Today, after an exhausting morning of cleaning house--which included scrubbing tubs, wiping windows, and vacuuming--my parents and I went to Norms for lunch. For those who hate Norms, and I know you're out there, I can see why it might seem very unappealing.
For starters, the crowd can be a little kooky. At any mealtime, you're bound to be eating with some interesting folk such as
A) those who don't mind wearing their pjs and slippers out in public
B) old couples who look really cute but then make you feel kind of sad because you realize they're chewing their food in silence and looking into space
C) rowdy teenagers out to quell drunk cravings
Second, the restaurants are kind of old. No matter which Norms you go to, you walk in and feel like it's 1970, and not exactly in the groovy sense. And lastly, the food can be really hit or miss, i.e. on Friday you might say "These onion rings are soooooo good!" and on Saturday you might say, "These onion rings taste like they've been left outside for a week and some pigeons pooped on them."
But you know what? I love Norms because, for me, it feels like coming home.Everybody is really nice, there's never a wait, it's insanely cheap, NEVER CLOSES, and you can tuck yourself into a cozy leather booth and just sit back and relax. There's no pretension, no menu on the item you're not sure how to pronounce, and nothing but all the comfort food you can order. Everything just feels so easy. Not to mention I've practically grown up there. When I was kid, I would get balloon animals on Tuesday nights, then after dinner it would be off to play that one game with the claw, or to put in a quarter for some temporary tattoo stickers of cupcakes and unicorns. Years ago, when our Thanksgiving dinner plans somehow went awry, our family sat down to a feast at Norms. Adam and I have occasional dates there and they're awesome. And since high school until now, I've lost count of how many times I've found myself hungry at 2AM after a late night out. The unanimous decision (and among so many different groups of friends)? Norms!
Today, I sat across from my parents and watched them dig into steak, shrimp, and potatoes, and a massive strawberry shortcake. It's an image I've grown up with--sitting with the family, having a casual meal while making remarks about the interesting people around us. And while the years continue to go by and we've all grown up, that place is an experience that never gets old.
These past couple of weeks have been so much fun thanks to two things: friendship and food. Cases in point...
-A five-hour dinner with Allie and birthday girl Grace at Tokyo Table in Irvine, where they actually serve sushi pizza (!). I remember thinking, Oh no, another "fusion" item makes its way onto the menu. Well, I totally took it back once the waitress described it as anice hot serving of baked sushi rolls (with no cheese, by the way). It was delicious and unique and I'm still thinking about it! Afterward, we chatted about weddings and The Bachelorette for a good three hours as only the FV girls know how to do :)
-Then on Thursday, it was more sushi, this time with Jackie and Jake in the form of a 3-hour dinner at Kabuki where FAR TOO MANY embarrassing stories were revealed. And somehow Jake Kilroy managed to leave without a single story to his name, which, if you're reading this right now Jake, I'm going to demand that we invite Rex Bang to dinner next time so that we can even the score.
-And lastly, I went to BJs on Monday night to say an epic goodbye to my dear friend Ali, who's going off to med school in Colorado to be a smartypants. We stayed up until 3 AM talking about life and destiny and only with Ali can you talk for that long and that late into the night and not feel a bit tired. I'm going to really miss that guy!
Anyway, sometimes this whole writing business can be so lonely, but getting to have such quality time with my wonderful friends is so reinvigorating. I distinctly remember thinking at each one of these meals, I feel so alive right now. Is that completely corny? Well, it's true. There are few things better than coming together with people you enjoy, who have the uncanny ability to bring out different sides in you, and spending hours laughing and talking with them over a meal. It's one of the reasons why the majority of my money is spent on food...and I don't mind a bit.
For the past couple of gloomy Sundays this summer, I've been cheering myself up with a delicious morning meal next to a serene little lake (or is it a pond?) in Huntington Beach thanks to Alice's Breakfast in the Park. I first came here in 2003 with my friend Kent, then completely forgot about it until a few months ago when I went back with Grace and Allie and fell in love with it all over again. Sadly, I've rediscovered this place a little too late because it's closing its doors in September because the city council wants to put a bistro in its place, which essentially means it wants some swanky new restaurant that can pay higher rent to come in.
This place is owned by a sweet old lady named Alice, serves deeelicious food (big slices of French toast, enormous cinnamon rolls, and tasty hand-cut home fries, to name a few) all inside a little red house filled to the brim with antiques and vintage goods. Who wouldn't fall in love with this place? Not to mention that Alice's attracts so many hungry and happy folk from all over. Why would the city take away such a good thing?
Anyway, Adam and I spent some time talking to the baker about this and learned they've been trying to save it for the past couple of years, but they're at the end of the line. Everything in the shop is on sale now and they're getting ready to close up shop in September. It's times like this when I really wish I was rich just so I could plop down some money and scoop this place up. Did I mention they bake fresh loaves of bread that you can take home for your family?? I love this place so much!
check out the pretty scenery:
I'm not sure when that little pier fell in the water, but now the ducks have a new playground.
And not to turn PSA on you, but if you love a yummy brunch and some really darling antiques to pretty up your house, you can support Breakfast in the Park in the meantime by stopping by for a visit. There are so many adorable finds in there that you can purchase! Plus, who knows, maybe if they get a flurry of customers in the coming months, the city won't shut them down.