Hot Spots
A Short Story by Jason Moore
Written using the suggestion "Epiphany"
Originally featured on 11-05-2007
As part of our series "Journey To A New Word"

September 6

Hey Bob. Here it is. I’ve just given birth to my first restaurant review. Ouch — I’m sore and sticky!

Thanks again for helping me get this gig. I won’t let you down. I didn’t think Ted would bite when I first pitched Hot Spots. I never really thought he liked my work. In fact, he told me a few times that my work was “sloppy, sophomoric drivel not fit for a British tabloid.” Should I believe him? Maybe he only gave me this piece because of what happened between his wife and me?

Oh well, not to worry, I’ve been wanting to do this for years. The police beat is getting old, and so am I. Hah! I hope I’m this funny in my reviews. It’s going to be hard to keep these within the prescribed 300 words. Joan says I have logorrhea. You know, diarrhea of the mouth. Maybe she should be more supportive? Got any thoughts on that? Does your wife try to belittle you every chance she gets, especially in bed? The four of us should do dinner sometime.

Steve


The Horse Brass Pub, SE 36th and Belmont

 

This may be the best neighborhood pub in Portland.   I should know because I don’t work full time and I drink lots of beer. I brought my girlfriend along to do this review, and she actually liked it, even though they don’t serve Coors Light.

There are at least a hundred beers waiting to be unearthed here, perhaps thousands stored somewhere behind the bar, cluttered with beeraphanilia and ancient Christmas lights. The guest taps rotate faster than rotisserie chicken at Safeway, so be sure to ask what’s on tap.

There are a few thing that you should know before you plan an evening of beer and conversation.

THE GERMS:

Germaphobes may want to smuggle a large rag and some Murphy’s oil in their pants.  The waitresses are too busy to do more then wave a rag near the goo on the old wooden tables and benches, and the grooves in the tables are so deep you’d need a power washer to do a thorough cleaning anyway.

THE SMOKE:

If you’ve ever wondered how black your lungs can get from one night’s second hand smoke, this is the place to test it.  Personally, I find nicotine addicts to be great conversationalists, and you're going to die from something someday anyway, so why worry?  If you like cigars they’ll let you test fate with those too.  I can’t tell if the plastered walls are yellow from the nicotine stains, or if they paid Italian masters millions to make it look like this. Only independent lab tests will settle the debate. My girlfriend said she liked the smoke because it reminded her of the glory days of her youth, smoking by the chain link fence in junior high, making out with her boyfriend while Def Leopard rocked on his boom box. I was more of a Duran Duran guy.

 

THE FOOD:

The daily food specials are a good deal, and are very edible if you’re not terribly picky like my girlfriend. She said most of the food looked “really gross.”

It’s traditional English pub food, so it fills you up and keeps you drinking. The sandwiches and french fries are recommended. My girlfriend had a huge plate of fries and kept talking about how big her ankles were getting. I tried to explain the finer points of irony, but it didn’t go anywhere.

OVERALL

Tons of beer, great people, free darts, and food that you can eat. What more could you want?

 

September 7

 

Hi Steve. It’s almost what we wanted. Can you keep it a little closer to 300 words so that I don’t have to edit it so much? Hope all is OK with Joan, sounds like she might not have the same tastes as you. Has her rash cleared up? It must be uncomfortable riding her motorcycle with all that itching you-know-where. What was she doing in that chicken coop anyway? Look forward to next week’s review. Any thoughts on where to go for dinner?

 

 

September 13

Hey Bob. Here it is. We went to Gustav’s on Sandy. Joan had a good time in her own twisted way—as usual. Oh well, at least she’s stacked! We have to do dinner; I’m dying for some good conversation. Joan is so vapid. Last night we discussed the merits of Taco Bell versus microwave burritos. She had me leaning toward Taco Bell. Any thoughts? She says its all about the crust. I tried to explain the difference between tortillas and crust, but she wouldn’t listen.


Gustav’s Pub & Grill, 5035 NE Sandy Boulevard

 

In my fantasy rock star life I would drive my black Cadillac here after a gig, eat schnitzel and drink a good Belgian lager until dawn, or until someone ODs and our groupies get kicked out for flashing me. But, since I can’t sing or play an instrument, and they close at midnight, I'll have to wait for my next life.

THE FOOD:

I usually go at happy hour, which is after 9 p.m. on weekdays and 10 p.m. on the weekends.  It’s the luscious decadence of the shepherd’s pie that draws me in.  The happy-hour potato cakes, burgers and salad aren’t bad either.   My girlfriend had the fondue. I told her that there was no need to make so much noise as she sucked the cheese off the bread. In fact, I told her that most people eat the bread with the cheese instead of sucking the cheese off. She accused me of stifling her creativity.

We mustn’t forget the 'kraut or sausage.  Yes, eat them and feel the power surge toward your colon! Of course, my girlfriend didn’t like anything we tried, except the fondue. Honestly, I can’t remember what all she tried. I was too busy watching her flirt with the waiter. The big eyes, fluttering of the eyelashes, laughing too loudly at his jokes, licking his forearms. Does she think I’m deaf and blind?

 

THE BOOZE:

If you like German and Northern European beer you’ll like it here. They even serve it in a 24-ounce stein.  The wine selection is just OK. Just don’t let your girlfriend drink too much or she might go home with the waiter when you go to the bathroom.

