After work on Friday, Red and I got dolled up and went out to the Baltimore Vegan Drinks happy hour. We’ve been to two or three before, and they’ve been fun. I was especially excited for this one, as it was held at Pizzazz, a brand-new Italian restaurant with a menu boasting plenty of vegan food. Plus, it was a joint event benefiting Compassion Over Killing. What could be better?
Oh my God, let’s see…a place to sit, menus, a restaurant staff that wasn’t totally cuckoo, a band that didn’t have the amps turned up to 11, clearly delineated food and drink specials? Shall I go on?
It started with the traffic. Obviously we can’t blame the traffic on either the event organizers (Paul, you rock) or the restaurant, but I can—and will, with extreme prejudice—blame it on the thousands of drunk Orioles fans and hopeless out-of-town drivers who conspired to snarl us in a vehicular web of SUCK. Opening Day, I hate you.
So, it took us a little longer than we anticipated to make it to Pizzazz. No worries there. The worry set in when we barely cleared the threshold before running smack into a wall of bodies more suited to a mosh pit. We saw people we knew, but couldn’t get to them. Half the tables in the nearest section were reserved. The band was setting up in a space entirely too small for live music, and the outdoor patio was closed. (To be fair, it was in the 50s, but we had been expecting outdoor seating, and most restaurants have patio heaters to warm things up al fresco.) No one really seemed to have a handle on what was going on.
An official-looking woman hustled us to a table with a few people we’d met at the last Vegan Drinks. This was okay with us, because we would have eaten dinner with Jabba the Hutt at that point. A harried waitress gave us our special event menus, just before a guy appeared and asked us if we’d been seated there or, I suppose, just sort of plopped ourselves down next to the bank of reserved tables. Once he was reassured that we weren’t trying to steal anyone’s seat, I stared down the drink list with a fervor that could only be slaked by numbing quantities of alcohol. I ordered something that was basically lemonade with açaí berry vodka. Red ordered Johnny Walker. His drink had alcohol. Mine, as best I could tell, did not.
“Look, Jabba, next time you wanna talk to me, I’m gonna need two tables. And plenty of vegan food.”
Food! Blessed, blessed food. I had never had Daiya, that mythical, melty vegan cheese that was rumored to change my life, so I went for a four-cheese pizza. It was decent. The cheese had melted, but in my hyperbole-soaked brain (what’s that? Daiya cures cancer?) I had been expecting gooey strands of faux-mozzarella stretching from the pizza to my mouth. It didn’t happen. That was okay. Red’s penne Bolognese was good, but we agreed that as a whole, Pizzazz really needs to up their garlic game. More is better, people.
And then the birthday party arrived to claim their reserved tables. Oh, sweet fancy Moses, that party. They were, for the most part, lovely people. I realize that it is irrational to be annoyed that people are cooing and squealing and hauling balloons and presents into a public space that happens to be right next to my head, but the dancing. As soon as the band started (too loud, decent rock covers, not a good fit for the space or atmosphere, better luck next time), two ladies decided to jitterbug in between our tables. Please envision two people trying to dance in an airplane aisle, and you have this scene. They thoughtfully moved their routine over to the bar, right in front of the entrance, but not before I pondered throwing an ice cube at them. I begged our waitress for a Yuengling.
Suddenly, our table was abuzz. What’s that? An honored guest! Whoever could it be? President Obama? John Waters? Holy shit, it was Bruce Friedrich, and if that means something to you, you’re way ahead of where I was on Friday night. Bruce Friedrich, our dining companions excitedly informed us, is one of PETA’s VPs. If you’ve spent any time on this here blog, you know that I bit my tongue and prayed to taste blood before I said something I would regret.
After that? Our sweet waitress understood that we really, really wanted to get out of there and regain our hearing as well as our sanity, so she figured out our bill separately and collected a decent tip for her trouble. (Note: I’m not bragging on our super-generous tipping habits, just pointing out that even in a shitty situation, treating your waitstaff with kindness and rewarding them with more than that meager 15% is the least you can do, especially when they do nice things for you like tally up your check instead of forcing you hash it out with the rest of your table of PETA-loving near-strangers.) We grabbed our things, pleaded anniversary plans—totally not a lie: it was our anniversary, just of our engagement, not our wedding—and booked it back to the parking garage.
The leftover Daiya pizza was excellent for breakfast. With a little garlic salt on top, of course.