Thursday, July 2, 2009

Dinner and a Movie II

This past Sunday I found myself with a few hours on my hands in between work and a concert I was attending at the Grog Shop. I was trying to decide if I should make the trip home, relax, and then drive back or find some way to entertain myself in the Cleveland Heights area until show time. What I came up with is this, my second entry in my “Dinner and a Movie” series.

So, my dilemma was what to do for five hours or so in between leaving work at 5 and the Jay Reatard show at ten. Despite my best efforts to rally the troops for an early evening outing I found my self alone again, naturally. As I was sure drinking would ensue at the show I knew a pre-game meal was in order. And while there are a number of fine eateries in the area none are open terribly late on Sundays and eating was only going to take an hour or so. I had also wanted to see Sam Mendes’ Away We Go so I decided on doing not one, but two things I hate: eating alone in public and going to movies by myself. Nevertheless I bucked up and hit the road.
My first stop was a Cleveland Heights staple: Tommy’s. Easily one of the best restaurants in the Cleveland area, if not Ohio, Tommy’s does it so simply it’s almost elegant. At its heart Tommy’s is a diner with a hippy twist. While they happily offer a delicious burger, fries, and milkshake the real magic at Tommy’s is in the veggie dishes that dominate the menu. Page one of the menu is a laundry list of salads topped and concocted in almost every conceivable way, this is followed by numerous, delicious falafel sandwiches, spinach pies, grilled cheeses, and one of the best vegetarian chili’s I’ve ever had.

Dining at Tommy’s pretty regularly I’ve culled a pretty respectable stable of go-to dishes, the D.C.; the C.B.; and their amazing homemade veggie burger to name a few. I opted this time for the M.R. 3. The M.R. 3 is a cheese and spinach pie filled with falafel, baba ganoush, sesame sauce, mushrooms, and garnished with curry powder. A little salt and pepper help round things out and I like a few dashes of hot sauce to play along with the spice of the curry powder and the smokiness of the baba. The nuttiness of the tahini blends excellently with the meatiness of the mushrooms and the creamy melted cheese, while the falafel and spinach add earthiness and body. All this is stacked between two pieces of hearty pita and washed down with some fresh brewed iced tea. (My ongoing Tommy’s dilemma: the food is outrageously good but completely satisfying so I never have room for their amazing milkshakes. Delicious while dining but fun to get to go since they shrink wrap them for you.)

Hunger satiated I left for the Cedar Lee and the 7:15 showing of Away We Go starring John Krasinksi (Burt) and Maya Rudolph (Verona) as a young couple expecting their first child and trying to find their place and path in life. Brilliantly written by memoirist and editor Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida, Away is a beautiful balance between subtly hilarious and beautifully touching. Burt and Verona’s report is quick witted and funny without seeming gimmicky or overwrought, it is movie dialogue but it’s not ham-fisted or absurd, recalling some of the best moments of Seinfeld in its ability to capture realistic conversation on film. And the humor is real, too, the film is devoid of over the top jokes and slapstick in favor of silly inside jokes the audience has been cued into and the daily absurdities at which we all must laugh.

The dramatic elements of this film ring honest and true as well, centering on post collegial angst, future dread, familial issues, and the pitfalls of relationships. One of the most moving scenes of the film comes when Burt and Verona are visiting friends in Montreal and their college friend Tom (Chris Messina) reveals a sad, but very real secret to Burt at a night club.

But perhaps the film is best summed up early on when Burt and Verona are discussing where their lives may or may not have gotten off track. “Are we fuck-ups?” Verona asks, huddled under a blanket. “No, we’re not fuck-ups” Burt reassures her. “But” she retorts “we have a cardboard window.”

I really can’t recommend Tommy’s or Away We Go nearly enough.

And Jay Reatard? Simple. Stupid. Brilliant. One of the best shows I’ve seen this year and a reminder of why I loved punk, and still do.


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