Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Cantina

My favorite haunt in college was open past 3 a.m. on Ninth Street. It boasted fresh-mex and crackled mariachi over twin speakers. Burritos were advertised “as large as your head” on makeshift posters plastered on the walls. We’d order watery pitchers of sangria while we played sticky rounds of quarters, despite the busboy’s protests, knocking rice and ice over the tables and onto the floor. It was where we came together, our unofficial student center, close enough to walk past campus, across the quiet main road that snaked through town. Breakups, makeups, and throwups were ever present on the outside steps.

One night, a newly minted sorority girl staggered in line, squealing at the lacrosse players and their quesadillas. Her eyes half closed, she stumbled once in her denim mini-skirt and flip-flops, smeared with floor salsa, and flopped her hand on the rim of the open service counter.

Fighting a stare, I went back to wrestling with the most difficult decision of the night--chicken nachos or steak taco?—and faced the chalked menu sign. A low gasp from members of the line rang out. The back of the girl’s denim skirt was suddenly in the air as she flung herself over the partition at the cooks’ garbage can.

“Here it comes,” a girl behind me exclaimed, “she’s gonna puke!” I took a half-step forward, contemplating rubbing her bare shoulder once in solidarity. Figuring I should (my order just put in), I continued towards her. But, before I could provide any comfort, she snapped her blond head triumphantly, arms outstretched, sequined cardigan half-open, nipple out, eyes still closed.

And munching. On a burrito. That she had pulled out of the trash.

Her friend, far more useful had she emerged three minutes earlier, pushed through the crowd.

ASHLEY!!” She screamed. The burrito was slapped from Ashley’s open mouth, her sour-cream covered hand was firmly gripped, and the poor girl dragged away by her friend, both entirely oblivious to Ashley’s demi-bra slipping lower and lower with each step.

Thankfully, late night face-shoveling antics are not a thing of the past for me. As long as I’m irresponsible enough to be out and hungry past 3, burger shacks and pizza joints will still be as much a part of my night as the Lychee Martinis and PBRs before them. They’ve opened a branch of the fresh-mex in my neighborhood, but the prices are astronomical and they’ve substituted lemongrass in part for cheese. It's just not the same.

So I’m looking for a new haunt. There’s one within walking distance, open past 4 a.m. on St. Mark’s, where goth girls sling tater tots slathered with cheese and dogs smeared with avocado. It’s full of too-happy East Villagers instead of students, still making an incredible mess.

Could this be my new stomping ground, where I hastily try to prevent Saturday’s hangover with the greasiest food in town? It has been nothing but a pleasure so far, each time I’ve been present, it’s incredible. We’ve played Connect Four while waiting for our orders. But part of me is still just a small bit unconvinced that this could replace the Cantina of old.

Maybe I’m just waiting for a mini-skirted girl to stomp through the doors, close her eyes and shove cheesy trash into her mouth before I’ll know for sure.

11 comments:

Adam said...

At school our late night food almost always Pita Pit. At 3AM there was nothing tastier.
Now that I've graduated, Pita Pit just doesn't taste the same.

Our "cantinas" aren't so much about the food... but about the other people you're there with.

Oswald Croll said...

Are you surew mini-skirt girl wasn't you...haha, j/k.

I am more of a diner guy myself, but het, food is food at 4 am. And hilarity usually ensues.

Just Some Guy said...

The line about Lychee Martinis and the PBRs before them is a classic and just about the best explination of being our age and drinking in this top shelf city! Just keep writing!

Julie_Gong said...

My friend picked a half eaten piece of pizza off a table and ate it but thats way less gross.

We were always a fan of Eat-N-Park when in college. The breakfast buffet was amazing at 3am. Amazing!

Oob said...

You too, K. As for reading music - I view it as a foreign language. Few know how to speak it fluently, but that doesn't stop the pleasure of hearing it.

opinionatedinjerzee said...

damn, makes you wonder how they got accepted to that college in the first place.. nice blog.

erin said...

What is it about late night food that encourages disgusting acts of desperation? I heard a similar story about girls digging through garbage cans at a frat party recently.

Just found your blog - fantastic writing!

Nina said...

Thank you for putting the wonders of late night ninth street shenanigans into wonderous prose....please keep writing and i promise to buy whatever it is that you can get published...

Anonymous said...

i would like to nominate Kenka, also on St. Marks. I have never not had an amazing time there. Eat the double negative. Pork and pitchers of beer with crazed japanese strangers and way offensive bathroom grafiti at 4am is always a great thing

d34dpuppy said...

hi k i found ur blog from belles and have been reading since she posted tha link, it very good writing, i think :o)

Pink Lemonade Diva said...

mmmmm, lacrosse players