CityBeat recently caught up with Moroski at his regular lunch spot, Frisch’s on Gest Street in Queensgate, where the clear aficionado proceeded to greet each staff member by name, point out that the china had recently been replaced and order his regular meal of salad, a Big Boy and fries, two sides of tartar sauce and Lawry’s seasoned salt. We then proceeded to chat about food, what shaped his tenacious nature when it comes to fighting poverty and injustice (here’s a hint: it has to do with Polish Solidarność) and what it’s like to be a homeless kid in Cincinnati.
CityBeat: How often do you eat at Frisch’s?
Mike Moroski: About three times a week. When I was a community organizer in Lower Price Hill, I once ate there five times in one week. I don’t do it on purpose, but it’s a nice central location. It’s my favorite restaurant and everybody likes it.
CB: What makes Frisch’s your favorite restaurant?
MM: Many things. So, I really, really like blue cheese and they have great blue cheese. I really like burgers and they have great burgers. I really like tartar sauce and they have the best locally made tartar sauce in the world. They have the best pepperoncinis in town; they’re very juicy but not every Frisch’s has pepperoncinis. The one on Central Parkway is good, but it does not have pepperoncinis. The salad bar at the one in Newport is no good. The burgers at the one in Newport are pretty good. But this one all around is the best.
But what I love most about Frisch’s — I really like the food of course —is if you look around, everybody comes here and everybody can afford to eat here. There’s a group of older African-American gentlemen over there (points to a table). A couple of them have Tuskegee Airmen hats on; they’re here every Tuesday. Sheriff Jim Neal sits in that back booth. That’s his “office.” That’s one of the corner booths where he does most of his business. You see school board members here. You’ll see people in recovery that I know are in Prospect House (a drug and alcohol treatment center for men). A number of the people who work here actually are all in recovery at Prospect House recovering from heroin addiction and other things.
Every Frisch’s is independently operated, right? It’s a chain, obviously, but each one a different family owns, and some families own multiples. This one, I don’t know if it’s an exclusive part of their hiring practices, but virtually everybody who works here is in some kind of program, and I know that because I’ve become friends with them and I’ve talked to them.
I’ve been to Frisch’s with millionaires and with my friends in Lower Price Hill who make $9,000 a year, and that’s my favorite part about it. Not to be melodramatic, but it is kind of like an equalizer. I get uncomfortable at fancier places.
CB: Do you always order the same thing? Would the world end if you didn’t?
MM: I do. I ordered a classic cheeseburger by mistake last week and I loved it. It was by mistake, though. I always get a Primetime Classic Cheeseburger, which is a new item. I also got a melt one time. It was excellent.
CB: Do you cook at home? And if so, what do you cook?
MM: Katie does. I can’t pronounce a lot of it and I joke with her that everything is quinoa. … Katie was a vegetarian for a while — she’s not anymore — but she can work magic with just veggies to the point when I’ve had parties for like politicians or organizations, and Katie will make her vegan chili and then she’ll make like chicken or whatever chili — at one thing, I think it was for David Pepper when he ran for attorney general, the vegan chili vanished. People wanted more of it and nobody knew that it was vegan chili. People were choosing it because it was so damn good.
CB: Do you pay any attention to the nutritional value of your food?
MM: I don’t, but Katie, my wife, has helped me to do that more organically. Katie is the best person in the world and I love her more than anybody, and she clearly knows me better than anybody and she is well aware that if you try to cram something down my throat, I won’t do it. It’s how I’m made. I come from a Union Railroad man and a guy who negotiated with the teamsters for 50 years, and a relative in Poland — he was held for supporting Solidarność. I can’t help it. If you tell me to do something, it’s not gonna happen. And Katie, somehow, I had girlfriends who were like, “Eat healthy, quit smoking,” but Katie never said anything. But I really want to hang out with her for as long as I can, so I needed to quit smoking and I need to eat a little healthier. So I’m learning.
CB: Describe your ideal last meal on earth.
MM: The food part is easy: precisely what I’m eating right now. With Katie, Pearl Jam playing on the speaker, that’s easy. And my mom and my dad. And my Grandma Bac and my Grandpa Pop and my mom’s mom Jean Swartz. She was kind of a mean lady, but she liked me, so I’d like her there. My brother and his family, and my brother Mike Rogers.
CB: What do you want people to know about homeless kids in Cincinnati?
MM: That’s an easy question to answer: that they’re kids. That they’re just kids who want the same damn thing as every kid in Cincinnati — they want to play, they want to have fun, they want to eat ice cream. They don’t want to go to summer school, they don’t want to live in a shelter, they don’t want to live in a car, they don’t want to live on a couch. They want to have their own room with a poster of their favorite band on the wall, but they can’t. They don’t have those opportunities. The only thing that makes them different from any other kid, the only thing is that they just don’t have the access to those same things — like going to the Museum Center which I’m looking at out the window — through no fault of their own, and sometimes, oftentimes through no fault of their parents. Their parents are just stuck. You know more than half of the women living at Bethany House right now have jobs, but they live in a homeless shelter, which should make people sad. Our kids are kids and they just want to have fun, but they can’t. ©