Girls {Night} Gone Bad.

All Girl’s Nights Out should have adventure.

Right?

Right.

A couple of weeks ago, a friend was in from out of town, so that was the perfect excuse that us girls needed to get together.

We decided on a restaurant – a fairly fancy Greek one, because I’ve solidly convinced all of my friends of the superiority of my Greek Heritage. We may have bulbous noses and body hair the thickness of a burlap rug, but we sure know how to cook.

I made the reservations and arrived first – always first, thanks to many scarring childhood memories of being last everywhere ever and having to walk scandalously late into a crowded room of staring people.

(Sorry Mom.)

(But really – making me neurotically early isn’t the worst thing that you could have done to me.)

Anyway.

I pushed my way through a cloud of nervous-looking teenagers in formal wear, as I recalled that my hairdresser had told me it was Sadie Hawkins Dance weekend, and decided that I’d go ahead and get seated – after all, I wasn’t that early…and we did have reservations.

Our table was next to a Post-Dance Double Date – the kind where there was much awkward teasing and slapping and a pretense of the whispering of secrets.

So yeah. They seemed like tweens to me. Tweens in extraordinarily inappropriate dresses.

(oh yeah – I’m old now.)

And that’s when I began getting the texts.

Everyone was running late for one justifiable reason or another, so it looked like I’d be sitting alone for a bit.

After a few minutes, the waiter came over to introduce himself.

He looked accusingly at the three empty chairs.

“My friends will be here soon,” I justified.

And…apparently he was having a bad night. Because he huffed and walked away.

I amused myself by listening in to the silliness that was going on next door while scrolling endlessly through Twitter. Because Twitter is always there for me.

The other three ladies – Nikki, Julie, and Christen, arrived and we began perusing our menus.

And we perused. And perused. The perusal was so great that we could have probably gotten a job there ourselves – because our waiter was clearly not returning.

He passed by our table once – and made eye contact with me just as I was making a comment about him seeming to be lost in transit.

Oops.

Finally, after 25 minutes, a waitress came over and said, “Hi! Carl was your waiter, but I’ll be taking over your table tonight. Can I get you ladies a drink?”

She brought the drinks and then walked away before we could put in our order – the one that we’d had planned out for several eternities.

Then a few minutes later, original waiter came back.

He’s back?

Yes, he’s back.

“Hi guys, I’m so sorry about all that. I got triple sat and it was really crazy. I will be your waiter now. Can I get your….Oh hold on.”

And he left.

He left?

Yes, he left. As we all sat with our mouths open, ready to let our orders spill out.

A few minutes later, he returned.

“I’m so sorry about that, ladies. Now. Can I get your orders?”

We ordered Saganaki for an appetizer, because you can’t go to a nice Greek Restaurant without eating cheese that’s been set on fire at your table. And we quickly put in our meal orders as well, not knowing when or if he’d ever return.

When a third waitress brought out our Saganaki, she seemed to have decided within her heart that it was Nikki’s birthday (when in reality it was Christen’s, but we weren’t telling) – because she purposefully stood above Nikki for the whole proceeding.

Pour on the ouzo…

Get out the lighter…

Light the ouzo…

Watch the flames…

Shake the ouzo around to ensure burning…

Tilt the dish downward so that the flaming ouzo splashes out on your guest…

Wait. Did that just happen??

Time froze.

Nikki was staring at her leg aghast, and the waitress kept shaking, tilted toward Nikki’s charred limb.

She eventually looked down and said, “Oops! Looks like I spilled some on the floor!!”

…as Nikki kept staring at her pantsleg, mouth open.

The arsonist walked away and we all stared sympathetically as Nikki processed what had just happened.

”I have ouzo on my leg. I have OUZO on my leg. She just splashed flaming alcohol on my leg. And totally denied it.”

“Does it hurt?”

“I have ouzo on my leg.”

We dug into our cheese, hoping that Nikki’s leg would once again be functional by the time we needed to leave the restaurant.

