Saturday, September 18, 2010

Grit Manifesto

I have a kind of slavish loyalty to this restaurant in Athens called The Grit. It's a vegetarian restaurant that fries most things they don't drown in butter and/or cheese. Their cakes are sublime and if I weren't already married, I would consider starting a life with one of them. The wait staff is, by in large, both magnificent looking and theatrically unpredictable. An intoxicating combination.

My friend Lane loves to argue with people--it's just his idea of having a meaningful conversation--and sometimes he'll saunter over to me at a party and say, "So, The Grit. Mediocre food, the waiters are pricks, it's loud in there. Also, they don't serve meat."

As a general rule, I don't engage in conversations about about politics or The Grit, just in case it turns ugly. But I'll tell you guys why I love The Grit and I'll refer Lane to this post whenever he brings it up, just like my Granny refers people to her memoirs every time they ask for specifics about things that happened in 1923.

Well, first of all, LANE, the food is actually like the Milk of Paradise that has been drizzled on some ambrosia. And then rolled in nutritional yeast, fried in butter and sprinkled with cheese. Either that's your thing or it's not. It just happens to be my thing.

Secondly, when I was in high school I was one of those vegetarians who didn't eat any vegetables. My diet consisted mainly of Wendy's hamburgers without any meat inside them, frozen waffles and scrambled eggs. It's a wonder I survived. But The Grit was like Xanadu. I could eat anything and I liked everything, and if there was anything too botanical hidden within, I didn't notice. I am thankful for that.

Third: Lane actually has a point about the staff. Once I had an experience at The Grit wherein my table mistakenly neglected to tip the waiter, and he dealt with the situation by busting out the back door of the restaurant as we walked away, hollering profanities. He apologized after we gave him some money, and the only explanation I can give for his behavior is that he was profoundly drunk. I still see that guy every week, and he's never done anything like that since. In fact, he seems kind of shy.

But there's something about people who work there that I really like. No, they're not super nice all the time, but there's something respectable about them. Like even though they are bringing you a bowl of fried tofu in a minute, they're not going to get all waiter-y on you.

Also, I think they purposely hire strange and extravagant looking people. Years ago, Amber Valentine, the guitarist in Jucifer (which is the loudest band you've ever heard in person), worked there. Every day she wore fake eyelashes, 6 inch platform boots, a skintight tube dress and this Dolly Parton wig. At least I think it was a wig. She must have spent over an hour every morning applying her make up with a spackling knife, but she had a dedication to her craft that I admire.

The Fourth and Final: I get take out from The Grit pretty much every Friday evening. I call in my order beforehand, and the guy knows my voice over the phone. I walk in and the sunlight comes in the front window a certain way that lights up the pies so they wear little halos. It smells good in there, but it's not a food smell, really. If Odessa's with me, some waiters flirt with her and we walk around and look at the paintings they have up that week. Claudia's the weekend manager there, so she comes and sits with me while I wait for my food, and there's always the swinging sound of the door to the kitchen opening and closing, and voices echoing off the tall plaster walls. There's a waiter on a ladder adding something to the specials board with a wet piece of chalk. Led Zeppelin or The Shins or Rufus Wainwright is playing kind of soft in the background. Somebody I know walks up and says hello. And it's that's how I know it's Friday.

And I love Friday.


  1. Oh man, which waiter yelled at you?!

  2. The final paragraph is the only one that made any sense to me.

    I can remember all those greasy breakfast diners in WV, NE Ga, Woodlake,CA that had the smell of bacon and sausage, eggs fried in butter, soggy butter toast with real stawberry jelly... the gum smaking waitress the hippie short order cook...the old cowboys, sheet rockers, unemployed,laid off, factory workers, hung over town drunks...steamed over windows...the humanity of those places...

    "Just a canyon Colorado diner and a waitress I did love".

    "All those thing that don't change come what may," to quote Ian Tyson a few times. If anyone knows who Ian Tyson is anymore.

    Uh Yeah, you guys have your hangouts, so do we. I wouldn't trade mine for yours, or Lanes!


  3. this made me cry and tremble with nostalgia a little bit. the world needs more The Grits.

    also, you never sent me a Golden bowl... ;)