually type, into a properly-formatted word document, something like: Five Guys may be a chain, but it’s also a source of hope in the corporate fast food pantheon. Eschewing computer-operated burger presses for actual grills, the only thing that makes Five Guys “fast” is the Ford Motor Company-esque factory line through which each burger travels. As it’s passed from grill operator to toppings-man (toppings-woman? toppings-mate?) to, ultimately, the bagger, each burger’s consistency and speed comes from tightly honed preparation rather than idiot-proof, one-button-does-it fast food preparation.


Yeah is that what I’d write?


You know what? Maybe I actually will! Maybe, on some idiotic, ironic lark I will go to Five Guys and seriously order a burger. Ha! Wouldn’t that just be hilarious… me going to a chain burger place like Five Guys and actually, in reality, ordering food to eat! Nobody would believe it!


You know what? Here we go! I’m donning a real life jacket to actually sojourn to Five Guys at 11:30 in the morning. Is this not the most half-cocked hokum you could ever imagine? You want to come too, to personally witness this event of insane malarkey? Because if you don’t come, I kid you not, I will order two burgers! I will, in this reality in which we both simultaneously exist, order two full Five Guys burgers and eat them both if you do not come.


MmmmMmmm this looks gooooood *said SO sarcastically* 

You know what? Even if you do join me, as a piece of performance art, I’ll still eat two burgers. The funniest part? I will actually look as if I’m blissfully enjoying it.

Actually, listen to this. No, seriously sit down on a flat, stable, horizontal surface for this next piece of heinous lampoonery: how about I eat there for the next month or two. Hell, let’s call it a year! That’s right, every damn day I’m going to be at Five Guys, laughing, through a mouthful of burger, in your stupid face. Won’t that just be the tits of a joke! Yeah, that’s right. From now on if you see me in Five Guys it will be as the greatest practical joke played by a reviewer ever and not in any way connected to some clandestine addiction I may or may not appear to have to Five Guys burgers.


Wow, I’m really doing this aren’t I? What a balls-tastically real farce. I, a man of refined taste, will be posted up in a chain burger joint that offers free peanuts and refills for the foreseeable future. Truly this will be the greatest stunt ever.


Wow, I can’t believe you thought I’d ever seriously review Five Guys… just, wow.




3.9 Stars

I can’t, in good conscience, give four stars to Five Guys. However, consider these the strongest, brightest, Polaris-like three point nine stars you have ever witnessed. The intense, almost primal, satiation that follows a Five Guys burger is the closest we come, in this day and age, to the gluttonous joy of killing a mammoth. And the grease-stained bag of fries you receive when ordering a small fry? It brings a tear of happiness to my eye.



A fully-loaded, diet-be-damned meal still won’t have you scratching the teens.


Jovial Bomb Shelter

Red, white and oddly spare. The base model Ford Focus of fast food interiors. Everything you need and absolutely nothing extra.


Tomatoes… Umm… Pickles. No, not pickles… Umm… Wait, sorry…

The longest holdup invariably comes when you try to choose between putting caramelized onions or BBQ sauce (or both) on your burger.



There are three real hangover cures that I know of: intense exercise, more alcohol or a Five Guys burger. Unless you are on a Michael Phelps workout regimen—circa 2008—you can’t often eat at Five Guys. But that’s OK, I love it just the way it is.


Otto Pizza - Portland, ME

Moose Pond can hardly be considered a town. We still don’t have a theater and there’s not more than one road that’s paved and that road just runs for miles and miles of evergreens and rocky dirt until striking Laketown and that’s a small town too.


I love movies. My cousin gave me a cracked TV/VCR combo he found in a junkyard and now and then he sends me tapes. They’re always old ones that he’s already watched into oblivion; magnetic bolts riddle the screen and the tracking on the soundtrack is all warped so it sounds like whoever composed the score was drunk. The movies he sends are good though: Strangers on a Train, Harakiri, The Night of the Hunter, he even sent me Chinatown and that only came out seven years ago.


Living in Moose Pond is more about logs than anything else. Everybody here logs. There are about seventeen families all told and about three blood lines running through our town: the LaFoix, the Hughs and the Belloys. I’m a Belloy.


I'm only ten and I know I don’t want to log.


Cheese by the ice cream scoop


I want to make movies and in fact, I just made one with Henri LaFue, Norm Hugh and Pat Belloy my little brother. Last time he came into town my cousin gave me an old Super 8 and taught me how to focus it even though the focus was basically all busted, but how could I mind? My cousin lives out in the city in Caribou and his Dad gives him all sorts of stuff since they’re rich meaning they have a house that’s not a log cabin that also doesn’t have wheels.


I tried to remake Le Samourai, my favorite movie ever. It’s an Italian movie about a super-cool and calm hit man who’s hired to kill a nightclub owner. Unfortunately when the super-cool hit man goes to get paid for the hit the guys who hired him try to kill him and also the police are after him because a lot of people saw him in the club on the night of the murder. But he’s so super cool that he loses both. In the end he allows himself to get killed for a girl. Classic noir.


So we tried to remake it with my camera. We only had fifteen minutes of film and no way to edit the video so we just had to film it in order of the scenes and each one of those had to be pretty shortened. On the better side though I did get up the nerve to ask Meghynn Hughs – she’s the prettiest girl in my grade – to stand in as the lounge singing girl who the super-cool hit man eventually decides to die for and she said yes.


We only got her to do two scenes, the one where Jef (the super-cool hit man played by Henri) gets spotted by her in the night club. But since it started to rain and Henri had baseball practice we didn’t get much more than her looking surprised and Henri walking away in the rain. The second time we filmed with Meghynn though was way better since the movie needed to end with Henri almost killing her and then getting killed by Norm instead. Henri built a kiss into the scene and got Meghynn to kiss him, which was kind of a deviation from the plot, but I think it was probably OK since now Henri and Meghynn are going out. The majority of the movie ended up being Henri killing Pat and then running away from Norm who was wearing his dad’s deer-hunting hat since we didn’t have any police gear.


Everyone in town had heard about us filming the movie and a lot of hype got built up around it. People wanted to see it, so we set up a viewing. At first, I was kinda proud of having done it, but when it got closer to the time when I’d have to show it I started getting a little nervous. Actually really nervous.


The movie itself was dark because we filmed it in the woods after school and the plot had a lot of holes and most of the time you couldn’t really hear anything because of the buzz saws in the background and the crash of falling trees.


On the night of the showing Georges LaFoix – he’s the oldest LaFoix – nailed a big sheet to a couple trees in the clearing by Lark Lake. He ran a power cord out from a generator in the back of his Ford pickup and plugged in the clunky projector and the speakers from the town hall that belonged to his uncle. The thick tree cover obscured the bright moon and stars so luckily everyone could still see the projection. 


The whole town came out, including my cousin from out in Caribou with his Dad and sister too.


Just pick it. Pick it good.

By that point, I know it was going to be a disaster. Nobody would understand the subtleties of how Jef the super-cool hitman was actually a noble and principled guy despite the fact that he killed for a living since Henri (as Jef) was mostly just a big goof, hamming it up for the camera whenever he could, skipping as he ran away from Norm (who was working on his weight), and kissing Meghynn with tongues. Plus they wouldn’t know that Norm was supposed to be a policeman because what policeman wears a deer hunting hat and has a black eye for no reason – he got it fighting with Phil Lafoix the day before we started filming. And then there was Pat who was supposed to be the dead club owner but you could see he was obviously just crying on the ground because Henri hit him hard with the prop gun (a stick) instead of shooting him.


