Yesterday my supervisor and a vice president ran into my office — with the usual emergency gesticulations — and posed a question to me.
We understand that you would like to work from our DC location. How about sooner than later?
There was a bittersweet moment I then faced. I will be going to Washington, DC, to work on a project through the remainder of the year that could have been salvaged well in advance of its current behind-schedule, over-budget state. Chicago is by far the greatest city in America other than New York City and this immediate need had me thinking fast. Sixteen years in Chicago have resulted in a love affair with this metropolis. My doctor, dentist, church, personal tailor, friends, family, restaurants, my large three-bedroom condominium, Chicago Symphony Orchestra tickets, Lyric Opera tickets, artistic inspirations, and countless other trimmings are here. Washington, DC, is a fabulous city and the project will be saved now that I bring my competence to the table, albeit a case of cleaning up after the elephant, and there are other amenities that make DC very appealing. I will look forward to the restaurants, of course, and work on a personal relationship with a certain attorney who I have never fallen out of love with. Some asked why she won’t move to Chicago. That would require her taking the bar for Illinois. It is easier for me to go to her.
Many people say that sudden changes wreck their appetites or spike their appetites. For me, I think I eat so much that I never have time to consider whether I am waffling between locking myself in my condo and “dealing with it” or filling my belly to capacity. Worrying is not an option, as it cuts into my time planning which cuisine I should indulge. Such was the case today when I had plans to go to Hyde Park to get coffee from an independent coffee-house that always serves the best coffee around. In the spirit of Chicago’s finest — and I do not mean the police — I passed by a cafe and sushi bar on my way to the coffee shop. The Sit Down Cafe and Sushi Bar at 1312 E. 53rd Street was on the path and was a proper option for getting food. I figured I would then have coffee as an after-lunch drink.
The temperatures were a bit brisk, but not cold. September is gone and October is a whisper away, an indication that autumn is upon us. I chose to sit outside to enjoy my food rather than being inside. Chicago has several months of cold weather that results in spending a lot of time inside on the general principle. Besides, it was 53rd Street in Hyde Park, which is not bad for people-watching and enjoying a little outdoor ambience. The server gave me a menu and a wine list, of which I handed the wine list back since 2:00 PM in the afternoon is a bit too early to take liquid swigs, for me.
The menu was, shall we say, all over the place. I saw prosciutto, pasta fagiole soup, jambalaya stew, Mediterranean caprese, pizza, and sushi. Acknowledging that the menu catered to the palate that loves ethnic food, there were too many ethnicities on one menu. After seeing Japanese chefs behind the counter, I settled for Japanese fare. My order consisted of ebi tempura, which was tempura shrimp, spicy mayo, cucumber. Another favourite that I ordered was unagi maki — fresh water eel, cucumber, and sweet soy sauce. And third was a spider roll. Deep fried soft shell crab, cucumber, and sweet soy sauce rolled rounded out my sample for the afternoon. Considering The Sit Down Cafe had several ethnic menu items, the maki and roll were outstanding Japanese items. The shrimp, eel, and crab were all fresh, as were the ingredients used with them. Satisfying is one word that I shall use to describe how I received each bite. You would have had to see my facial expressions to understand just how good it was.
The server that I had initially came outside and talked with me for quite a bit. Noticing me photographing the food, she was curious as to whether I was a food journalist. The service was already top, but the added touch of engaging me in banter rather than merely taking my order and bringing the food made the experience that more pleasant. Even a few patrons who had come outside stopped and watched as I was capturing the pre-moment before I began my gobbling session — with dignity, of course. When the bill came, I nodded in appreciation for having had such a wonderful meal without being left with an expression of shock from a high price tag. I wish I had gone to The Sit Down Cafe long before now. Then again, my timing is not always perfect.
After leaving The Sit Down Cafe, I thought about Washington, DC. I know that there are countless restaurants there that will leave me sated, smiling my stupid smile, and making plans for some other eatery to sample. The project is to go for a couple of months with the intention of going through the remainder of the year. But with me preparing myself to wear my heart on my shirtsleeves for the attorney, these next few months may stretch longer. If she and I can put aside being such power players and having very, very strong personalities — and I should say this in first person only — then 2011 could be my final year in Chicago. There very well may be a Washington, DC Alphabet Soup on the horizon.