Sometimes Food is Not About Food
By Jason Hissong
28 September 2009
It’s Thursday at 3:00 p.m. Two more hours and I have the evening’s reprieve from a crazy, stressful workweek. Tomorrow is a new day, and eight more hours of stress, but that’s tomorrow.
It’s 5:00 p.m. and I close the computer. I change in the bathroom and lock my work clothes away and go see Jonathan. It’s time to leave the office and commence our evening. We hit the Red Line after stopping by the cash box, and we run into a friend during the commute. We get off a stop before we need to to enjoy the evening’s blue sky, one of the last we might see in this dying summer.
We walk north on Clark Street. While there are worthwhile places on Clark Street we’re heading to Wrigleyville. It’s fine in its proper perspective, when taken at face value. And we both know that our purpose isn’t Wrigleyville, but a place for dinner in Wrigleyvile and it just so happens our primary concern this evening is very close to the restaurant.
We step into Goose Island. It takes me back because I’ve been here so many times. The first time I ever came to visit Jonathan after we graduated we went to Goose Island before going to the Metro to see Jimmy Eat World. The first weekend I lived in Chicago I asked a couple friends to have dinner with me there, because it was one of the only places I knew. I’ve brought my parents here, and they loved it. This is where a few friends and I had dinner after a comic event at the Center on Halsted last year. This is where Kara and Mandi and I came last Halloween night, because Mandi’s in love with a gorgeous blonde and this is where she was. The place has a charm, and a resonance, and I enjoy it on occasion.
Tonight it just so happens that it’s close to where we’re going, and Jonathan and I agree that, given the time constraint, it seems to be the best option. We walk in. We’ll have four, but we’re the only two right now, and the hostess takes us to a table. I ask if we can have the booth right behind the table. I make a crack about how it’s easier for us chubby kids to get in and out of the booth. She gives a smile. Jonathan laughs and tells me I’m ridiculous. Our waitress comes over to see if we’re ready to order drinks yet, but we haven’t even looked. She gives us a look as if she couldn’t be more disinterested in serving us, but we let it roll. Tonight is not a night for those types of petty squabbles.
Andrew arrives. We’re excited to see him. He and his wife moved to Ohio last year, and we’re getting to the age where our friendship consumes the better part of a decade. He sits and orders a beer. While our disinterested waitress brings our beers, Andrew’s brother, Matthew, and his fiancée, Erin, arrive and sit with us. They’re not getting food, but they’re having beer. The beer is really the reason for choosing Goose Island in the first place.
I order the Buffalo chicken sandwich. This is the thing about Goose Island: the food is slightly above average. It’s serviceable, upscale bar food, but nothing too special. My sandwich could be from anywhere. Andrew and Jonathan both order the fish and chips. It only makes sense. This friendship was cultivated in the pubs of Cambridge, England, and this is their homage to those meals and pubs and beers so many years ago. Goose Island makes great beer. Jonathan has a blueberry. I have the IPA. There are seasonal beers, and dark beers, and it’s all brewed right there. It’s a great place for beer, and perhaps that’s why it gets the pass, despite its location. The beer is the thing, and there’s nothing wrong with that. The beer is exceptional. And it’s Chicago. And that’s what I cherish about the place.
Dinner’s over and we settle the bill. We hit the head and stroll out to a now darkened Clark Street. We walk north, past Wrigley Field where, this year at least, not too much baseball is left. And we see the line to the Metro but it’s not too bad. It usually moves pretty fast.
We get into the Metro and run up the stairs to the floor. Sunny Day Real Estate is playing tonight with all four original members. That could be a once in a lifetime opportunity to see an amazing, important band. I’m not as familiar as Jonathan, Andrew, and Matthew, but I certainly love the music that I’ve heard.
The band takes the stage and from the opening riff the only thing I care about is enjoying the experience. Jeremy Enigk is an incredibly charismatic and mesmerizing front man. We’re close to the speakers and the sound is loud and at certain points I can make out lyrics even less than I could with Enigk’s normal distortion. But it doesn’t matter. Enjoying the moment, enjoying the music, and my friends is all that matters, and there’s nowhere I’d rather be.
On the way to work Friday I text Jonathan that my ears are still ringing, I have a headache, and my stomach is a bit upset. He, wisely, took the day off. It was so worth it. Sometimes food isn’t always about food. Sometimes it’s only a part of the entire night, and, on this night, a subordinate part.
But, still, for the five of us there was no other choice, really, than Goose Island. We all have history there. Sometimes together and sometimes with others. And now we’ll always remember that we went to Goose Island before seeing Sunny Day Real Estate at the Metro.
It’s a perfect night.
What I cooked, What others cooked for me, Where I ate
I haven’t cooked much this week. It’s been a very very busy week for me and the two nights I was home to eat I had some leftovers. I did cook a nice tomato bisque, though, and both Jason and Kara assure me it was great. I agree with their assessment. It’s a good dish. Simple and savory and perfect for a football Sunday at the end of September.
I had the great privilege of attending a baby shower for Andrew and his wife, Tricia, on Saturday. Thank you to the hosts, Randall and Maria, and Traci for putting everything together. Thanks to Randall and Andrew for the authentic, Chicago style Vienna Beef hot dogs and turkey burgers with spices. Great food at the shower, and it was a joy to attend.
I ate out a lot this week but I have zero issues with that. I shared a cheese pizza and mozzarella sticks with Ashley (thank you!), Thursday I had the Buffalo chicken sandwich at Goose Island. Friday I grabbed a quick burrito at Fast Super before my obligation. Saturday night I had a hot dog at Johnny’s in Logan Square.