It was going to be terrible.


When the opening credits rolled – we’d carved them into a tree with Henri’s knife – people started clapping even though nothing had happened yet.


As the movie went on they laughed and oohed and clapped the whole time. I kept swiveling my head from the screen to the crowd and even my cousin was smiling. The only tension came when Henri kissed Meghynn but even then it was just a lot of stern stares from the old people and nothing tangibly bad.  When the title card “Fin” came onto screen we got a standing ovation. And since I hadn’t been in the film but was kinda responsible for it Henri and Norm hoisted me up on their shoulders and the whole town of Moose Pond was clapping for the movie like it was the Godfather or something. I still knew it was bad but I felt proud anyway.


Once the crowd had dispersed and the sound of diesel engines had died away, my cousin came up to me and I thought he was going to give me an actual review of my movie, not just say something nice like most people had said. But even my cousin said that it had been an awesome movie. It wasn’t Le Samourai exactly, but it was still good in its own way.


I guess that’s what’s interesting about stuff. You can never say if it’s absolutely good or bad because of anything else. Sure, you can always compare stuff to other stuff and that’ll make you feel like you know which one is better. But there’s never really a way to compare absolutely, because everyone has a different opinion on what they like and what’s good, so it’s all preference in the end. It’s all just personal preference and that’s it.




3.2 Stars

I like Otto. I have gone there often. The straight truth is that it does not hold even a birthday candle to NYC pizza, but that’s beside the point. Otto is not trying to be NYC pizza (at least I hope they’re not), they’re trying to be Otto. With interesting toppings – like ricotta mushroom, pulled pork, mashed potato-bacon-scallon – tons of options and a slice always at the ready, this is Portland’s top pizza joint. My only tangible gripe is that the crust can get a little too dry, a little too often. 



Three fifty a slice ain’t hay, but the slices are certainly wide and covered in fixings. I’ve never gotten a full pie but I’d surmise it would feel as worth the price as a slice.


Comfortable Nook

(Speaking for their 576 Congress St. location) Dark wood, just the right amount of light, semi-weird décor including a stuffed ape. It’s a great place to step in from the rain/snow and grab a beer/slice.


Mamma Mia

Each server seems to have as much character as the joint itself. Great at what they do and seem to enjoy doing it. Definitely an excellent group.



Never take my word for anything. Go try it yourself. I’ve heard enough glowing reviews of Otto to think it was the best pizza place in the world. I have a different opinion but that’s simply me. It’s a fun place to have a leisurely drink and a bite that feels upscale but doesn’t cost a ton. Not my favorite pizza, but then again, who am I to judge?


Kushiya Benkay - Portland, ME

The food of Japan, in order for it to get right for the preparation of sushi, it will require a particularly strict conversion. Up-and-coming chef, he can help you put the wasabi for rice, fish, soy, delicious bite of whatever together. However, in order to create the experience of sushi, the pride of Japan, it requires artistry true.


As can be seen from me the budding sushi lover, I thought tasted all about the same sushi. Sushi itself was cold all the time a little. It was bricks rice, with are draped of the abundant fish. Wasabi and soy sauce mixture, the work of each, dunk and went down all the bits smoothly. Fish was excellent when fresh, but the sashimi of fresh taste for me there was no real knowing. It gives the smell of fish? Sushi right.  You would like, I was rewarded often. Same the sushi all.


Soon, however, scales fell from my eyes away.


I was fortunate enough to study in Japan. The essence of sushi, it was revealed to me there. The United States has not been should cool rice. To real sushi rice, to carry a taste of the entire small vinegar moist, piece the brink of falling apart, it is a little more than room temperature. It was not ambiguous rice to blanket of with fish. In addition, it the fish was to be sitting of the above, exactly slice. Soy sauce, did not mean that it is a birdbath for each. The sushi chef polish each part of the appropriate amount of soy sauce, wasabi. If sushi chef is true, it has happened so far.


Second, the chef, is the best sushi chef to give steamed perfect. As experience, the right sushi is of a meal in awe. Chef, patron saint of sea, cleric of land, he will make the best of his ability in you. It works so you function as a vessel to experience his skills only.


Raw materials is the price of entry simply, to good sushi yes. The fresh fish? The replicate is of nothing. Undeniably good is good wasabi. Is insult bad wasabi. Rice mirin is one in which taste is completely different from the other vinegar.


Key of Japan is the dedication of the chef and patience to delicious sushi of piece. To make sure that you shoo the rice steam always, it does not become sticky. Do they keep the rice at the optimum temperature is it? Uni (sea urchin), Unagi (eel), do sushi chef adhering to the tradition of eggs (egg) closely and be true to them?


If I was trying to get kicked in the flavor face and mouth [Yes].


Durn tasty bento box ya got there sushi san!

Tradition: It's the world of the sushi true. Every day very new combination of a new roll and a lot of flavor, will be displayed throughout the United States. Cream of cheese such as avocado tuna spicy things - all delicious, please but do not get me wrong -  they are opposed to Japanese sushi they are.


In Japan , you can not find the dragon roll . You will not to find a Philadelphia roll and tempura Ebi-roll. Such is like you find a fourth of July barbecue "lasagna and chicken finger hamburger.” No.


In Japan is a real sushi just tuna. There is your salmon. They will be on top of the rice. Cream cheese go to hell. Yet still the simple will be crushing your heart.


So, Kushiya Benkay exactly not the winner: fresh fish of off, hard cold rice, higher magnitude in the need for soy sauce. They fall into hole of all that above. However, fine just that. In other words, despite all it is showing the beauty of sushi. Bad sushi? Well, it is also a good sushi. Sushi, it is a good meal at the time of always.


So, if urgent, yes go to Kushiya Benkay. There are some average lunch or a very special decent food they. At least, inexpensive. You may go. However, the gods of Japan famous sushi, please do not expect a smile looking down your decision.




2.9 Stars

Really, this is not a bad sushi place. Their fish is fresh (most often). They do pretty solid tempura, yakitori and more. The only unfortunate theme that runs throughout is that indelible touch of “American Sushi Restaurant.”  



Not very expensive, which in most cases verifies certain assumptions about the quality. This is one of those cases.


White Rice

Open seating that never seems to be completely full. I'd treat it more as a takeout sorta joint.  


Eager to Please

While the servers are nice, the wait always seems to be a bit longer than necessary. If you're picking up, no prob whatsoever. But I've sat down a couple times with like 3 other people in the joint and had an hour long lunch.



There are just too many other options in Portland to say that you have to eat sushi at Kushiya Benkay. HOWEVER, their bento box lunches are absolutely worth trying out at least once; they feature an array of Japanese staples likes tempura, miso soup, sushi, gyoza and more -- enough to fill a sumo-sized belly.

Mr. Bagel - Portland, ME (Part 1)

It was obvious to Mr. Bagel that his tablemates wanted to kill him. In fact, he even knew them by name. There was Jiang “Fang” Leng, Britain’s most notorious left-handed assassin. Beside him was Vlad McFadd, a Russian-Irish master of medieval weaponry and serial roughneck. And on the end, trying hard not to pounce was Danrgus X, an assassin who had tried to change his name to “Dangerous X” at age 6, misspelled it and subsequently lost all the paperwork.