A few minutes later, our ever-harried waiter was picking up the check from the table next door when he looked at our burnt Nikki and said a bit over-dramatically and slightly insincerely, “OH! I’m sorry!!”, then did a perfect Bend-And-Snap right in her face.

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And by “right in her face”, I don’t mean she was in front of him.

He picked something up off the ground and removed his derriere from Nikki’s personal space. We all looked at her, puzzled, as he walked away, which is when we noticed that she was rubbing the back of her neck.

“O-ha-ha-W!”, she said.

“What happened?”

“He picked up the receipt book too fast and a quarter flew out and nailed me in the back of a neck.”

“Like a flying saucer?”

“JUST like a flying saucer.”

We allowed Nikki to nurse her wounds as we finished our meal discussing the things one discusses while on Girl’s Night (sorry guys – confidential information.)

Another waitress came to clear the table and stacked herself a tower o’plates. And then turned – smashing the dinnerware right into Christen’s head.

“Oh! I’m so sorry about that! Did I just bash you in the head?”

“Yes, yes you did.”

She left us, with once again a member of our group nursing her wounds.

And in conclusion, my brainwashing on the superiority of Greek Culture took a significant hit that night.

The Turkish Connection.

Whenever I’m in the car alone, if I have the presence of mind to turn off Veggie Tales (and there is nothing like the rage of a mommy when she realizes that she’s inadvertently listened to Veggie Tales alone for half an hour), I turn on Spotify and blow my speakers out in the attempt to feel like a teenager again while I’m not breaking my back to repeatedly twist and pick up sippy cups from the floorboard.

On my last journey out, Jason Derulo’s song “Talk Dirty” came on.

It’s a horrible song and I don’t recommend torturing your ears in that manner.

However, the Turkish-esque saxophone solo during the chorus immediately brought back vivid memories of this fantastic night, so I had no choice but to share it with you again.

Originally posted June 5, 2012.


After booking any trip out of town, the first thing that Chris and I do is look for the local Greek restaurant.

I was brought up on Greek food – “Yes you will eat lamb, and you will like it!!”, and I adore it with all of my being. And Chris, being that he is Mister-Perfect-For-Me, has also come to have a great appreciation for the cuisine.

We have found ourselves in Atlanta for one reason or another a lot lately. We usually have our Greek Adventures at Taverna Plaka or Kyma, but on one particular trip, we wanted to try somewhere new.

We wanted a hole in the wall Greek Restaurant – because they tend to be the most genuine. So Chris Urbanspooned it and found one. Turkish AND Greek, but it would do.

(Which, by the way, this has always puzzled me. Seeing as how the Turks and the Greeks hate each other with the ire of a thousand suns, how is it that you can have both under one roof?)

But it definitely looked like a hole in the wall.

Cafe Agora

We ventured out of our comfort zone of known Atlanta and found it – but just barely. It wasn’t wide enough for me to lay down in, not that I’m in the habit of lying down in restaurants.

We parked out front, but didn’t have change for the parking meter. As we were driving up, Parking Enforcement was driving away, so we assumed that it would be in our best interest to procure some change.

I walked into the Café, and an old Turkish man who was obviously the owner was standing at the counter.

“Excuse me – can I get change for these two dollars? We’re trying to park out front.”

He looked shocked…and a little angry.

“No! I will not get you change! You move back and not pay!”

“Um…what do you mean?”

He huffed and ran past me out of the restaurant. He began yelling at Chris.

“You move your car back a space! You see? No parking meter!! They can no make you pay there!!”

Chris and I looked warily at the non-parking space parking space.

Turk grew impatient. “You move your car!!!!”

Chris obeyed, which began our descent into nervousness about getting towed.

We walked back in the tiny restaurant, and started toward a table.

“No! Those tables are for bigger parties. You sit at the bar!! You will get best service in the house!!”

