Recommended

Cruzado

368 Fifth St., Atlanta, GA 30308
404-872-0846, www.cruzadorestaurant.com
More detailed Facebook page:  
www.facebook.com/CruzadoATL

Good choices: Besides the masitas de puerco, I love the fried chicken here. It’s not what you’re thinking. A classic medianoche, a Cuban sandwich, makes a good lunch. The restaurant serves brunch on Sunday. Experiment.

“It’s just empty,” Robert said. “How do you learn to love yourself? You learn to love yourself by discovering you’re lovable. How do you learn that? You learn it by engaging with others.”

“I wouldn’t dispute that,” Dr. Wilson responded. “Is this something that’s up for you right now?”

Robert felt annoyed. Undoubtedly his eye had indeed been drawn to the saying because of his romantic frustration. The hours before he turned 50 were ticking away and his effort to find a husband before then had so far produced dates with a relentlessly sarcastic Emory professor and a Log Cabin Republican.

“Does going out with a Log Cabin Republican mean I hate myself?” Robert asked.

Dr. Wilson, who was also a longtime gay activist, laughed. “I take it the food porn club has not turned up a husband yet,” he said. “But are you having fun?”

Robert balked. “I guess,” he said.

“You know,” Dr. Wilson said, “you have been complaining about dating and relationships since the first day you came in here 10 years ago. Week after week, you tell me about men you meet but how nobody is good enough.”

Robert felt a bolt of anger zap through him. Dr. Wilson was known for being confrontational at times. It was something Robert appreciated and despised about him.

“So,” the doctor went on, “what do all of these men who never turn into partners have in common?”

Robert took a deep breath and began his litany of their superficiality, their poor self-esteem, their financial irresponsibility, their unkempt appearance, their political apathy, their rabid consumerism, their sexual incompatibility, their taste for McDonald’s French fries….

Dr. Wilson interrupted. “Now, they don’t all have all those characteristics. But there is one totally common element here. “

Then he fell silent.

Robert looked around the room for another saying to change the subject, but Dr. Wilson continued. “

You are the common element here,” he said. “With few exceptions, it is you making immediate judgments about every man you come across.”

Robert groaned. At such moments he hated to admit that he was so blind to the self-evident, but that’s why he was there.

“We’re out of time,” Dr. Wilson announced.

A few minutes later, Robert was burying his anxiety in comfort food at Cruzado, with his friend Janet. The new restaurant recently took over the location occupied by Las Palmeras for 20 years. It was widely regarded as the best Cuban restaurant in the city, despite its location on Fifth Street in a residential section.

The new owner, Grace Lee, preserved much of the original menu, but, with the help of consulting chef Patric Bell, has expanded it to include food from other Latin American cultures.

“Apparently I have low self-esteem that keeps me from getting involved at depth with other men,” Robert said to Janet. “I can’t love another until I love myself. I hate men in flip flops because I don’t love my ingrown toenails.”

“That’s kind of a pop psychology cliché, isn’t it?” Janet responded. “But it does have a certain amount of truth to it. Before I lost weight, I hated women in low-rise jeans because I looked pregnant with triplets in them.”

They laughed. It was lunchtime and the restaurant began to fill with residents and workers. A few baby strollers held infants who were adorable until they shrieked. A younger man, waiting on a takeout order, gave Robert an intense, up-and-down look.

“He’s checking you out,” Janet whispered.

The man actually planted a business card in front of Robert. “Call me maybe,” he said, laughing, and left.

“Ooooh,” Janet gushed. “Young, hot and assertive. Black hair and blue eyes, a body to die for.”

Robert shifted in his seat anxiously. “Did you see that tie?” he said, rolling his eyes. “And I don’t want to be called Daddy. And look at his card. He works in a bank, the people who have ruined our economy…”

Janet interrupted. “I think your shrink may have a point. You’re freakin’ intimidated. You hate turning 50 and this beautiful guy found you attractive. You know zero about him but you’re already finding everything wrong with him. What’s the right word here? Superficial.”

Robert dug into his longtime favorite dish, masitas de puerco – chunks of juicy, crispy pork much like Mexico’s carnitas. He ate them with black beans and rice, and a side of fried yucca.

“I think our next Food Porn Supper Club meeting will be here,” he said, ignoring Janet.

“Food, there’s always food to love,” Janet said, exasperated.

 


Food Porn is a 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.  Read the whole series at www.thegavoioice.com.

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