The game was blackjack and the stakes were high enough to bankrupt small island nations. Wind whistled across the table and buoys clanged far below. They were playing aboard the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), biggest aircraft carrier in the fleet. It was an exclusive gala featuring dictators, warlords and drug kingpins the world over. The fact that they held it on an active, Nimitz class carrier was all the more a thumb at the nose of the man. Mr. Bagel had received an invitation three weeks earlier. From whom he did not know.


Mr. Bagel wrinkled his golden brown forehead in mock thought. The dealer’s upcard was jack, Mr. Bagel’s ace. In the center of the table rested a stack of chips, all Mr. Bagel had left. With a flick of his crusty hand, Mr. Bagel revealed his hole card: another ace.


“Split it,” said Mr. Bagel. Vlad McFadd leaned back in his chair and rearranged his matrioshka bagpipe. Mr. Bagel tapped the table. Hit.


The dealer dealt: ace again on the first ace and another ace to greet the second. Four aces now sat in front of Mr. Bagel, who allowed himself a smile. “Split them again,” he said.


A crowd of gawking generals, military medals spangling, began to gather. Danrgus X was sweating and fidgeting. He had his hand behind his back, most likely fingering his gun-chucks – a bullet firing pair of nun-chucks – his weapon of choice. Jiang Leng sat in silence, sucking his platinum teeth.


Four aces rested in front of Mr. Bagel. He paused and looked over at his tablemates. They were itching for an opening. The protuberance of Vlad McFadd’s claymore was easily visible through his red-and-white flannel. Were it not for the wind, the creaking of the massive vessel and the murmur crowd, you could have heard a pin drop.


A lady parted the crowd, silencing their muttering. Knockout. She had blueblack hair and emerald eyes. The curvature of her tight dress-clad body was reminiscent of a perfect sine wave.


“May I join,” she asked. Her accent was thick, Romanian if he wasn’t mistaken. She allowed the sheer fabric of her dress to whisper over the back of Mr. Bagel’s chair.

“Sorry miss,” the dealer said. “We’re mid hand.”

“I’ll just watch then,” she said, leaning back to take in the full figure of Mr. Bagel in his custom suit.


“Split them again. Then hit,” said Mr. Bagel, producing a cigarillo from his chest pocket. He tapped it lightly on the table as the dealer placed four more aces on top of the four aces he already had.


The sexy foreign lady produced a gold lighter for Mr. Bagel, a diamond monogram twinkled on the side: IL. Mr. Bagel cocked a poppy-seed eyebrow.


“It seems I’ve hit the jackpot,” he said, looking into her eyes as she lit his cigarillo.

“That's a good hand,” she said, nodding to the eight aces in front of Mr. Bagel. She slipped the lighter down the top of her blouse.

“I wasn’t talking about the hand.”


*puts sunglasses on* Yeaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh!

Danrgus X leapt for Mr. Bagel first, gun-chucks firing as they whirled. With languid speed, Mr. Bagel leaned back and delivered a curt chop to X’s poorly-tattooed neck. The lanky hulk went sprawling, unconscious. The other two assassins stood, weapons now at the ready. The generals scattered like pigeons.


“You might want to duck,” said Mr. Bagel.  Diving to the ground, he clicked his right cuff link. With a whisper, darts shot from the aces on the table, peppering Vlad McFadd and Jiang Leng. Both crumpled to the deck, snoring violently.


“Nice trick,” said the lady.

“I never show all my cards,” said Mr. Bagel, clicking his other cufflink.


A gunmetal Bentley exploded from the water beside the boat and landed neatly next to them.


“I’d ask you to join, if I knew your name,” said Mr. Bagel, opening the passenger door. By now, the deck was in a commotion. Vlad McFadd was regaining consciousness and the extremely politically powerful guests were crowding for the gangplank, yelping.

“I’m Itsa,” she said.

“Just Eetsa?” said Mr. Bagel.

“Yes, but with an I, not an E. And just Itsa for now.”

“Playing it close to the chest,” said Mr. Bagel, eyes scanning her ample construction.

“Whose chest,” she said.


In the car, Itsa playfully pulled the fabric of her top closed and put on her seatbelt. Mr. Bagel tisk-tisked and depressed a single key on the steering wheel. With a belch of nitrous the car sped off the tanker, diving into the deep.


“What do you do?” said Mr. Bagel, turning to Itsa.

“I am a soprano at the Bolshoy.”

“Opera then,” said Mr. Bagel. “Impressive.”

“My turn,” said Itsa. “Where are we going?”  

“I thought you knew,” said Mr. Bagel, pulling out a Walther PPK. He pointed it at her and cocked his bagel head. “You are, after all, the enemy.”


Itsa smiled.

“Oh, and how did you guess?” She turned to face him and her dress parted, revealing acres of cleavage.

“It’s not enough to count cards. You have to be able to read a poker face,” said Mr. Bagel.

She laughed and told him the coordinates to the lair. Mr. Bagel punched them in and the submarine car sped off.


They drove up the ramp of the docking bay. The car filled with the smell of chlorine, damp air and patchouli. Light from the water rippled off the walls. Before they could get out, a prison-like gate slammed shut across the underwater entrance.


“Warm welcome,” said Mr. Bagel.

“My guru does not take chances,” she said.


Guards streamed in from the doorway, fluorescent automatic weapons at the ready. They wore a tie-dye shirt and bell-bottom combo. On their heads were white pillbox hats, each with a bright blue letter on it.


“I take it he can’t have more than 26 of you at a time?” said Mr. Bagel, stepping out of the car.


“Silence!” shouted Guard C. “Follow.” They put fluffy pink handcuffs on Mr. Bagel.

“None for the lady?” said Mr. Bagel. Guard C yelled silence again and slammed his gun butt into Mr. Bagel’s doughy jaw.  He stayed silent after that.



Continue to Part 2...

Nosh - Portland, ME


“Popular culture,” said the screenwriter to the three immaculately attired TV executives, “is a black hole.” He delivered the statement emphatically, a bit of spit flying from his mouth on the “B” of “black hole.”


In front of him – at the opposite end of a stylishly elliptical mahogany table, nestled into a window-lined boardroom overlooking the sprawling white-and-green-flecked taupe of the valley – the TV executives appeared confused.


The screenwriter – dressed in a suit that fit him not at all – held up a nervous finger, indicating for them to wait, and clicked to the next slide of his presentation.


“Fringe culture is odd,” said the screenwriter. “And it used to start wayyyyy outside, far away from the black hole of popular culture. Nobody knows about it, at first!” The Screenwriter nervously jabbed his finger in the air. “But, as more and more people become aware of this fringe idea, it gets closer to the center of popular culture: the black hole.”


The screenwriter stopped and stared, eyes wide, at the assembled TV executives. One, an old man with cheeks that hung below his chin, leaned back in his chair. The other two – a young man with neatly gelled hair and a middle-aged woman who had had enough work done to look as if she’d had no work done – looked confused and skeptical.


“I’ll continue,” said the screenwriter, obviously shaken by their silence. “Over time the fringe has gotten sucked toward the center…” Another nervous jab. “Meaning, the distance between fringe culture and pop culture has decreased!”



The older executive cleared his throat and put his hand on the table. “So what’s the idea? You want a space show? Something about popular space?”


