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Thursday, 11 August
Whiskey Mango Fox Trot

Last night the wife and I went with a couple friends to a new-ish restaurant on Capitol Hill called Chez Gaudy. (Yeah--lousy name.) Opened by the same people who do the Bleu Bistro up on Broadway, it hews to similar themes: both took tiny little cramped spaces and turned them into charming little labyrinthine warrens with tables littered everywhere in bizarre nooks and occasionally limb-stretching niches. These restaurants basically look like shaped detonations of gypsy caravans, but in a good way.

Why were we going there? Well, we like Bleu well enough, despite the fact that it is vegetarian--we are certainly not, but hey, if it's good food, well, so what?--and were interested to see what their new venture was like, but honestly? Here's the deal. On Tuesdays, they serve "small plates:" many of them you grab yourself from a buffet, which lists prices for all the little cold plates of cheese, tapenade, whatever. And then they also have the waitstaff circulate periodically with large trays of hot dishes, like gorgonzola pasta with "meat"balls, scallops, shit like that. And you pick what you like. AND they had chicken or veggie fajitas made to order. It's all very loose. But the BIG thing about Tuesdays, apart from the grab-'n-eat atmosphere? (Other days of the week are normal, in that you get a menu, table service, etc.)

Well, that would be the wine. You see, on Tuesdays, along with the letcher-hair-down anarchic atmosphere, if you are eating there, you can also pick your own wines out from a selection of six. They're right there on a shelf for you! Pick one! There's a corkscrew right on the table, son, so go ahead and open your own fucking bottle! Pour it yourself! Why this weird heresy? Because on Tuesdays, when dining there, each of those bottles of pretty good wine is only six bucks apiece.

Holy crap. And this, my friends, is why we went in the first place. We had to check that out. And it did not disappoint. Happily, neither did the food.

We had made reservations for 7:30, and showed up right on time. The greeter gave us a choice: we could take a cramped-looking table over by a window, or we could wait a little bit for another table that was soon to be cleared--the party was just waiting for the check. It looked much better, so we decided to wait and get some wine.

The wife and our friends K. and S. sat on a sofa by the bar while I went to smoke. When I came back, they hadn't yet secured any wine. Which seemed odd. We're waiting here! Give us drinks! (See, we had not yet cottoned on to the loose-limbed nature of the evening yet.)

Presently, a waiter came bounding over. "How you guys doing?" he exclaimed. S. replied, "We're a little distressed!" A look of vast concern came over his face, and in one fluid motion, he whipped out a tiny stool from somewhere right within reach, and sat down. "Oh no!" he cried. "What the hell is going on?" This was really hilarious. It was like having an on-call therapist. With his own stool! I privately noted that he looked a lot like Dermot Mulroney.

We laughed at this magical display of instant solicitousness. S. said, "Well, we're waiting for a table, and we'd like some wine!" "Ohhhh," he said. "Nobody explained how we work on Tuesdays?" We did not. And he laid it all out: Tuesdays they just open everything up and if the customer wants something or other, they just go up to someone and ask for it. Or grab it off the buffet, or the wine shelf. "Tuesdays are my favorites for this, because we just get to chat with everyone." And then he apologized profusely that that hadn't been made clear, and immediately ran to get us a bottle of wine, which he opened and said, "Sorry again. This bottle is on me."

What a guy. In my mind, his tip just got a lot fatter. He set the bottle down on the table with a grin. "Now that you guys know how we work on Tuesdays--" I cut him off, knowing where he was going. "--I'll just go ahead and pour this wine my damn self." He beamed and then split.

Ten minutes later, he reappeared. "Sorry about the table, you guys." He sat down again on the magical manifestation of the invisible stool. "We're trying to get those people the hell out of here." Heh. We asked about himself, as he clearly felt like shooting the shit, but not in an imposing way. He was just so affable. We asked him a little about himself, and he said that prior to bartending and waiting tables, he was a dance instructor for seven years. This caught the ear of some other people sharing our couch. "Do a Fox Trot!" one gal yelled. He immediately obliged, and then proceeded to give everyone a short history on the origin of that particular dance. It was, again, great. Emboldened, the gal yelled again. "Do the Charleston!" His reaction here was priceless. "Nah," he said, flapping his arms a little before strolling off to talk to other tables. Somehow, he was even charming when he was being dismissive. I want this guy to always wait on me.

Anyway. We got our table eventually, and began eating. Like I said, the food did not disappoint at all: the always alarmingly-named "pub cheese" was a dreadful Jack-O-Lantern orange color, but spectacular when spread on the complimentary bread--just the right amount of horseradish in there. We gnawed on silky, creamy gouda accompanied by figs. We dug into--tentatively--a vegetarian "meatball," and found it, improbably, to be really excellent. (As a dedicated carnivore, I am always wary of these impostors dressed up in meat clothes, but golly, it was delicious.)

And polished off two bottles of nice (not great, but COME ON) wine for--did I mention?--six dollars apiece. We would have had more, but S. is not so much a wine drinker. She finished off her dinner with some chocolate cake and a gin fizz while I enjoyed a shot of Bushmills, and ladies and gentlemen: this was a pour and then some. You have to respect a place where a whiskey pour is something like a five-count. The wife enjoyed a tremendous glass of coffee, and we sat around gurgling like whales in a krill garden.

Before we left, Der-Not Mulroney once again burst over to us. "Is my favorite table leaving?" he said. Yet again, that he managed to make this sound not creepy or lame or anything spoke volumes. We looked around.

"Oh, yeah," we said.

Note: Comments are closed on old entries.


I wonder if he'd like to date me. He sounds gay, but most of my boyfriends are, so that's fine.

Comment number: 005950   Posted by: Kate on August 11, 2005 03:07 PM from IP:

derban mahoney? der macaroni? man I thought you were supposed to take a stage name whenever you reached some half-degree of fame. I must admit my surprise when I googled this character. ..just about as surprised as I was when I googled 'skot kurruk.' now thats a fako stage name if ever I heard one.

Comment number: 005951   Posted by: spinal on August 11, 2005 03:47 PM from IP:

Sounds like a fabulous place to go. I'd want to hang out there every Tuesday. $6 for a bottle of wine too?! And help yourself, hmm, sounds like my kinda place. Too bad I don't live nearby, I would definitely give it a whirl.

Comment number: 005952   Posted by: Wanda on August 13, 2005 08:32 PM from IP:

certainly better advertising than for that sushi place you and J. went to....

Comment number: 005953   Posted by: norm on August 16, 2005 09:48 AM from IP:

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