We headed to the bar, if you could call it that. It had an tea machine halfway in my space, and the cash register was one seat down on the other side. We squeezed in between the drinks and the money and began perusing the menu.

The owner was yelling and talking at everyone else as if they were all family. Most likely the Turkish Mob.

He then turned to us. “Why did you come here tonight?”

“Well, we always like to find new Greek places to go when we’re out of town.”

And I saw it on his face. Insult. Yes, he is definitely Turkish – NOT Greek. He walked away without saying a word.

A few minutes later, after composing his Turkish Self Esteem, he came back.

“You ready to order?”

We ordered the combination appetizer platter, getting excited about eating hummus and tzatziki and tabouli and other such delightful treats.

He turned his head and nearly burst our eardrums yelling to the very back of the restaurant for our order to be made. A few minutes later, he brought us over two paper plates – one with dips, one with pita bread.

“These dips are the best we have. If you don’t eat this, you get nothing else!!!”

“Okay…we will eat it!”

“I will make you a bite. It will be good.”

He picked up a piece of pita bread off of the plate and began mixing the dips into a conglomerated hash. He then shoved a bite in Chris’ mouth, as Chris uncomfortably accepted his hand-delivered bite.

“Yes…that was very good!”

“I will get you another one!”

He started mixing dips again and shoved it toward Chris’ face.

This time, Chris beat him to it and put his hand out.

“That’s okay – I will feed myself.”

“No! You eat this bite!”

I volunteered to save Chris from this awkward man-on-man feeding extravaganza. “I’ll take that bite!”

“No! I have another bite in mind for you. You — eat this bite!”

He shoved it in Chris’ unwilling mouth, coating his beard in dips.

“Yes. That was good.”

He prepared another perfect mixture for me, and force fed it to me. After we finally seemed to do a good enough job of convincing him that we were properly satisfied with our dip plate, he relieved us and left.

And began yelling in Turkish at the guy in the back of the restaurant, who was presumably his son.

They yelled angrily back and forth from the kitchen to the counter, and then his son came out of the kitchen to increase the intensity of the yelling.

Then the son put a smile on his face and came to talk to us in English.

Then began scowling again and yelling in Turkish back at his dad.

Then smiling, and talking in English.

Apparently, they were convinced that if we couldn’t understand what they were saying, we would assume it was all nice things. But there was clearly some Turkish cursing in the mix.

Old Turk came back over. We ordered our dinner, and he noticed that we only had a couple of pieces of bread left.

“What?? Why you eat all of the bread?? You have so much left to eat!!”

I jokingly said, “Maybe you didn’t give us enough bread to go with it!”

He gasped in anger.

“THEES!! THEES IS NOT DIP!! Dip is what you eat with CHIPS!! THEES is food!! The bread – the bread has yeast in it. And the water you drink? No Yeast. You mix them together in your tummy and you know what happens???”

He stuck out his belly and motioned that I, too, would get fat from the evils of more bread.

“So there. You see? No more bread for you!!”

A Turkish family walked into the restaurant, all dressed up in their finest. A Mom, Dad, and two kids.

He yelled out greetings to them.

“Ah! You look beautiful!! I must take your picture!!”

The ten year old girl made obvious motions that she did NOT want her photo taken.

“What? You must let me take your picture!! I can put it on my Facebook page. You want to help my business, don’t you??”

He took a picture of her scowling face.

Yes, that will clearly help his business.

As we were eating our entrees, two more obvious newbies walked in.

“You! Sit at the bar! You get the best service of the place!”

They ordered the combination spread appetizer.

He came over. Began mixing bites and shoving them in their faces.

“These dips are the best we have. If you don’t eat this, you get nothing else!!!”

Chris and I looked at each other. And at the same time, realized that we had apparently just taken part in a well-rehearsed dinner theater.

…and then we ran out of the restaurant to make sure that we hadn’t gotten towed.