“Not exactly,” said the screenwriter. “It’s a reality show.” Silence. “A reality mash-up.” All three executives ahhhhed and recline back in their chairs. “I had the idea over a plate of buffalo wings. They were butter-poached, breaded, salted, doused in ranch sauce and then topped with pretzel bits.” The executives raised their eyebrows at this aside. The meeting, as far as the screenwriter was concerned, was going incredibly poorly.


Just noshin'.

Image C/O Portland Press Herald

“Anyway, I just mean to say that because the combination was a bit much and that kind of ties in nicely to my show and– .”


“Go on, but get to the point,” said the young, male executive. “Yeah, I have a meeting in five,” said the female executive, poking at her phone.


“You see, in the future,” said the screenwriter, “what used to be fringe will be pop culture proper. They will merge. But here’s the hook: my idea is from an even further out fringe.”



The older executive sighed and shifted his seat so that the sun wouldn’t hit him directly in the face. The sun then hit the female executive in the face but she pretended not to notice.


“So it’s a fringe-focused, space reality mashup?” offered the older executive, boredom liberally coating his words.


“No,” said the screenwriter. With a click, his presentation star-wiped to the next slide. On the screen was a live feed of the very conference room in which they sat. The female executive cocked her head, the young executive released a clipped “ahh.”


“It’s about this.” Smiling with only his mouth – nerves etched on his brow – the screenwriter reached beneath the table and produced a handgun.


Tension flooded the room.


“That’s not a real gun,” said the young executive.

“Of course it’s not,” said the female executive.

“So, what’s this?” said the older executive.

“It’s a gun,” said the screenwriter. “And this is my show.”


Raising the gun, the screenwriter recited, “This is a Glock 26 Gen4 – a concealed carry staple since 1994.” He then aimed at a floor-to-ceiling window and shot.


Glass exploded outward, raining onto the bustling street below. The female executive screamed, and the two male executives dove for the ground.  The screenwriter crouched, tut-tutting. “Sit up, slide slide your phones to me, or else I will simply shoot you all.”


The executives complied.


Bacon dusted fries. Yes. This is yes.

Image C/O FoodSpotting

“This is the idea,” said the screenwriter, actually smiling now.  Again, from beneath the table he produced a thick bike lock, which he ran through the handles of the boardroom door. “I call it “Death Panel.” And this, lady and gentlemen, is the pilot episode.”


The screenwriter appeared more relaxed than before. It was the calm of a man with a single purpose and goal.  There was no tomorrow for him, no this afternoon or even an hour from now. It was only now, and right now he had a gun pointed at three extremely wealthy white people.


The three executives were grimacing and pale. Their faces appeared, to the screenwriter, to have transformed into white masks covering deflated balloons. Their previous superiority and confidence had been erased.


“Why are you doing this?” said the young executive. The other two looked at him with white-wild eyes. Wind moaned through the hole in the glass.


“Ha ha!” said the screenwriter. “Thank you, my good man.” An aristocratic, creepy joviality crept into his voice. “The same reason anyone does something this drastic: to prove a point!”


“What possible point could come from this?” said the elder executive. “Don’t throw away your life. If you just put that gun away, we can all just leave this situation. No press. No hubbub. Just drop the gun and we can call it even.”


The elder executive’s appeal to reason met with deadly silence. “That’s bullshit and you know it,” said the screenwriter, pointing, one by one, to the security cameras that adorned the boardroom. The elder executive kept his deflated poker face.


A knock on the door. The handles rattled and a large male voice said, “Sir, please open the doors.”


“Nope!” the screenwriter shouted. “You force in these doors, everyone dies.”


“Just be calm sir,” said the large male voice. Another subtle rattle on the doors.


“Stop trying to get in!” The screenwriter said. He swept the gun over and shot two bullets low through the rich, oak particleboard doors. “Holy shit,” said the large male voice, outside. Hurried, leaden footsteps echoed away down the marble hallway.


Turning back to the three executives, the screenwriter smiled, his mustache forming a perfectly flat line above his mouth. “In the comments beside this live video feed, all the viewers are being asked “Who will live and who will die?” The young executive uttered a croaking no. “It’s a crowd-sourced, reality execution show! Get it?”


The board room had begun to darken slightly, shadows stretched across the table and sliced dark lines across the shaking executive’s bodies. They stayed silent.


“Anyway,” said the screenwriter. “On this phone, I will have the final tally. And from the comments,” The screenwriter scanned his phone, his gun still leveled at the executives. “From the comments.” He looked up and hove the black nose of his gun to the young executive. “Looks like you’re the strong favorite.”


The young executive began to cry. Small, peeping sobs that oddly matched the pitch of the wailing, bullet-holed window.


“What’s the point,” said the female executive. The screenwriter raised his eyebrow and shifted the gun’s nose to her. “What’s the point?” he asked.


Is humangus.

Image C/O Foodspotting


“Yes,” said the middle-aged woman, now shrinking into a shirt that had, minutes ago, been far too tight for her artificially engorged bosom. “You said there was a point behind all this.”


Her tone was slow and deliberate, obviously stalling for time. “You’re obviously stalling for time,” said the screenwriter. She, like the elder executive, kept her poker face.


“But that’s just fine,” said the screenwriter. “There is absolutely a point. And this is the part where the ‘evil villain’ gets to air out his grievances. But of course nobody ever listens, and he never gets time to fully explain. But the point…”


Unfortunately, before he could continue, the doors to the boardroom snapped in half with a screaming crunch.


The screenwriter dove behind the table, narrowly avoiding the peppering of bullets that blew out the remaining glass in the formerly whistling window.


 “No!” screamed the writer, scrambling around the table and securing an arm around the elderly executive’s neck. “I was getting to the point!”


At least thirteen riot police emptied into the boardroom. Though only the elderly executive was physically restrained, the two remaining executives stayed riveted to their seats, stunned by the noise and commotion, into inaction.


“Release the hostage,” yelled an officer with a thick, Chicago accent. Saying it like: “release da hostich.” That accent.


“Move and they’re dead.” The riot police stopped their slow march forward.


The Screenwriter composed himself and began to speak.


“The point is that you people are ruining America.” He looked angrily at the backs of the executives’ heads. “I have done the research. The three of you have greenlit shows like: My Dad: My Boyfriend, Meth University, I <3 Dead People, Is It Sh*t?, My 300 Pound Toddler…”


“Sir,” yelled the Chicago policeman again. “Release the hostages!”  


“These shows make people feel good,” continued the screenwriter, redoubling his grip around the elderly TV executive’s neck. The pitter-pat of a helicopter snuck in the blown-out window. Nobody gave up any ground.


“Sir,” yelled the Chicagoan again.


“Listen!” the screenwriter screamed. “People watch and feel excited that they’re not as shitty and backwards and terrible as all the stuff they’re seeing on TV. It’s what they want! But it is not what they need. It doesn’t make them try to be better. It gives them license to be worse. You’re pushing American society to new lows with every show.“


A shot shrieked through the glass and nestled into the wall right behind the screenwriter’s head. The screenwriter emitted an inarticulate burp of rage, cocked the hammer of his Glock and buried the nose deeper into the senior executive’s head-folds. The Chicagoan raised his arm for his men to stay still.


The screenwriter continued his monologue, unfazed. His face was a glowing orb of red determination. His eyes bulged and shot red-hot lasers of accusation onto everything they touched. The sound of the helicopter rose outside and police lights bathed the room with a manic, strobing glow.


