Saturday, November 15, 2008
Lost in Norwood Park
Back in my living-on-the-North-Side twenties it became a Saturday ritual for me to walk over from my studio apartment on Ashland to Jim's Grill a few blocks away on Irving Park Road to rid myself of the dog that bit me the night before. Owner Dave Choi is a devout Buddhist and vegan, but he was also a businessman. Dave slowly worked bi bim bop and dry pancakes made with kim chi and brown rice onto the menu, along with a variety of spicy teas and soups guaranteed to clean you out.
Dave and I eventually struck up long conversations as he began to recogize me more and more. Well, I was also a pretty fearless eater, even back then. One day we were discussing eating meat - Dave was in the process of opening the first version of his vegan Korean restaurant Amitabul at the time - and Dave told me, "I want you to go to the grocery store and buy a steak. A good steak. Then cut a couple slices off it, put it in a beaker and let it sit out for a week."
"I know it's gonna sit there and rot, Dave," I said.
He replied, "That's also what it does in your digestive system." So I did what Dave asked. I also ate the rest of the steak while the two slices I removed were rotting in a beaker. When I returned to Jim's Grill the following weekend, Dave asked me how the experiment went. "Steak tasted really good," I said.
I hadn't seen Dave in a many years. He moved Amitabul from Southport to Milwaukee Avenue in Norwood Park around the same time I moved to Bridgeport. The move has done him well; Dave has a dedicated clientele who hang on his every word and suggestion as though it's Gospel. Some of them even buy his diet plans: one $65 package has you eating nothing but fiber for three days as a natural colonic. His food is still hands down some of the best vegan cuisine in the city. I've got enough of Dave's cure-all soup to help me fight the hangover I'm certain to wake up with tomorrow and Monday.
It should ahve been a two-hour trip, tops. But I forgot that Milwaukee is still located east of Northwest Highway, even that far north. So when I disembarked from the Metra this afternoon, I started heading west after a disgruntled waitress gave me half-assed directions. I stopped for directions at a Lutheran church, but the deacon I asked for directions wasn't very charitable with his advice. Nor was he charitable with his combover or hair dye.