Again Harold and I were ready to kill on a Friday. Again we were starving. The only difference in the day was, driving to work I seemed to be surrounded by bombshells, walking on the sidewalk, driving their cars—EVERYWHERE. Walked into a Starbucks (alright, stop it, I know I’ve railed on chains, but this joint is the last stop for coffee before my office and the only one within miles—BACK OFF) and I’m confronted with a shockingly beautiful barrista. I mean shocking to the point where I stopped for a half-second, staring, she stares at me staring, the classic awkward moment where she considers calling the manager or the police.
I get my caffeine and leave. Everywhere. They were everywhere I tell you. Then to sit in that cube and go through the motions of writing about something you have absolutely no interest in—I think this time it was some piece of equipment—and the appetite starts to build and the administrative assistant is wearing a sweater that is straining at the chest and…Lunch! Please! Get me out of the office!
As I mentioned, Harold was in a similar mood, having spent the previous evening at a function surrounded by bombshell advertising lacheys pumping him full of booze—he’s a happily married man, for chrissakes. And I live with somebody, for chrissakes—I have no complaints. Really!
So what do two guys fighting temptation at every turn, knowing their significant others wouldn’t agree to granting them a sabbatical filled with questionable behavior? We stuff ourselves until we just want to take a nap.
Harold had heard of a “Middle Eastern place” up the road on Central Avenue, blocks north of our usual confines. And there, after several U-turns and mishaps in a series of confusing parking arrangements, we found the only restaurant that appeared Middle Eastern. Something called Marina Grill & Deli (4755 Central Ave. NE, Columbia Heights. And, from their business card, it looks like there’s another one at 2424 University Ave.). Yeah, I know. It sounds like something you’d find in old downtown Wayzata. But this is anything but a suburban hangout.
We walked in to a dining room packed wall to wall with Egyptian men enthusiastically cheering the soccer (or, for the rest of the world, football) game on satellite television between Egypt and the Ivory Coast. (Egypt won in a shootout. Not only was it a tournament victory, but an important qualifying match for the World Cup.)
For atmosphere, I’d say this place had the best of all the Friday buffets we’ve been searching out on that Central Avenue corridor. And nice big, dining room tables—we were sharing space with everyone else, the enthusiastic cheers with each shot and save snapping us out of our workday stupor. Made us think how nice it would be to have that enthusiasm to meet your friends for a lunch during the week to partake in a little national pride.
Ah, but the food. Plentiful, as you might expect, and a meat lovers paradise. Oh sure, there was the vegetables and pastas and such, but there was some serious meat under the sneeze guards: lamb shank (delicious); tender, pink-in-the-middle slices of beef braised in a dark sauce (also delicious); the ubiquitous gyro fixins (yep, that was good, too) and whole prawns (didn’t go there). And soup (very good). And baklava for dessert (really good).
We stuffed ourselves silly amid the cheering soccer/football fans and debated again whether to return to our jobs. But then the game ended, the post game shows began, and the Egyptians began pulling on their coats to return to work. So, well, we did too.
Total cost, which included a coke and refills? About $8.50.
Nearby was an Applebee’s. Pity those fools.