Restaurants are my happy place. I love feeling wined and dined and cared for by strangers who will never know my name but treat me oh so right. Food is important, but the whole body experience offers a kind of transcendence that makes me want to tip 20 percent. And yet, dear readers, here we find ourselves: back in Hamilton, where the
OpenTable app is sadly dormant.
As a Chicagoan, I’m #blessed with a city rife with restaurants, eateries, bistros, tea-rooms – whatever strikes my fancy. If I want to eat Ethiopian food, I can and I will. Despite these options, I find myself frequenting the same contemporary-American diners, my will inevitably controlled by cookie milkshakes and cheese fries. In a word, I’m a fan of sitting in a nicely decorated room with some strangers, analyzing a menu then waiting for my food to magically appear.
And then there’s Frank. Sure, there might be magic involved – but I’m pretty sure the “pixie dust” being used to prepare my lackluster quesadilla is actually just regular dust. I don’t want to sound overly critical (people are starving in Africa), but I’ve had better. At the beginning of my first year, Frank and I really hit it off. It made a fine first impression, and I was comfortable with settling as long as my needs were being met. But as the year went on and the honeymoon phase fizzled, our relationship hit a few speed bumps. It wasn’t me, it was Frank. I couldn’t ignore our differences. Not the good “opposites attract” kind of differences – more like, I got food poisoning once or twice kind of differences. And so naturally, I longed for a step up, something that could hold a candle to my old flame, chi-town cuisine.
I began to play the field a little bit, sampling what La Iguana and Royal India Grill had to offer. There was always Slices, but our arrangement was strictly after 1 a.m. (and more than one drink). It was a quick and easy way to get a little satisfaction at the end of a bad night – but it wasn’t a healthy relationship. None were ever as convenient as Frank – so I would always return, hungry for more (only to leave, still unsatisfied, 45 minutes later).
The growling in my stomach made me realize more than just my distaste for broccoli tempura: my focus had shifted away from the moment and towards the next meal, and that’s not cool. “Living in the moment” is easier said than done, but a noble challenge nonetheless. Exchanging the luxuries of home for questionably-stained linoleum floors can feel a little disappointing, but realizing that there is a time and place for luxury/floors is an important lesson to learn. Hamilton’s restaurant game may be lacking but it is what it is. There are more important things in life than crème brûlée with vanilla bean custard and almond biscotti.