“We live in an age of ‘should’ not ‘could’. Our system is regulated by our basest desires, nothing higher, nothing grander. This show! My show is a shock to the system! It is a look into the inevitable future of our society. It’s a gut-check for America. Do we want this? Do we want to murder people on live television? If we don’t, then we must act! We must not continue to accept the next, ridiculous low. We must strive to be better!”


Should you ever need your bacon deep fried and then sauced, this is where you go.

Image ℅ Food Spotting


The screenwriter stopped speaking and his phone dinged. The entourage of riot police’s guns clicked into active readiness. “That’s the end of voting,” he said.


“Sir,” yelled the Chicagoan. “We have a sniper trained on you from that helicopter outside. Release the hostage now, or we will authorize him to shoot… again.”


The screenwriter held up a finger from behind the executive’s exhausted, shriveled head. “One second,” he yelled. “Just one single more second. Read this for me.” He raised his phone to the elderly executive’s eye-level. “Read who should have died.”


The elderly executive, wide-eyed, read the phone’s screen. “Who does it say?” screamed the screenwriter.


“Release the hostage!” said the Chicagoan. The riot police crept forward and now rimmed the edge of the table like eager reporters.


“You,” said the elderly executive.

“What?” said the screenwriter.


“It’s just you.” Exhaustion edged out fear in the elder executive's voice. “There’s a note below the voting. It reads ‘One of you executives needs to pick up this fucking show!’”


The screenwriter let out a chuckle. The chuckle turned into a sickening laugh. Society had chosen, what more was there for him to do?


The screenwriter stood up with his gun to his temple, still laughing. And as the executives scurried away from where they had just been trapped, the shooting began.




3.0 Stars

In some items, it just nails it (like their salt & vinegar fries). In others, it is a pile of gluttonous foolery (their wings). Each dish tastes great on the first bite. But by the third you will be questioning why you are doing this to yourself. The “Smothered Meatload” sandwich boasts: all-natural ground beef, cheddar cheese, sweet grilled onions, ketchup on white bread and the whole rest doused in gravy. Don’t get me wrong, it’s tasty. But eating this gravy-smothered, meat and cheese bomb in one sitting is basically an act of self-loathing.



Sandwiches run ~$12 and don’t come with fries. However, the fries being a tasty! strong suit of Nosh’s, it’s highly recommended you get them. You’ll walk out of there paying a bit more than you would like.


Carefully-appointed Grunge

The tables and bar are situated in a railroad style. You’ll be sitting close to your neighbors. And you will most-likely have neighbors at this heavily-frequented joint.


Yeah Cool

A bit harried at times because of the rush when I’ve been there. But good people who get you in and out with a couple beers (or wines) to keep you lubricated.



Nosh is a place I could only really recommend that you go once. Go to try the ridiculously flavor-packed sandwiches and fries and everything else. But I can almost guarantee that once the glow of “wow what wild flavors!” wears off (plus with all the other high-quality options in Portland *cough* Duckfat *cough*) you’ll find Nosh to be a bit superfluous. It’s not a bad place by any means. They’re just a little too focused on what they can serve, rather than what they should be serving.

Hot Suppa! - Portland, ME

I met Nick at Hot Suppa! about eight months ago. I was completely new to Portland and the biting chill was in the process of being baked out by the high April sun.

Good morning, Portland.

I was perched at their stout bar, reading The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann. A guy about my age with wild brown hair – the kind that perpetually looks as if it just came from under a hat – sat down next to me. He situated himself and pulled out the same book I was reading. His version was older; its pages yellowed and corners creased with use. That was Nick.


He turned to me and we struck up a predictable conversation about the book. Soon, our conversation’s predictability vanished.


Our discourse flowed naturally and powerfully; dialogue went back and forth, building upon itself. Most conversations can feel as if both parties are carrying their separate points to their pre-conceived conclusions, as if the other party is simply a necessity to airing out opinions. My conversation with Nick, however, was an improvised duet. We played off of each other, coming to realizations on the fly, inspiring the other to think more deeply at each turn. It was the kind of conversation that, no matter how long it actually was, could never have been long enough. He impressed me quite thoroughly.


At the end of our meal– I had the waffles with Maine maple syrup, he the benedict – we exchanged numbers and made plans to meet up again. 

Nick, I found during our second meal at Hot Suppa!, was both a published author and semi-professional speed climber. He only told me after I asked him what he did as we waited for a booth to open up.  The word bragging would be about the exact opposite of how he described his daily activities; he tried, in fact, to downplay them, which of course ended up impressing me more.


Once again, our meal and conversation were superb.


At home that night I looked up videos of speed climbing online. Nicke assured me that he was well below championship level. I searched him out nonetheless. After scrolling through a couple pages of results, I found a poorly-captured video featuring Nick on one side in red and a young man in blue on the other. Both were hooked up to minimal harnesses and faced a sheer, blue climbing wall.


At the sound of the gun, both young men shot up the wall, climbing as if the surface were horizontal, rather than vertical. The video was named “NCAA Speed Climbing Men’s Semi-Final 2006”. Nick lost. I could tell which contender he was without any trouble: his hair hadn’t changed.  But his immense skill was evident.


And though he lost, his mastery of climbing was dumbfounding. I’m athletic enough, but nowhere near competition-level in any sport. That sort of skill, where one is talented enough to rival every other driven young person in America, is unattainably difficult. It requires not only innate ability but an almost absolute dedication. Nick had impressed me again.

My feelings can be summed up here.

The next week, we met on a Thursday morning at Hot Suppa! and he brought his girlfriend along.  She was a petit woman, named Erica, with brown hair and luxuriously large green eyes: pleasant, smart, beautiful. She had actually just been hired off of an internship at an in-demand interior design firm. Not that Nick needed the money, his writing supported him well enough.


Again, our meal went by too fast and Nick continued to cement his status as someone truly to be admired. He was so put-together, self-assured and confident with the physical and mental substance back it up. I had never met a person so superior to me in every single way.


I thought about it quite a bit. How superior he was to me in so many ways. Nearly the perfect person – at least as far as my estimation went.


Another couple weeks passed after that meal without us seeing each other. Nick and I had both gotten busy: he, writing an article for an outdoors magazine and me with work.


One steamy, mid-spring night in the Old Port, I was out with my girlfriend, Katie. She was ready to go – she had an early start planned the next day – I was not. She left me among the tourists, trying not to stumble on the frost-heaved cobblestones. I wandered into some dive or other, I can’t remember the name but it had low lights, pool and darts. Ordering a drink from the packed bar, I heard my name. The voice was excited, slurred.


It was Nick.


He was visibly drunk. The collar of his shirt was turned up at one side. He motioned to the open seat next to him. I made my way through the crowd and sat down. I was a bit drunk myself, so his drunkenness seemed another feather in his cap from my perspective: a guy who has everything so much together that he even has time to go out and let loose.


We talked for a bit, though not about much since the noise of the place precluded any meaningful conversation. It was more an intoxicated exchange of admiration, talking about how excellent our chats had been.


Then a girl appeared behind Nick and reached over him to a half-empty cocktail on the bar. She put her arm around Nick’s shoulder and he leaned back and kissed her neck.


She was a brunette, tall and voluptuous. Her make-up was a bit smeared, though it made her look perhaps even more licentious than had it been perfectly situated. Nick didn’t introduce her so she introduced herself. Her name was Hannah and, by her voice, had drank equally as much as Nick.


