I'm still a little in love with Sam Malone.
I was still in the single digits for most of the illustrious run of Cheers on television, too young, really, to understand much about alcohol or why bars might be a good place to hang out. But even then, I loved that the characters could belly up to the bar and Sam or Woody would just slide a beer over to them while conversing about something entirely unrelated. I was a painfully shy child, and I hated having to talk to strangers (i.e. waiters) about what I felt like eating. A place where everyone knew your name and knew what you wanted before you even had to ask? It sounded heavenly to me.
Ever since, I’ve held in high esteem the archetype of the regular, but I’ve had a hard time putting on that mantle. My first attempt was during my weeklong summer sojourns at my grandparents’ house when I would accompany my grandfather to buy his morning paper. Every day, he stopped at a little joint called Rollin’s on the way home, and they always had a cup of coffee poured for him before he was fully in the door. I fancied that after enough times, I could just saunter in, spread my copy of Harriet the Spy on the counter and be served my grape juice straight up. But my grandfather was always too solicitous, worried that I was bored, and would nervously run down a list of items I could order in place of or in addition to my regular order. Geez, Grandpa, pizza at ten in the morning? You’re ruining our style here.
My usual lunch date. (photo courtesy of the sushi fruit hating Devin)
Even as I got older and outgrew my deathly fear of waitstaff, the stars just never aligned correctly for me to be a regular. Big cities, where I’ve lived most of my adult life, are tough for the regulars, because there are just too many restaurants with too many choices to commit wholeheartedly to the lifestyle of “I’ll have the usual.” Variety is what I love most about the New York dining scene, but sometimes you want to go…well, you know.
And then, just as I was beginning to doubt my potential as regular material, an avocado and cheddar sandwich came and tapped me on the shoulder. It’s a beautiful mess of cheese and sprouts and cucumber and mayo on multigrain bread. We met at the Broadway Gourmet Deli, just downstairs from where I work, and we rendezvous at least once a week. Mind you, it isn’t always an easy relationship. Continue reading