Saturday, 5 March 2016

Lion & Bright: The Place You Can Bring Your Laptop but Not Anymore, Kind of

There is a story in the Vagina Monologues where
a woman says her vagina is a garden. These
coffee flowers always make me think of that story. 
Lion & Bright is on Agricola Street and is somewhat the bane of my existence. Yes, I suppose that would mean I have a pretty cushy existence if a hipster pretentious café is the most antagonistic thorn in my side, but it is a "bane" none the less.

Let's start with how to simply walk into the establishment. Here's a tip, when you enter, keep your eyes down.  This is a place where everyone you don't want to see is probably working at their laptop on some artistic endeavour you definitely never want to hear about (and today I plan to be one of them), so if you can get by navigating without your eyeballs lifting from the floor, I highly recommend you do so. And yes, I know what you're thinking: "Wait a minute, don't I need to be able to see if there's a table available?" No, you don't, because guess what? There isn't.

Of course, eventually, you will get a seat. We do, at least. Today I have in tow two sisters, one nephew, and one Lardene Flart (no, that's not her real name).  We came to "work"; Lardene on some photo editing, me on this, but I decided coffee and snack would have to come first or else I wouldn't really have much to work with (although past poor experiences would have probably been enough). We sit down against the wall. I look around. It's fucking packed. Man, this place is always so fucking packed! You just know people love to be spotted here, and I hate that. It reminds me of Obladee. I bet they wouldn't have half the pull they do if there weren't those huge windows looking onto the corners of Barrington and whatever. Because, people go there mainly to be the people who are at Obladee, and of that, I am convinced.
Oh For God Sakes...
Anyway, Obladee is fine. Forget Obladee, back to today. I catch eye contact with some surrounding patrons, and I just know I am making days. One guy has even brought along a stand for his laptop. He wants his laptop and himself to stand out the most. Well buddy, it's working. I can't snap a photo of it, but I can find one on the internet. This laptop stand begs the question "Why?", but it's the non-rhetorical sort, because requiring an answer means opening up a dialogue and I have a feeling me and this man have less than nothing in common, except of course that we are both at Lion & Bright with laptops. Man, I kill myself sometimes, and not in a good way.

But I digress. Where was I? Right, the people are predictable and the tables are hard to get. You know what? They are also a little heavy handed in their distribution.  Graham and I watched the worst/best fucking movie ever a few months ago: Curse of Chuckie. The tables remind me a lot of a comment Chuckie made about a woman he was about to kill. He talked about her eyes, screaming about how they were "too fucking close together" right before his little doll hand and doll knife performed some involuntary ocular surgery (see video below, really, see it). These tables are like that woman's eyes. They are way "too fucking close together". I am literally brushing elbows (yes, literally does fit here, don't be pedantic) with the people next to us. In this particular instance though, I don't mind. They are kids and I love kids.

Anyway, I order a coffee. A mochaccino actually. The sisters and the Lardene order food. Here's what we're going to be looking at:

Hayley & Katy - Sharing a NINE DOLLAR mac and cheese (the special) and each getting their own side of leek and something soup.

Lardene - Having the fish tacos and side beet salad.

Basic Bitch, in The Best Way.
Our server. I know this chick is probably awesome, and you never know what is going on in someone's life, but there is something weird going on at Lion & Bright. I always feel as if employees are half agitated by my patronage.  It's like they've been instructed to go for an air that says: "Yes, I can take your order, but just so you know, it's not my job to serve you" (spoiler alert: it is). Our food comes pretty quickly, which is huge in my books. When people are hungry, every minute feels like a step closer to death. Our faces light up and the eats seem hot and edible, a great start.

The soup is soup, but it's cool that it's just soup you know? I always tell Graham we should open a place called "For Regular People, For Christ's Sake" because there really are so very few of them out there anymore. Places that when you order soup, you get soup, and when you order a beer, it's just a beer and not something that comes with a description including degrees of hoppy-ness and words like "infused with...", "enlivened by..." or "addition of...". Like, if there is beer in it, I am sure it's going to serve its purpose. And what the fuck is "hoppy"-ness? Do I detect levels of hops with my eyeballs or my earballs? You know what? I don't even want to know the answer. I'd like to exercise my right to refuse to be filled in.

My point is, I like this soup because as you can see, it's a leek soup without bells and whistles, and let's be honest; a haphazard effort at garnishing. Finally, something I can relate too. A normal cup of soup for a couple of normal women. I wish I could have a slurp, but Hayley and Katy must've missed all the episodes of the Care Bear's where they shared their lessons in caring, specifically the sharing one with the popsicles.  If you missed it too, you can check it out below:

Two Forks One Cup
Moving on. Let's look at the Mac n' Cheese. That fork is touching the bottom of that plate. It is touching it. Judging by most forks, that has to mean this is one shallow ass depth. Listen, the taste is fine, it's really good actually, but dude, this is NINE DOLLARS we're talking about here.  I think they should rename this dish Highway Robbery.  Sisters are disappointed by the prospect of sharing now, and they pack it away fast, both driven by their fear of one getting more than the other. We're all a bunch of greedy guts, and that's okay.