Looking at Nick’s collar, I now noticed her red lipstick was there. Maybe he’d broken up with Erica? But in the time we talked after Hannah showed up, there was no mention of anything concerning Erica. No explanation from Nick as to this change in women. It was almost as if he was acting completely serene to test what kind of a friend I was. Would I ask about Erica and destroy their mood? Would I simply judge him without knowing the details? Or would I let it slide and assume that whatever he was doing was probably appropriate?


I chose the last option. I chatted as best I could until my drink was gone and announced that it was time to head home. Despite their protestations I nodded my way out. It was only three days before I ate with Nick again.

It took until three quarters of the way through our meal before I found an opening to ask about Erica.

I am the Alpha and the Omega. 

“She’s good,” Nick said. “She just got a big assignment designing a new rec-room for some young couple up in Falmouth.” I nodded, allowing him to go on. “So, she’s been busy.”


Nothing more than that. We had already acknowledged that it was fun to see each other out and I hadn’t had the audacity to ask about Hannah. The majority of my hesitation came from a reticence to delve too deeply into Nick’s personal affairs. It seemed that our friendship had started off so perfectly that any outside factors could only serve to sully the clean and well-defined picture I had of him. He was a perfect person. I didn’t want to believe he was any less than that.


I tried to bury my disappointment over Nick’s complete lack of remorse concerning Hannah. I didn’t succeed. But still, we continued to meet and talk.

About three weeks later, Nick brought Erica again. When we all had been seated, I couldn’t find an inkling of unrest. Not within Nick, nor between him and Erica. This could have meant two things: either they’d made up completely for Nick’s transgressions or Erica was completely oblivious. As the meal went on, there was no doubting that she didn’t know.


That realization sparked in me an electric tension. The sort of tension that increases with prolonged inaction; like when a teenage me was dared to go ask a girl out. It was the the type of dread that made the task impossible to complete, yet more excruciating not to the longer you waited.


As we ate each extended pause felt like a challenge. Nick’s gaze intensified as if daring me to bring up Hannah or somehow hint at her. But I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t bring it up because I genuinely liked Nick and wanted to think the best of him. But I am also a coward when it comes to confrontation. So I kept silent on the matter through until we said our goodbyes. I vowed to bring her up at our next meal alone.


I never did.


Two weeks later Nick told me that he and Erica had broken up. That completed the talk of girls. The matter was dropped for good and all, no resolution. But, unfortunately, that’s the way so many relationship-centric matters tend to end. Both parties unfulfilled, nobody happy.


The very next day, at the dentist, I was flipping through Down East Magazine. Its feature article was called “Depths of Flavor,” about a struggling fisherman who’d found a flourishing new market in deep-sea fish. It was by Nick.


After reading it three times, to make sure I wasn’t missing something, I realized that it was simply an adequate article. It felt like just another let-down, concerning Nick. Given our conversations, the article seemed well below his level of thought and humor. Not that it was a terrible piece of writing. It just wasn't what I would have considered worthy of him.


Nick and I didn’t talk for nearly five months. And this, coming after we had not gone an entire week without some sort of friendly meet-up, was a surprise. But so it goes.


In that time I thought about him a little. Mostly about how impressive he’d seemed in the beginning and how he’d eventually let me down. Though he hadn’t let me down, I realized, not really. He’d merely gone from the realm of the extraordinary into the mildly-above-ordinary. He still was a fantastically talented athlete. He still wrote professionally. He just wasn’t the “overman” I’d convinced myself he was. It was more my own fault for expecting to find someone who was perfect. My own selfish hope that there was an ideal person living an ideal life out there. That perfection – as a quality – was attainable. But of course, perfection is only really reserved for the imagination, and only poor ones at that.


It was getting to be the end of shorts weather when I reached out to Nick again. I texted him, suggesting we grab some food that weekend. He responded quickly and with enthusiasm, even throwing out a couple times that worked for him.

The topography of deliciousness.

Being back at Hot Suppa! with Nick was excellent. We talked and laughed and it was like next to no time had passed between our last meeting. The meal flew by. After shaking hands and waving our goodbyes, I left smiling.


Sure, I’d wished that Nick was perfect. I’d wished it for him – because I liked him – and I’d wished it selfishly because I wanted to believe that I could be perfect too. But he wasn’t and neither was I.


Nick may be a little loose and inconsiderate with women. He might not be as groundbreaking a writer as I had, naively, expected. And I could revile him for those traits. I could build a boiling dislike for him and never speak with him again. But what good would that do? He wouldn’t change as a person. I wouldn’t have a chance to possibly help him improve (and he, me). And I would be deprived of a great conversation partner and friend. The world would continue as it was, with two people less happy than they could have been.


In the end, we build the strongest connections around what we have in common and imperfection is the only universal trait.




4.4 Stars

I have visited Hot Suppa! vastly more times than any other brunch spot in Portland. They simply understand eggs better than basically every other brunch I’ve ever been to (their omelet is straight out of France). In overall food, they’re close to equal with Caiola’s brunch, but at a lower price point. It’s both excellent and consistent.


Reasonably Reasonable

Every item on the menu “proper” is well priced. In fact, the Waffle (which comes with breakfast meat, two eggs, and a sliver of grapefruit) is a damn steal. Their only downfall is that their specials tend to be both too little (in terms of portion sizes) and too much (in terms of price).


Boutique Art Show

Its intimate booths and art-smattered walls make for great conversation and a cozy atmosphere. However, it’s slight size means wait times can hit the hour mark any day of the week. And with its popularity ever rising, wait times may well rise commensurate. Go early. Go late. But be aware that it’s worth the wait.


Busy Bee

Overall, great service. Coffee stays full 95% of the time. Peak hours tend to be when it gets the diciest.



I tend to be critical of Hot Suppa! because I love it so much. Like a father to a child, I want to see it improve for its own sake. Meaning, I tend to internally gripe about stuff like the sometimes so-so service, long waits and underwhelming specials. That all being said, in Portland, there is no more consistently fantastic brunch than Hot Suppa!

Binga's Stadium - Portland, ME

Rich Jerscyzkhein: Hi everyone I’m Rich Jerscyzkhein (pronounced “jason”) and this is the Super Bowl XCLVIII post-game discussion, brought to you live from Binga’s Stadium in Portland Maine.

And oh by the way, joining me is former Super Bowl-winning coach, and current Binga’s spokesperson, Bill Trunt. Beside him is Hall of Fame running back Dayved Nardley. And joining us, as always, is former coach of the Carson City Gamblers, Heck Jonson. The score was eighty-four for the Gettysburg Cavalry and zero for the Carson City Gamblers. Gentlemen, what did you think of the game?


Dayved Nardley: W—


Bill Trunt: First off I want to thank Binga’s Stadium for bringing us out here. Delicious wingas and a wall of beers. Fantastic!

Rich Jerscyzkhein: Any thoughts on the game coach?


Bill Trunt: Textbook annihilation.

Enough screens to play every season of Frasier simultaneously.

Image c/o Binga’s Stadium

Dayved Nardley: That’s putting it lightly coach. I mean… I mean… Marcus Lackey, you look at the stats on this guy… as a QB, he basically put up a season’s worth of numbers in a single game.


Heck Jonson: I don’t even want to talk about it.


Rich Jerscyzkhein: Tell me what you mean coach?


