The older you get, the more you feel like you’re occupying a cultural ‘twilight zone.’
Encountering glossy reproductions of bygone pop culture, for example, evokes weirdly stinging nostalgia. You think you smell weed, but it’s just the odor of your brain cells burning away. Thus, while dining at Golden Eagle Diner’s Club, I felt like I was sitting on the edge of my retro-decorated grave when a young woman next to me ordered a neon Blue Hawaiian cocktail with a parasol and some fruit impaled on a colorful toothpick. I flashed back to watching my parents swill such drinks at crypto-Hawaiian restaurants in the early 1960s. (My parents are dead.)
In the background, James Brown’s grunts and groans filled the dim, gold-lit room, played on a big reel-to-reel tape player literally sitting in a cabinet aglow like a campy ark of the covenant. A restaurant employee walked by in a “mod” suit that would do Ziggy proud, on his way to the spectacularly symmetrical u-shaped bar overseen by a gargoyle in the form of a gigantic, taxidermied moose head.
Owned by the same people who operate Ladybird Grove and Mess Hall, the Golden Eagle is a better cocktail lounge than restaurant. (I don’t drink, but my companions enthusiastically swilled away.) The food section of the menu is one page of a booklet, featuring mainly small, shareable dishes served with obnoxiously tiny plates that aren’t changed often enough. We started with a Japanese pancake, an okonomiyaki, piled with bonito flakes (dried fish), and a variety of shaved vegetables. Frankly, I couldn’t correlate many of the actual ingredients to the menu’s description, which included a normally spicy sauce that, if there, had lost its sizzle. The same occurred with a trio of delicious oysters topped with bread crumbs, a tiny dollop of lump crab, lots of sea salt, and a completely undetectable “jalapeno butter.”
I can never resist burrata, a mozzarella cheese with a firm exterior and a soft, creamy interior. Alas, the Eagle’s, served with a few fresh fig slices and green peas, was cold and crumbly. The least appealing dish on our table was a springtime risotto with the oddest flavor ever — miso, according to the online menu. Second best was an entrée-sized leg and thigh of crispy duck confit with grilled Brussel sprouts, cippolini onions, and black cherries soaked in a classic gastrique. The best dish on the table was the “fisherman’s stew.” Although unfortunately small, ours included mussels surrounding a large hunk of crispy pork belly. The resulting broth, though shallow, was amazing and the kitchen was cruel in not providing bread to sop its few tablespoons.
Overall, I’m strongly recommending the place for its ambiance and cocktails, praised by everyone, but I can’t say the food is worth much attention. Golden Eagle is open evenings only, but it is fronted by an, um, grain-bowl taqueria, Muchacho. It’s open 7am–4pm daily and it’s la bomba for real.
Cliff Bostock is a former psychotherapist now specializing in life coaching. Contact him at 404-518-4415 or firstname.lastname@example.org.