So true. Photo: Merrick Brown/Flickr Despite my steadfast diet of fried dumplings and craft beer, I’ve somehow retained a relatively svelte shape. It’s a particular metabolic trick for which I take no credit, like those Mediterranean men who thrive well into their nineties while subsisting on unfiltered cigarettes, fish, red wine and olive oil.
However, I know Father Time will eventually catch up and make me resemble my own dad. In the mid-’90s, he developed an affinity for Rally’s (Checkers to us New Yorkers) quarterpound cheeseburgers and spicy fries— and, thus, a stomach as round as the globe Columbus hoped to sail across. It took years of bike riding to reverse his caloric transgressions.
For now, my belly’s shape has more in common with a baseball bat than a bowling ball—unlike the exceedingly pregnant woman blocking the path to my seat at Thistle Hill Tavern (441 7th Ave. at 15th St., Brooklyn, 347-599-1262). It’s an antique-y eatery (aren’t they all?) serving locally sourced cuisine in that mecca of kids and expectant women, Park Slope.
I should’ve known better than to dine in Park Slope at 6 p.m. Before 7, the restaurants are overrun with families sneaking in dinner out before story time. This is part of the natural order of modern-day Brooklyn dining. If I desired an offspring-free restaurant, I would’ve hit Thistle Hill at 8 or perhaps even 9.
“You know I can’t eat at 9,” my girlfriend tells me, looking over my shoulder as I type this treatise. It is true. Her eating agenda is as a rigid as a German train schedule. She consumes cereal or oatmeal at 8 a.m. Lunch follows at half past noon. Dinner, if she had her druthers, would be at 6:30. Me? I’m a schizophrenic eater. Most days, I’ll survive on Sahadi’s French-roast coffee (the cheapest in Brooklyn!) and icy seltzer till 2 p.m., when I gorge on glorious, pumpkin-and-potato rotis from Gloria’s West Indian Food (764 Nostrand Ave. at Sterling Pl., Brooklyn, 718-773-3476). Then I won’t eat again until 9 or 10 at night.
“We live in Brooklyn, not Barcelona,” she says, laying down the dining law. Thus, dinner at 6 at Thistle Hill. Why? Well, I’ve been intrigued by Thistle since I heard that an investor was Fat Mike, the frontman of pop-punk legends NOFX. When I must shake off my early-thirties malaise, I crank their amphetamine-laced anthems and feel pimply and fuck-all once again. On the food front, Thistle Hill also proved alluring.
Its chef is Rebecca Weitzman, who has clocked time in Bobby Flay’s empire, as well as ’inoteca, where she was chef de cuisine. She also attended my alma mater, Ohio University. My Ohio pride runs as deep as Lake Baikal. This may seem like a long-winded digression, but I was still standing and waiting for the pregnant woman to move. Her husband and young son were already seated at the adjoining table, and my girlfriend was snugly ensconced in her corner chair. I looked at the empty seat as forlornly as a puppy in the window. But I did not whine. I did not bark at the woman. She was still as a statue, maybe mentally tabulating the circumference of her stomach, the distance between table and seat. Her husband and kid were equally nonverbal. It was as if I were caught in a silent film.
Finally, blessedly, the waitress walked over. “Excuse me,” she said, as sweet as fresh-churned ice cream, “but would you mind stepping aside. We can push the table back to give you—” Like a startled tiger, the woman spun and pounced on the waitress. “What? No!” she said. She stomped outside and disappeared down the block. I snatched my opening and quickly sat down, trying to make myself invisible before blame rained down. Dad and son rose from their seats and mimicked Mom’s disappearing act. Hormones, a short fuse, an unintended spark, a scene.
I saw a future of diapers and 5 o’clock dinners flicker before my eyes, then I returned to my present vision: my girlfriend, a menu—two things I could understand reasonably well. We dined on a marvelous, stomach-comforting meal of meaty grilled trumpet mushrooms; handmade papparadelle with fall-perfect roasted pumpkin and walnut-sage cream; a fat and juicy grass-fed burger on a soft potato roll; and salt-and-pepper fries. We had the time of our lives, if only at the wrong time.
“Next dinner,” I told my girlfriend, “we’re eating at 8.”