Let's talk fish tacos. I have had these here before and they can actually hit the spot if you don't care about money or "bang for your buck".  They are drippy, and although some people might hate that, the drippiness is my favorite part of all tacos, fish, chicken, beef, whatever.

For Scale
But there's a big problem with this picture. That is an as served taco portion, but looks more like someone deep fried a witch's finger and plated it for shits and gigs. Granted there are two of these puppies, but for each taco to have that much fish, or should I say that little fish, I mean, there are no words. I had Lardene put her finger there for scale, because it really is super tiny. Guys, it's not that this isn't yummy, but it's almost insulting how minuscule that thing is. I keep expecting our waitress to release some balloons and reveal we're on a terribly Canadian hidden camera show where hipster pretentious restaurants hide behind claims of "quality/local" ingredients and see how much bullshit they can get away with before customers finally break. This taco portion has Lardene at a breaking point. And me for that matter, because the bite she offers up is ruined by the wrappy part being stale-ish.

Lardene is not happy, and I wonder if she is on her period. Women who are hangry and PMSing can be loose cannons and I am not ready to commit to making a scene about this meal just yet. It's not all bad though, the white stuff, whatever it is, is a nice line of sauce, and those orange grated things (carrots?) they are a colorful little addition. Again, hence the word "little". God I feel bad for this taco. It had so much potential. It couldn't have been great. It reminds me a lot of my middle school band "Tender Betrayal" (a name I lifted from my sister Lauren's Harlequin Romance novel), something that sounded like a sure-fire hit but turned out to be a pint-sized effort that was bound to, and did, go nowhere. Oh, Tender B.

Ding! Ding! Ding!
You know what I will get at Lion & Bright if we ever wander back? This fucking beet salad. When the cartoon female exec from The Simpsons first pitched "Poochie" to "Itchy and Scratchy" big wigs, she described him as not simply a dog who got "busy", but a dog who got "biz-zay". This, this here is a salad that gets "biz-ay". I don't even know what's in there, but damn damn-ity damn damn it looks fine. See Lion and B (as I like to call you)? You can do it! I like how that long plate is so long, and I like the idea of starting a meal at one end of a dish and having an end point even more. I didn't have a taste, but I have had this before and I remember thinking it must be the saving grace of the whole joint. If I had to guess how to make this, I would say um.... apples, beets, carrot things, I think I see cashews, and those leaves, I am going to say they are.....rosemary. And one looks like, um, I choose basil. Like I said, I didn't try it so this is me creating a recipe just from this photo, For the sauce, I would say grab whatever cream dressing you have in your fridge and add any green specs you have in your spice cabinet. At the very least, it should look like the one in the photo once you mix the two. Oh! And is that a red onion? Maybe there is red onion too.

The waitress came by to ask us how everything was. I said "Amazing!" with the sort of unbridled enthusiasm only a cock-eyed optimist like Billy Mumphrey could match. Of course I was lying, but I really, really hate to be rude to anyone in the service industry. The fish taco isn't her fault. It's not even the cooks fault. It's the people at the top. They are handing down the orders and those orders need some serious tweaking. When I look at our mains I don't see exquisite plating or scrumptious ingredients, I see many a pinched penny hiding behind the hope that people will interpret small garbage portions as high brow end dining experiences. But I am on to them, and as Marissa Cooper from the O.C. would say (yes, click video):

Once everyone finishes their meals, we leave to search out another internet café as we discover a new rule which grinds our gears has been implemented: no laptops at certain tables. I can feel my "You've gotta be kidding me face" forming and we grab our coats. I realize this is probably just to promote turnover, and it's they're prerogative to decide where we can and cannot set up shop, but it feels a little presumptuous, doesn't it?  A little too sure of their popularity.

Listen, Lion and Bright. I doubt this is news to you. I hope you laugh if you read this, and I hope you know no one can ever take away your most valuable selling point: proximity. Your proximity to everything, especially En Vie, gives you a 4/Harvey's. As much as I bitch and complain (or as I like to say "make fair observations"), my North-end-ness and your North-end-ness are bound to cross paths again and when that time comes I just might get the beet salad (which I am giving a separate rating of 8/Harvey's). And a beer. Oh for the love of all that is holy, please don't spit in my beer. Please.

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