Heck Jonson: What I mean is I want to bury my head in a dry old crick. I’m torn up, Rich. I was coach of the Gamblers when Biff Mandingo started at quarterback. To see his career end like this… It's a damn shame.


Bill Trunt: *muffled chuckling*


Rich Jerscyzkhein: OK, let’s look at the numbers. D’Quayson Figgins, always a force for the Gamblers, came up with a net gain of 2 yards. Both of which came when he tripped and was launched into the air by Cavalry linebacker Fred Zuht.


Dayved Nardley: You also have… you also have the crumbling of the Brick Pillow.


Rich Jerscyzkhein: Right.


Dayved Nardley: Russel Armstank, A.K.A. The Brick Pillow, a perennial pillar of the Gamblers’ defense. He let 25 sacks through his line.


Bill Trunt: Put up less of a fight than a roofied prom date.


Heck Jonson: You’re talking from experience now, Bill?


Bill Trunt: You’re a funny guy, Heck. You know what else is funny? *looks straight at camera* How much I love Binga’s fried pickle chips: crispy, tart and delicious. Mmmm mm!

Hey chickens. Bet you wish you didn't have such delicious arms.

Image c/o Blueberry Files

Rich Jerscyzkhein: The list goes on; Veto Threat Jr. tripped himself during the kickoff return, broke his leg and then his pants fell off. Wide receiver Bret Dillinger dropped ten out of ten reception opportunities and then got divorced on the sidelines. And, Gambler’s coach, Larry Popkiss was last seen rummaging naked through arena dumpsters sporting an unhinged gaze.


Heck Jonson: It was a ten-car pileup on top of a train wreck in a concentration camp. Gall dang! I think I’m gonna start crying again.


Dayded Nardley: Then you take a look at the Cavalry. I can’t believe what these young guys can do. You take… You take Ngube Onukafor. This 21-year-old not only ran for 805 yards but set a world record for scarves knit during a single Super Bowl at four.


Rich Jerscyzkhein: They were tastefully made.


Dayved Nardley: The Cavalry defense… I mean, these guys gained more yards than the Gamblers offense. Sweet mercy!


Bill Trunt:  Sweet is right! Sweet as Thai BBQ Wingas. Only at Binga’s


Dayved Nardley: Wide receiver Gibbs Jacoby literally floated five feet off the ground the entire game. Punter, Sagittarius Arkenstone laced a ball so straight that – for a brief moment – it sliced through the very underpinnings of spacetime revealing, to the entire stadium, the tenebrous clockwork of the universe.


Rich Jerscyzkhein: And let’s not forget tight end Robo Liscious… this guy, in the third quarter he animorphed into a seventeen-foot-tall komodo dragon and started picking passes out of the air with his heinous tongue.


Bill Trunt: *Makes a fervent series of exaggerated slurping sounds*


Heck Jonson: *Lets out a keening wail*


Rich Jerscyzkhein: And oh by the way, you have quarterback Marcus Lackey. Talk about game of the century. Any century. In fact, we were just informed that a coalition of every citizen on earth has demanded that his likeness be laser-etched into the moon.

Heck Jonson: Poor Biff Mandingo. Poor, poor Biff.


Gate F, as in, "F*cking humongous."

Image c/o Local Events Authority

Rich Jerscyzkhein: That’s right, coach. Biff arguably got the worst of it out there tonight. Even in the first quart—


Heck Jonson: Let me do this. I can do it... Biff Mand—*sobs*


Dayved Nardley: It’s OK Heck. I can—


Heck Jonson: Biff… Biff! Mandingo! He was a fine man. A *sniffle* a whip-smart student of the game. We don’t need to trot out all the details, so here are the dang keys. Biff Mandingo’s first throw went out of bounds. So far out of bounds in fact that it flew into the Make-A-Wish Sideline Seats, struck a young Gamblers fan in the throat and killed him. Still can’t believe the little scamp is gone… Biff’s next… Biff’s next pass – a dang rocket of a throw – sailed the length of the field and nicked a gas main, incinerating the Gambler’s entire rooting section. Nobody left alive in the Jackpot. Not a one. And if that weren’t enough, Biff’s last pass sailed out of the stadium as if… as if borne on the wings of fallen angels! Biff's errant pass hit a moving truck carrying, of all things, his own possessions. Biff's aim was so unlucky that it managed to knock the back door loose, allowing a personal safe to eject from the vehicle which, upon striking the pavement, unlocked to reveal three hard drives labeled Child Pornography 1, Child Pornography 2 and Child Pornography 4. Biff is currently awaiting trial in Carson City’s sheriff’s office… That’s… That’s all I can get out.


Rich Jerscyzkhein: Thanks coach, that sums it up. Hard to watch. Hard to stomach.


Bill Trunt: I’ll tell you what’s been easy to stomach: *thumps down an enormous bucket of wings on the desk* Binga’s Fantastic 4lb. party bowl. Stuffed chock-full of wingas.


Heck Jonson: Bill, you are a shilling swine!


Bill Trunt: At least I'm a winner, Heck. Don’t see a ring on your finger.


Heck Jonson: You sonuva… I’ll give you a ring!


*Heck tackles Bill and both disappear behind the bar*


Rich Jerscyzkhein: And that’s our post-game analysis. Tune in tomorrow for more highlights on SportMiddle. From behind the bar of Binga’s Stadium I’m Rich Jerscyzkhein, ESPM.





3.5 Stars

Go for the wings. The rest is certainly solid, but the fact that they’ve decided to create an entirely different nomenclature for their wings (dubbed Wingas) says a lot about their ability to prepare poultry.


Have a time

You can really drink and eat to your liver’s content. As long as the budget isn’t tight, you’ll end up pleased.


Stadium Seats

More flat screens than there are people (it seems). If you came to watch sports, watch sports you will.


Rapid Rounds

Waiters, waitresses and bartenders certainly keep you from drying out. Genuinely nice people by all accounts.



If you’re in the mood for bar grub and a big game night, Binga’s Stadium is a fine location. Just make sure to get there well before your game of choice; many other people will have the same idea (and for good reason).


Leo's Coney Island - Royal Oak, MI


ENTRY 38 – Late Night at Leo’s


Fifteen minutes and he still isn’t here. Is this the right Coney? I guess it’s a good thing I keep this diary in my purse. He seems like a really nice guy too. Who knows, maybe he’s the one?


He said Leo’s right? We were on the dance floor and I’d had like… a lot of drinks and I could feel he was… excited to be dancing with me. And I said, maybe you want to get out of here? And he’d said Leo’s. And I’d said fifteen minutes. And now here I am.


At least I can look out the window. It feels weird to be sitting in this booth by myself when every other booth is packed with high teenagers. And these tacky Grecian murals on the walls that were probably painted by some friend of somebody who owns the place... the vibe is a little… put on. And I’m here in my black leather skirt and high boots and it’s probably three degrees outside.


I’m definitely alone. I feel like such a skeeve.


Forty five minutes now.  He’s not here yet. Not even a text. I’ve already nursed down two coffees. Maybe he got held up. It is snowing outside. And maybe his phone is out of battery. Or maybe he turned it off? I think I’ll order a gyro.


Food photography is difficult.