THE STAFF:

Sometimes overworked and a little slow.  They flirt a bit too much for my tastes. At one point the waiter said to my girlfriend, “Are you really with this guy?” His tip immediately dropped from 20 to 15 percent.

OVERALL:

It just seems to work when I’m in the mood. My girlfriend made damn sure I’m not in the mood right now.

 

September 14

 

Hi Steve. Pretty good. It’s still a little too long. I might have to take out a little about your girlfriend’s antics, so it will end up about right. I think it’s OK to mention her for “local color,” but maybe not quite so much next time? I called you, but never heard back. Is everything OK? Let’s touch bases about dinner. Gotta be honest though. My wife might not come if you bring Joan. It’s not really Joan’s fault, but my wife has a problem with women who grab my crotch. I don’t mind if you bring her.

 

September 20

 

Hey Bob. Sorry I didn’t call back. We’ve been fighting a lot this week. I found Joan’s cell phone bill, and there were a lot of calls to numbers I don’t recognize. She said she was calling around town to see what church she wants to attend next. I’m a little suspicious. Should I be?

We went to Le Bistro Montage. I could hardly write the review. I tried, I really tried to describe fewer of her antics this time, but it was impossible. Why did I ever think I could date a stripper? My mom was right, as usual. I’m going back to being a Jehovah’s Witness. At least I have this column. It’s the only reason I get out of bed in the morning. I’ll call you later. Dinner?

 

Le Bistro Montage, 301 SE Morrison St

 

I love it, I hate it, I’m ambivalent. I’m drunk, I’m hungry, my relationship is in the toilet and its 3 a.m., so lets go.

This is certainly the kind of place that you have to be in the mood for. It’s entry level cool, and the perfect spot for the freshmen year of college first date when you want to seem hip but not so hip that you scare your ready-to-try-new-things-but-led-a-sheltered-life date from Pendelton.  

Its under-the-bridge location, high ceilings, dark corners, bad acoustics, and kitschy decor are worth one visit, at least.  You have to sit at long tables next to strangers, and this can be annoying if you just want to stare at your date’s cuticles and whisper S&M haikus into her ears all night. This seating can be really annoying if your girlfriend spends more time talking to the guys next to her than you she does to you. That’s right — “guys” in plural. She even leaned into one of them, punched him in the shoulder and said, “You’re so cute.” Then, she turned to me and said, “Honey, isn’t he too cute?”

I chugged my beer and smiled. “Yeah, his knuckles really turn me on.”

 

THE FOOD:  

Unless a restaurant is full of movie stars or has the best view in town, the food has to be good to make you come back.  I’ve tried a lot of their offerings --- the jambalaya, the oyster shooters, and many of the pastas, but I have settled on the spicy chicken macaroni as my standard fare.

 

THE BOOZE:  

Maybe this is the real reason I keep going back.  The Rainer pounders (16 ounces for the volume challenged) make me feel like I’m back in high school.  On either Monday or Tuesdays, or both, bottles of wine are half price.  This is a great for a cheap date. They have a full bar if you’re too good for cheap beer.

Words of caution: Don’t get white wine.  They use the same glasses for wine, beer and water, and the place is poorly lit.  So, if you're drinking white wine the waiters will rush by and blithely pour water in.

More words of caution: If you’re girlfriend is already flirting with anything that breathes, don’t let her have too much to drink. One of the “cute” guys got up to go to the bathroom. She waited about three seconds, then jumped up and said, “Whew, I gotta whiz.” A few seconds after she went around the corner I heard lots of hooting and hollering from the diners. When she finally returned her lipstick was smeared. I asked what happened, and she said she must have brushed it with tissue paper in the bathroom.

THE DECOR:  

They must have the worst collection of large paintings ever intentionally displayed in public. Huge, religious, and sacrilegious monstrosities.  So bad they inspire conversations about the decline of western civilization. An equally large number of garage-sale sculptures litter the place, and I don’t think they’ve ever been dusted. The wooden floor is patched with tin cans.  A gutsy display. Not as gutsy as my girlfriend whoring right in front of me, but gutsy.

THE WAIT STAFF:  

They seem to tolerate the patrons.  Some are fun, some are bored, but most make just enough sarcastic remarks to put you in your place.  I swear that one of them speaks in a fake Polish accent. At least they don’t flirt back when your girlfriend grabs their butts like they do at Gustav’s Pub.

THE TINFOIL ART:  

Most people love how they wrap your leftovers in shapes like flowers, puppies, and Satan. My girlfriend thought it was “totally freaky.” Killjoys who worry that this art form is wasteful can ask for a paper box.  

FINALLY:  

It’s worth at least one dine, and you might find yourself returning with no idea why, like me.

 

September 21

 

Hey Steve. Sorry, but Ted cancelled the piece. I think he wants more room for Lulu’s gardening tips. We have space to fill so it will still run this week. It’s really long. Did you forget that it was supposed to be under 300 words? Sorry about the break-up, hope it won’t affect you too much. She was way to wild for you. Keep your head up, you still have the police beat. I tried to call you, but no answer. Are we still on for dinner?

Read More By Jason Moore

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