MORE INFORMATION:

Recommended

Pura Vida, 656 N. Highland Ave., 404-870-9797, www.puravidatapas.com. (Best choices: the mofongo, steamed coconut buns, anything on the menu.)

The Colonnade, 1879 Cheshire Bridge Bridge Rd., 404-874-5642, www.colonnadeatl.com.  (Best choices: wedge of lettuce with blue cheese dressing, fried chicken, turnip greens.)

Uncle Julio’s, 1860 Peachtree Rd., 404-350-6767, www.unclejulios.com. (Best choices: Waiting for a table.)

HD1, 1664 N. Highland Ave., 404-815-1127, www.hd1restaurant.com.  (Good choices: the Merguez, the Bratwurst, the Classic.)

Pura Vida was always crowded and noisy. Like most restaurants that serve small plates, its initial impression was inexpensive. As soon as you started multiplying the plates and fancy cocktails, though, the bill could zoom upward.

“I need a husband,” Robert said. “I’m 49. I’m like a grocery-store price. At 49, I might as well be 50 – the end of everything. I’m too old for shirtless bowling and every time I hook up, guys call me ‘Daddy.’ It’s like the anti-Viagra.”

“Maybe you should shave the scruff, sweetheart,” Janet replied, tipsy enough to be truthful. “It looks okay on a lot of young guys, but at some point it ages you.”

Robert massaged his cheeks and looked at his hands to see if the Grecian Formula was rubbing off.

“Maybe you’re right,” he said, “but it’s the big fetish now, so it matters more than anything else. By analogy, if your penis is gigantic, it doesn’t matter at 2 in the horny morning online if you look like a flesh-eating zombie. Nor does it matter if your hook-up says, ‘Here, put on this grocery bag.’ ”

“Actually,” Janet said, “you’re the opposite. You’re too damn picky – the same way you are about food.”

Robert laughed. He licked a dab of tamarind sauce from a finger. It accompanied the steamed coconut buns with slightly sweet, smoked pork belly.

“So what is your plan?” Janet asked.

“I don’t have a plan. It’s impossible to meet eligible men in this city. I don’t want to go to bars. I’m over the online thing. I even went to church the last three Sundays. I’ve met more interesting men standing at a urinal at Home Depot.”

“Maybe you need to get a little kinky,” Janet suggested. “Maybe you need to introduce food into your sex and love life. You know – food porn.”

She was making a joke, but Robert’s eyes narrowed. His mind was whirring. So-called underground supper clubs were all the rage now. What if he started a gay food-porn dinner club? He could host dinners at various restaurants or invite chefs to secret locations.

Everyone was doing it. Why not him?

********
 
Robert was excited, but he worried about people’s reaction. As an English professor at Georgia State, he specialized in queer theory and knew that people sometimes found his ideas uncomfortably radical.

He decided to discuss the supper club with his regular Friday dining companion, Jimmy, who was 10 years younger than Robert. They had been dining at the Colonnade together for nearly 15 years.

Robert invited Ralph to join them. He was a 27-year-old hair-stylist who helped Robert disguise his thinning blond hair and ripped the hair off his back every couple of weeks after dripping hot wax on him. Ralph had the clone look down: florid tattoos, buzz cut, patches of scruff, neon-green shoe laces.

“I hope you can handle this,” Robert said to Ralph, as he snatched a yeast roll from the bread basket and dug into his favorite wedge of iceberg lettuce with blue cheese dressing. “This is a mature scene for you.”

The Colonnade was once renowned for its mix of gay men and 80-year-old Southern belles who sat at tables twirling ringlets of blue hair while sipping cocktails between deep inhalations from portable oxygen tanks.

But most of the widows moved on to the Bingo Parlor in the Sky. Lunch was discontinued. Aging gay men still showed up, but younger guys found new places to hang out Fridays, like Uncle Julio’s (formerly Casa Grande), where the crowded, margarita-drenched wait for a table provided involuntary frottage, often better than the food.

“So, I don’t get this idea,” Jimmy said.

“And I have no idea what food porn is,” Ralph said.

“Generally,” Robert said, “it refers to the way cooking shows, dining reviews and photography depict food in gastronomically lascivious terms. The depictions cause hunger as effectively as porn gets you hard. It’s all about desire.”

“Okay,” Ralph said, averting his eyes from a man who shuffled by in a cloud of Aramis, staring at him intensely. “But how do you work this into dinner?”

Before he could answer, dinner arrived — a mountain of hot crispy fried chicken with turnip greens for Robert. Although a major foodie, Robert was as ruled by nostalgia as any other person. The chicken, which he regarded as the city’s best, always reminded him of growing up in Savannah.

“It’s just for fun,” Robert explained. “Men in Atlanta take sex far too seriously. It’s valid as recreation. Hell, it can be performance art – with or without an a audience.”

Jimmy took a bite of his favorite turkey and dressing and stared at Robert. “You know,” he said, “a lot of people are gonna think you’re nuts if you do this.”
Robert sighed.

“I do think it’s nuts,” Ralph said. “It’s like all those guys in leather diapers humping drag queens in Gay Pride parades. It just makes all of us look so bad. And here you are talking about — I don’t know — naked men serving oversized hot dogs from HD1.”

Robert frowned. “I think HD1 is great fun but I’m not that crazy about all of their hot dogs,” he said about the restaurant started by Top Chef Richard Blais. “Some of the dogs — sausages, really — are a little too baroque. They pile too many toppings on one small piece of meat, so to speak. Nobody likes a small piece of meat that tastes weird. But, if you pare the toppings down, you get some great flavor.”

Ralph and Jimmy looked at one another. “You really don’t get it, do you?” Jimmy asked.

“I get it,” Robert said, drumming his fingers. “It’s my job to maintain a proper image of gay men. It’s like the guys who got arrested at LA Fitness a few years back because they played around in the sauna. Everyone said they were an embarrassment to the entire community. Gay men can be amazingly prudish whores.”

“It’s your thing,” Jimmy said. “I’d go. I think it will be fun, if the police don’t raid it because of lewd eating.”

“Too out there for me,” Ralph said.

“Honestly, Ralph,” Robert replied, “I think treating sex and romance this way defuses its intimidation factor. It’s not a literal sex party, but a chance to meet adventurous, interesting men. In any case, I’m doing it to find a husband.”

“You are seriously deranged,” Ralph said.

“Thank you,” Robert replied. “I just want to bring good food out of the closet.”

 


Editor’s note: Food Porn is a new fictional series by longtime Atlanta food critic Cliff Bostock. Set in real Atlanta restaurants, it chronicles the adventures of Robert, a gay man in search of a husband — or at least a good meal.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


five − = 1