C/O Urban Spoon


I pretty much have to keep shifting around because the plastic booth-cushion is sticking my leathered ass to the seat. The gyro was tasty, but in a regretful way. I know the garlic-filled Greek dressing is stinking up my breath. And the soft, vaguely-sweet pita it was wrapped in probably is, as we speak, settling into my waist.


Why do I even think about things like this? Why can’t I just enjoy anything without overthinking it? Is it just me?


It’s been an hour. I have a “Famous” Greek Salad in front of me. It’s probably 2/3 feta. Most of the teens have left. So, I guess this guy might not be coming. No big deal. It’s not like this is the first time. Who knows, though. I feel stupid. Maybe he just got held up? Maybe… 

I ordered a plate of fries.

Why is it so hard to be alone? I like myself, most of the time. I think I look good and my friends think I look great. And they don’t know how I can eat so much and still be so skinny. I tried to call his phone and it went right to that stupid answering-machine woman’s voice. So I don’t even know if it’s his number. Maybe his phone did run out of battery. But it’s been like an hour and a half.


I do feel lonely almost all the time now. When you work with people all day, like I do at the coffee shop, it makes it harder to be alone. I just want to touch somebody, to have them hold me back. It’s weird that we need that. That people need actual physical touch.


"You aren't a Michigan teen until you've snorted Sierra Mist in Leo's."

C/O Flickr user Aaron Gillespie

It’s still snowing so hard outside and every time a couple walks by I can’t help but inspect if the guy is my guy. I can’t even really remember what he looked like. Short brown hair with that little ski-jump spiky-swoosh in the front. He had on a polo that was either light green or blue. I think it had stripes. And that was pretty much it. But that’s all I need at this point: a person. A human. I keep sinking deeper down into my side of the bed while the other side has lost any hint of an imprint.


Two and a half hours and I now have a milkshake in front of me. I’m not even a bit tipsy any more. Except for me, two middle-aged women talking in hushed tones and this crusty guy two booths over who keeps leveling his eyes just below my chin, the place is empty. I should have left two hours ago. More. But the alternative is a cold, silent apartment. The alternative is work in six hours.


I don’t know if this is making me stronger. Everybody talks about how hardship makes you a stronger, more independent person. But when your problem is not wanting to be independent – not wanting to be alone – does it still work that way? Like, am I building up a giant wound in some part of me that will develop into massive psychic scar tissue that’ll cover the aching need for company that I’m feeling? Can a person ever learn to be fully alone, forever? I don’t think so. Just by the simple fact that a person’s first impulse after doing something they’re proud of is to want to tell somebody about it. You want other people to know about what you’ve done. It’s why a lot of successful criminals eventually get caught. Who wants to be great at something if nobody else knows about it? If you’re completely alone? It’s really hard to do something purely for yourself.


Only four and a half hours to work now. I got another coffee. The waitress is past concern. She just keeps looking at me with a mixture of “what’s next” and “give it up.” I could tell her all this stuff that I’m writing but I don’t want to. I don’t want to spread around my alone-ness. I just want to hold it close. Maybe I can smother it, like a flame without air. Or maybe it’ll smother me?


The snow stopped. I’ve become one with this bench. Maybe this is it? Maybe I’ll just go home and lock the doors and drink myself to death. It’s funny (maybe not funny, but more interesting) that that’s always an option. That it’s easy for me to just go home and drink all the alcohol I’ve legally bought and die. And it’s weird that I’m thinking about that now. No, I don’t really think I want to do that. But I could. Is it weird to think stuff like this? Is it weirder to write it down? To share it in some private way? I think it’s weird that we don’t share it more often.


A crash course in capitalism.

C/O Urban Spoon

But we don’t share much with anyone, do we? We don’t share thoughts like, when I’m driving, the thought that I could just flick the wheel to the left and kill at least a couple people. Or how, in the mall, I could just hurl myself from the escalator and scar, at least, 40 people for life.


And if I did tell someone those things they’d cringe and tell me how weird it was and how unnatural. But unnatural? Weird? They’re such a small step away from normal. They’re not difficult in practice or in imagination. They’re sitting there in plain sight every single day. But I guess they are weird, if weird, by definition, means something that’s uncomfortable to think about. But I don’t think I’m alone in thinking them. It’s just not OK to talk about.


Maybe that’s why I’m still in this booth. I need to do something weird. Do anything for long enough and you become an oddity. That’s how easy it really is to go outside the bounds of our culture. It’s as simple as too much, too long, too little, too anything. So I’m just going to keep sitting here. I’m going to find power in something that’s not my own loneliness.


And is this so weird? I’m just sitting here, enjoying some food. But the waitress probably thinks I’m crazy. And all the people who have come and gone have probably looked at the dressed up girl alone in her booth, scribbling away in some book and thought that she was either super depressing or probably screwed up. But I don’t feel screwed up. I feel good, actually. I feel in control.


I could kill myself at any moment. Any of us could. But we don’t. It’s the truth. The morbid truth. The unsettling truth. But it’s the truth nonetheless. The truth is the reality we live in, rather than the reality we choose to acknowledge.


And I think the fact that I’m thinking about it now makes me appreciate it a little bit more. Makes me appreciate life a little bit more. Like, I’ve had all these escape routes all this time from my sorrows and loneliness but I’ve never taken them. Like I’m stronger than I thought I was without even knowing it.


Within these walls, anything is possible.

C/O Yelp


Well it’s an hour from work. I guess I’d never have written any of this down if that guy had come. I guess I’d never have thought about any of this stuff if I’d had company. I probably would have just gone into the comfortable mode of “where do you work?” and “do you watch Game of Thrones” and everything else that we can ask anybody without fear. Maybe that’s the point of being alone? To think past everything you think of otherwise. To find something you originally thought was bad – or at least unsettling – and look into why it was bad. Why you thought it was the way it was. What is it that makes you uncomfortable? What is it that drives you away from that thing? Maybe being alone is about finding that the instinctual aversions to "weird" things are thinner than you previously thought.


 And find yourself expanding. Find yourself growing from the inside. Find yourself able to encompass and comprehend and appreciate ideas for what they are rather than what you’re societally-programmed to think they are.


Maybe being alone isn’t about armoring yourself against the world, but becoming more accepting to it? Maybe being alone is about finding peace with more and more ideas and thoughts and realities until you can never be uncomfortable. You can never feel weird. You simply feel that what you think and feel is fine because you know -- truly know -- everybody else thinks and feels the same exact things. That we’re really all alike and thus never truly alone. That we’re all just people trying to find some way to get through this day and the one after that, all the while struggling to find our own versions of success, learning and re-learning to let the petty injustices of reality slide off of us and holding onto the small joys that life affords us every single day if we only take the time to find them.


Then again, I really do want a boyfriend.




3.0 Stars

It’s a chain Coney Island and not even the best chain (that would be National Coney Island). But it’s tasty as all heck if you’re hankering for some AM munching. A late (boozy) night in Royal Oak is always boosted by a trip to Leo’s.


End of the month

You can find a heck of a lot for under $10.



Imagine a diner: pleather seats, linoleum tabletops, menu-at-the-table, now add an afterthought of ancient Greece. Odd? Yes. Endearing? Meh.


Working for the weekend (or whatever days they have off)

Nearly always solid and friendly, but it’ll depend on what type of day your waiter/waitress had.



The reasons to enter Leo’s Coney Island are few: late nights, laziness, quick bites and meeting a cheap friend. Not an essential part of the Michigan experience, but certainly one that doesn’t hurt it.