DINING UNDER THE INFLUENCE
Upon initiating the not-so-revolutionary idea of producing a food blog, I was insistent that I needed to do something different than the rest that littered the Internet. After consuming a decent amount of mid-grade Cabernet Sauvignon, an epiphany rained gloriously from above: Dine under the influence, obviously. Take it from anyone that has joined me on a night dripping with unexpected debauchery, the unknown and unexplained is always welcomed with open arms. Add that to the fact that Richmond is brimming with restaurants, local and commercial, and the idea ran amok quicker than the rogue droplets of wine cascading from the rim of my glass.
I couldn’t embark on this adventure without a companion, partly because every great story needs a witness and mainly because it’s depressing to drink and dine alone. Without hesitation, I asked my longtime friend, Zach, to join me. He was craving a “propah fuckin’ burgah, dude”, and I couldn’t agree more. Richmond restaurants are notorious to hosting cheap burger nights and when you need to budget for alcohol consumption, discounted food prices are always a blessing.
After carefully studying the ratio of burger prices with Happy Hour drink specials throughout the cityHHhnhedfnj, we decided to hail an Uber and head to Metro Bar & Grill on Robinson St. We saddled ourselves at the bar, making it easier to hail drinks while waiting for our entrees. Zach usually prides himself on drinking Bud Lights, but the idea of properly pairing our food with the right drink influenced him to order two craft beers – Fat Tire Amber Ale. I ordered us four shots of whiskey before we had a chance to glance at the appetizers.
Once a steady buzz started to establish itself, we ordered Spicy Tuna Bites to start us off. The tangy sauce dripped from the fleshy morsels and engulfed our taste buds with a sizzling sensation. The spiciness was short-lived and potent, making you want to have another bite immediately afterwards. Zach was so impressed, he made a point to lean over the bar and tell the bartender how much he enjoyed it. Granted, we also wanted to order more ales and shots before our burgers arrived, but that shouldn’t diminish the sincerity of his compliments. We hurried through our cheers accompanying the shots once I saw our burgers exiting out of the kitchen.
The sizzling juices of grilled ground beef bubbled down the sides of our mouths as we struggled to take a bite of the towering sandwich. A good burger is hard to come by. Many people think it’s a simple creation of meat and toppings, but the ratio of condiments, the fat content of the beef, type of bun, seasoned patties versus unseasoned, all play a factor and each has to be just right to make a burger really stand out. We both nodded in silence, too busy to utter any words in between our savage chews. Fat Tire’s Amber Ale washed down each bite with ease, pairing perfectly with the robust flavor of Metro’s burger special. However, each added sip from our beer glasses heightened our combined urge to visit more bars within stumbling vicinity. Once our burger cravings were fulfilled, we now craved a community of fellow drinkers brave enough to go out on a Tuesday night.
We paid our tabs, shook hands with the bartender, and downed our beers as the Uber arrived outside the bar. Without discussion, we simultaneously told our driver to go to the corner of Main and Stafford Street. F.W. Sullivan’s will always supply a crowd, no matter what day of the week it is. Zach and I struggled to open the door and began our voyage through the sea of patrons towards the bar. I recognized one of the bartenders and he makes it a priority to approach us, thankfully holding shots but unthankfully containing Rumplemintz. We choked down the peppermint catastrophe and coughed out our drink orders: A Bud Light for Zach and a bourbon and ginger for myself.
As expected, the night swirls into a memory collective of brief interactions with friends of friends, shots with pleasant strangers, and trips outside to the patio for necessary gasps of sobering night air. On one of these trips outside, I was introduced to a man who said he was a movie producer working in town. The countless bourbon and gingers made me skeptical, but after a seemingly innocent round of questioning followed by a secretive fact-checking mission on my phone, the man’s story seemed true. Now, I’m always happy to show a visitor to Richmond a good time, but the unpublished screenplays housed in my laptop encouraged me to go above and beyond with this out-of-towner.
More shots were ordered, Jameson this time around, but our new friend leaned towards me to whisper a request for his preferred vice, “Something more… herbal” he said. He didn’t have to whisper, most of the crowd that surrounded us was probably craving the exact same thing. With all of my screenplay projects in mind, I couldn’t hesitate. After Zach and I combined forces and sent a slew of texts to various friends and vague acquaintances, one finally responded with some good news. But he refused to come to us, he instructed us to meet at a late-night diner in the middle of the Financial District. The three of us finished our drinks, said our goodbyes, and loaded into the Uber to take us to the diner.
The aspect of time slipped away from us and it was getting late. Too late, according to our overly-friendly waitress, to order more drinks. After some delicate persuasion, we convinced her to secretly make us any drink that had any sort of alcohol content. She shot us a toothy grin and returned with three Styrofoam cups filled with a mystery combination of syrupy liquors that are usually reserved as a sweet addition to normal cocktails. The only tastes I managed to decipher were Blue Curacao and Triple Sec. We grimaced our thanks and waited for our meeting.
A half an hour goes by and our herbal connection has stopped responding to our texts. During the conversation to pass the time, Mr. Hollywood was getting drunker and drunker on the horrid concoction sticking to the bottom of his Styrofoam cup. Soon, our newfound friend finally admitted a terrible truth: He wasn’t a producer, he just donated enough money to attend a luncheon with one of the actors starring in a movie being filmed in Petersburg. The stark realization sat heavier in my stomach than the Blue Curacao. Zach and I looked at each other, silently stood from the booth, and left the lying out-of-towner to wallow in his deceit without any of us offering an apology. We hailed an Uber home and agreed to attend more “Cheap Burger Nights” as long as we never blindly trust the word of a shady out-of-towner again.