50 Restaurants in Crappy Photos: Tampa Edition.

50 Restaurants in Crappy Photos

So I realize that this series is supposed to be strictly Birmingham restaurants. But I’m a rulebreaker, and we went to Tampa. Therefore, you get a Tampa edition.

But really, this is just an excuse to tell you about the most curious restaurant experience we’ve ever had – you won’t want to miss restaurant # 6.

4. Louis Pappas Market and Café – As I mentioned before, one of the reasons we chose Tampa was so that we could visit Tarpon Springs, a Greek town about an hour out of Tampa. It was a special surprise that Tampa, also, was covered up with Greek Restaurants.

When our flight arrived, it was cold, rainy, and nearly time for rush hour traffic, which we heard was especially bad. So we decided to wait it all out by having dinner downtown at Louis Pappas.

We studied the menu for about ten minutes, trying to narrow down what we wanted – because I for one wanted everything.

We started out with Greek Fries.

Greek Fries are one of those vague menu items that can be anything from soft wedges of potatoes floating in Olive Oil, to French Fries with oregano sprinkled on them, to homemade potato chips. These Greek Fries were of the potato chip variety.

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But these potato chips were freshly made, still hot, and had feta and green onions sprinkled on top. AND were accompanied by my favorite sauce in the world, Tzatziki Sauce, as a side.

I know I could have been fine with just this, but I also ordered the Greek Chicken and Rice.

It seems a rather simple dish, but Greeks do chicken differently than anyone else – they will serve you the juiciest, most flavorful piece of poultry you will ever put in your mouth.

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And this one definitely lived up to the stereotype. I didn’t care for the rice (it had an out-of-place seafood taste,) but it’s not like I needed it after all of those chips.

Chris asked them to give him whatever would give him the most gyro meat, and so he ended up with the Gyro Platter.

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And he was well pleased.

5. The next day, we wandered down the St. Petersburg Beach and popped in a completely random Greek Restaurant called, of all the unappetizing words to name an eating establishment, Skidders.

It looked like an old IHOP. But we sat on the deck, away from the frosted glass booth dividers and off-rose-colored walls, and really enjoyed our meal. I got a hamburger with feta,

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And Chris ordered a Pizza.

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It wasn’t anything completely fantastic, but it was a great outdoor meal.

But the experience I really wanted to tell you about was our Flagship Anniversary Dinner.

6. Everyone that knew anything of Tampa told us that we had to eat at Bern’s Steakhouse while we were there.

“You MUST go there. It’s an experience you can’t miss!!”

“It’s THE best steakhouse in the world.”

“Oh yes, Bern’s is the best restaurant in Tampa by a mile. It will cost you everything you have, but you can’t miss it.”

Nobody. Not a single person. NOT A SOUL. Mentioned that it was also the creepiest restaurant this side of Transylvania.

The website was our only clue: when Chris read that the meal included dinner, a tour of the kitchen and wine cellar, followed by another table in the dessert room upstairs, I made jokes about that old story my Dad told – about the best steakhouse in the world that gave kitchen tours…but no one ever returned.

Delicious steaks, people make.

But we were sure that the similarity ended there.

We dressed in our best, as there was a strict no-denim policy.

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(I was unsure as to whether they would confiscate my denim jacket on the way in, but I risked it. After all, I’m a rulebreaker.)

The sign was simple and unassuming for the restaurant with the world’s biggest wine collection.

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The building had almost no windows, looking more like a Sanatorium or Secret Society than Tampa’s best restaurant.

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And the minute we walked in the lobby, we felt like we had been dropped into the movie Clue.

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The sconces had an otherworldly orange glow to them, and their tentacle-like fingers holding the glowing orbs in place were not at all comforting.

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(Nor were the naked baby banisters.)

The walls were covered with portraits that made you certain their eyes would follow you as you walked.

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And the sheer amount of red-tinted grandioseness of the whole place was quite stunning.

