Whirlygig: 41

Out on the Town

Aug 29, 2002 at 2:06 pm

Dine Around
Statistically, if you're going to have an auto accident, it'll be within a radius of 5 miles from your home — and I believe it. I've had three in reverse in my driveway alone. My point is that most of us are creatures of habit, and our habitat is relatively small. We travel in certain patterns to our favorite grocery store, post office and restaurants.

While this is somewhat convenient and understandable, it doesn't make us very interesting — nor is it is very likely that our horizons are readily expanded. So when I heard about Food Chain Cincinnati, I vowed to participate.

I read about Shauna McKenzie's initial offer to put together dinner groups at various ethnic restaurants, but I never got it together to call or e-mail her.

This time I picked the Friday night out of the three evenings she had going and said, "Sign me up."

The idea Shauna has is a great one in my book. It's a chance to meet people from all over Cincinnati and sample some unique places as well. Out of the nine restaurants listed, I'd been to seven of them, but I cared less about the food and more about meeting interesting personalities. It didn't matter if we met in a park, food and drinks are always safe conversation starters.

Shauna assigned me to Manhattan West in Pleasant Ridge for Friday at 7 p.m., where I assumed I'd be meeting seven others for my Cincinnati dinearound. I was the first to arrive and realized I'd eaten at Manhattan West once before a while back. As I crossed the threshold, I instantly remembered they had great fried chicken and sweet potato pie. My stomach never forgets, even if my head does.

The table was set for five, but seeing as how Fridays this time of year are dominated by high school football games, I wasn't surprised. I settled in with the menu and sweet tea, which is a favorite. Yes, indeed, the sweet potato pie called to me from the dessert section. I decided on the fried catfish with candied yams as my entrée before my fellow diners arrived.

Mike arrived first, and we chatted about whether I knew Shauna personally. I don't, but I expressed my admiration for her concept of a food chain. Mike had participated in the first dinner at Kaldi's. He obviously liked it, as here he was again trying out another dinner with strangers.

We didn't stay strangers long — Mike was a photography enthusiast, and so am I. His subject matter of choice is local musicians, of which he has a virtual wealth of knowledge. I was enchanted with his conviction that Ricky Nye and Greg Schaber are the two best local musicians and vowed to go to Lucille's in Latonia to hear Greg play. I agreed with him about Ricky, as I often hear him on the piano when the opportunity arises, but I'm eager to give Greg a listen.

John arrived late, after he admittedly wandered up and down Montgomery Road, and we switched back to food conversation. John commented early on that Cincinnati lacks good ethnic restaurants, which got me on a roll about my favorite food spots around the city. John is from Chicago, and no doubt it's hard to compare the two cities when it comes to Polish and German fare, but he did admit that most of the places I rattled on about were new to him even though he's lived in Cincinnati for 20 years.

When John said he had run earlier, I mentioned the upcoming Eco-Challenge on Sept. 15 that the people at Morgan's Canoe are organizing. John perked up as I described rowing across the Ohio River, the 5K run up and down Mount Adams and the obstacle course at Sawyer Point. The event calls for a six-person team comprised of three females and three males. My team happens to still be in the recruitment phase, so John threw his name in the hat.

As our cute waitress rounded up our feedback forms for Shauna and took our separate checks to cash us out, we reluctantly parted ways. We were an unlikely group of three, but we weren't exactly the Mod Squad. Mike is 50 and sort of quiet unless talking about music and/or photography, although maybe in his day he was a tad like Michael Cole. John isn't Link, unless he had his skin bleached and took up engineering and software since the TV series was cancelled. I cut my Peggy Lipton hair right out of college. Still, we were a team for dinner and solved the question about whether it's possible to come from different places to find common ground.

It wasn't a late night but it was a fun night, and kudos to Shauna for her idea of Food Chain Cincinnati. I'definitely do another dinearound. Initially I was disappointed all five people didn't show up, but the three of us did just fine.

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