On my way home from work yesterday evening, I decided to go out to dinner. Nothing I could think of to cook sounded all that exciting to me, and I felt up for little exploring. I began to mull over my options.
Chinatown? I thought and quickly dismissed it. I’ve hung out there quite a bit, sampling a lot of the Vietnamese offerings there (as a vegetarian, Chinese food can be a little tricky—if you want a laugh, check out Andraste’s cautionary tale).
Oh, I could try a new Thai place and check out a different part of the city. That sounded tempting, and I decided that’s what I would do as I turned the corner onto Broadway and toward home. That was when I saw Fasika’s Ethiopian Restaurant again. I have not had a lot of Ethiopian food, but what I’ve had I’ve loved. Oh god, it is tasty stuff. When I noticed Fasika’s during my move, I was so excited. That was before I peeked inside.
East Somerville has loads of character, and some wonderful eating options (Taco Loco makes some kickass burritos, and the restaurant in the back of Vinny’s Superette is amazing). It also features a slew of dive bars—the kind that have drunk people outside smoking at ten in the morning, staring at their losing Keno tickets. Fasika’s Ethiopian Restaurant is attached to one such bar.
When I first got here, I had decided to try Fasika’s but turned around and walked out when I saw all the drunk people and the Keno sign. Last night, however, I felt adventurous enough to brave it. Why the hell not? I thought. So I went.
I walked into the restaurant side, checked out the tacky décor, and smiled. A young Ethiopian woman smiled at me and told me to sit where I’d like. I sat at one of the mesobs, and she handed me a menu. A divider partially blocked the view of the bar, where a number of late-middle-aged white people were knocking back Budweiser drafts and providing loud commentary on the evening news. Over the divider, I could see the bartender, sporting a teased, bleach-blonde do, serving her patrons without once changing her facial expression.
I turned to the menu, which had a vegetarian section with lots of tempting options. A lentil dish and a vegetable curry caught my eye, and I decided to ask the server what she recommended. The menu also listed a number of Ethiopian wines, and so I decided to try one of those. When she came to take my order, she recommended the curry but promised to include a bit of the lentil dish for me to try. She suggested the honey wine for the food, so I went with that.
My wine arrived in a little bottle resembling an oil cruet (but without the spout), and the server explained that this was the traditional glass (I don’t think I’d had wine the few times I’d had Ethiopian food). “Great,” I said, and took a sip. The wine tasted different from the mead I’d had before but was no less delicious. I had just settled in with my glass when a song blared out of the juke box in the bar. It was some classic rock song I didn’t recognize (and considering that I grew up in New Hampshire, land of classic rock lovers, that is saying something). The fat guy who played it certainly did. The bar was suddenly transformed into his living room, and he started singing at the top of his lungs.
Then he started banging on the bar for emphasis.
Now I’ve seen this kind of thing before (and, have probably done something similar in my youth), but I’ve never seen so many people take it in stride. There was this guy, shouting to the music and banging on the bar, and nobody reacted. They just kicked back their beers and continued to watch the TV.
The song ended and my food arrived. I tore off some of the bread and dove into the curry. Yeah, that’s some really good food. True to her word, the server had made sure that there were some lentils on my plate, and I sopped some up with more bread. She was right—the curry was better, but I wouldn’t have been disappointed in the lentils. I ate happily, enjoying my adventure.
About half-way through my meal, a group of four white yuppies peeked in the restaurant side, observed the bar scene, and boldly decided to try it too. They sat down at the mesob next to me, and laughed at their intrepidness. The server brought them menus, and they started going over their options.
“I told you,” one of the women said, “This place is attached to a divey bar, but I keep hearing that the food is good.” The other woman turned to look at me eating, and I said to her, “The food IS really good.”
“What an atmosphere,” one of the men said, laughing.
“Oh, you missed the drunken singing.”
“No! Maybe it’ll happen again.”
“One can only hope,” I replied laughing.
The couples ordered as I finished my dinner. I had a little of the wine left, so I sipped it while I waited for the check.
And that was when the Bon Jovi came on. The guy started up again, screaming and banging about being wanted dead or alive. Howling, the couples stood up for a better view. I did, too. Once again, the bar patrons didn’t bat an eye.
“Dinner theater,” one of the men proclaimed, nodding.
“You can say that again,” I said. Another Bon Jovi hit came on, and the guy kept going.
“Did you like Bon Jovi?” One of the women asked me.
“Oh, for about two weeks in seventh grade,” I replied.
She sighed. “I liked them for longer than that. I had a poster.”
The check came, I paid up, and, bidding goodbye to the giggling yuppies, left for home.