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Despite the fact that they had something like seven or nine or maybe five dining rooms and the place was Scooby-Doo’s-Doghouse/Mary-Poppin’s-Purse gigantic on the inside, we couldn’t get reservations until 9pm. We got seated somewhere around 9:15pm, and our waiter was a jubilant and endearing older gentleman from the former Yugoslavia.

During our meal, he told us the same phrase six times – because we counted.

“Bern’s Steakhouse – there’s nothing like it! Once you eat here, nothing is ever the same again!”

I was distracted from the menu at hand by the encyclopedia of a wine list.

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I was determined to find the most expensive wine available – just to see what it was.

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I thought I had found it…but later, our waiter informed me that no, the most expensive bottle was actually $30,000.

On to the food. We’re on a Capresi Salad kick, and this one was the best we’ve had. Not surprising, since they grow their own tomatoes and make their own cheese.

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Next, he brought us French Onion Soup.

French Onion Soup is always a surprise for me, because I expect it to be a thin, low-calorie soup.

I always forget about the inch-thick cheese on top.

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But I’m pretty sure I scraped the bowl clean.

Then, salads.

“There are sixteen different elements to this salad,” our waiter proudly told us. “All grown in our garden. And the sprouts are grown in the kitchen! Once you eat here, nothing is ever the same again!”

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And yes, it was an amazing salad – especially since I’m on an extreme avocado bender.

Finally, our steaks, potatoes, and onion rings were brought out. Thanks to the last three courses, I wasn’t at all sad that my steak was small – and still ended up taking most of it with me.

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After dinner, it was our turn to tour the kitchen and wine cellar. Our waiter led the way as we walked through room after room of medieval fancery.

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By this time it was 11:30pm, so the kitchen was spotless and the butcher knives were all clean for the night – something that made for uninteresting photos, but was greatly comforting with regards to our fate.

I did spot the growing sprouts, though.

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Next on our tour was the wine cellar, where Chris and our waiter had a serious talk about the security of such a place.

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There was an entire wing behind metal bars and padlocked, and only one man had the key. If you wanted that $30,000 bottle, I’m pretty sure they would run a credit check first.

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The cellar kept going and going and going…

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And the age of the bottles was equally impressive.

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As we were passing back through on the way up to our dessert booth, all of the dining rooms were empty and set for the next day’s customers.

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The dessert floor was full of different sized, oval-shaped private booths made out of old wine casks and Plexiglas. It was dark and bizarre, but the dessert menu made it all worth it.

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Also? Each booth had musical choices and it’s own volume control.

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We started with the live music, but the pianist gave it up at midnight, so we moved on to anything that would keep our mind off of the fact that we were enclosed in a soundproof casket after midnight on the second floor of a windowless building.

But again. The desserts made it all worth it.

Our new waiter explained the menu with, “On the first page, you will find our coffees. On pages two through four, you will find our desserts. And the next fifty pages, are dessert drinks.”

These people clearly have a good deal with a printing press. And a wide range of clientele. You can get a $3 cup of hand-picked, house roasted, ground & brewed to order coffee (which Chris loved,) or you can mortgage the crown jewels and try 1 1/2 ounces of a rare Remy-Martin cognac blend for $1200.

I repeat – for an ounce and a half.

I got the world’s most beautiful cappuccino,

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To go along with my Hazelnut Cake.

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Chris ordered The Brown Sugar, which was chocolate chip cookie dough cheesecake, a cookies and cream ice cream sandwich, and warm brown sugar blondie

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(And a side of Cinnamon Ice Cream. Just to make sure we had plenty.)

The amount of calories we consumed in that restaurant was embarrassing, and our scale still testifies to that truth.

But every one of them was worth it.

In summary, we arrived at 9:00. Two tables, two waiters, a tour, and 3 1/2 hours later, we rolled ourselves to the car at 12:30 in the morning and managed to drive back to our room.

And for the rest of our lives, if we know someone that’s going to Tampa, we will tell them, “You MUST go to Bern’s Steakhouse! Nothing is ever the same again!”

And we’ll just leave it at that.