We picked up my dad and his girlfriend and headed down into the city. I wasn’t driving so I didn’t care, but I knew parking would be insane since it was already 6:15 when we started looking for a spot and Cake went on at 6:30. Luckily a spot fell in our lap on Chase St. just a few blocks from the Artscape center so we were good to go. I had had a few calls and texts from friends already there telling me it was packed, which I expected. We got there and the hill in front of the stage was a seething mass of bodies. People were even climbing the twisted metal sculptures to get a better view of the show. I knew Cake didn’t have much of a stage presence, so I was content to sit back and listen, although I did sneak up to see them for a few songs just to say I did. Nikki and I left to get drinks and noticed a line for margaritas and sangria which were $8 apiece. They forgot to put tequila into the margarita mix and the sangria was the worst white sangria I’ve ever tasted. Cake finished their set early at around 7:40 so we gathered everyone together and meandered our way in the direction of the Helmand.
We walked by a guy setting up some sort of homemade drum set made out of discarded buckets and plastic bottles and such and stopped. Being a drummer myself, this piqued my interest. This guy was either going to suck or he was going to be amazing--I had to see this. He propped up a sign that said Tommy Buckets right before he started playing and away he went. Luckily we were front and center because a crowd instantly formed after he began. This guy could definitely play. He added in some vocals and he had the crowd jamming out in no time. After the first song he handed out shakers which were plastic bottles filled with pennies. It was a pretty cool sight, people were getting into it. A guy emerged from the crowd who looked like he was half out of it on pain meds started taking video on his phone and got up in Tommy’s face and was doing these really intense angles and shots trying to seem artistic I guess. This guy made the show all the better as he looked like a complete moron. He even made Tommy crack up a few times while playing. Seeing Tommy Buckets was just as good if not better than seeing Cake. It was truly a unique show and something that added a bit of soul to the otherwise fairly soulless Artscape scene.
We continued onward down N. Charles and got to the Helmand about a half hour before our reservation time. Luckily seats opened at the bar just as my other friends arrived. Our entire group of 8 had fully assembled and it was time for the silliness to ensue. Seeing the disappointing beer list I ordered an Amstel Light and we chewed the fat while waiting for our table. We were seated and ordered drinks and appetizers. I recommended everyone try the Kaddo Borawni because it’s probably their most well-known dish, and for good reason. I order the Kaddo and the Mantwo appetizers for myself. After finishing my beer and trying my friend’s pinot noir I order a glass.
The Kaddo was just as great as I had remembered--A nice balance of sweet and savory with a tart edge from the sour cream and a nice spiciness from the pumpkin. The filling of the mantwo was hearty and also accompanied by a nice tart sour cream but the hand made pastry shell was too chewy and took away from the dish. I ate around it. I ordered the Lamb Lawand which is a special served only on the weekend. This dish came out on three different plates: the lamb, tomatoes, and shrooms in red sauce, sabzy (creamed spinach), and challow (basmati rice with cumin seed).
The sabzy was like saag on crack. It had that great bitterness to it but still retained more of its natural texture than most saag I’ve had.
The lamb was definitely the star of the dish; each piece was bursting with gamey goodness. I’m one of the few people who love gamey meats. Also of note was the subtle crunch from whatever spices the lamb chunks were rubbed with prior to cooking. The button mushrooms were very tender and a nice compliment to the sauce. The challow, as most properly cooked basmati is, was fantastic. It had a nice woodsy note from the cumin.
The bite of spinach, lamb, and rice merried nicely. Creamy, bitter, savory, smoky, and tangy. Excellent. For dessert I ordered the afghan ice cream with dates, mangoes, and dried figs.
I could’ve easily eaten a whole gallon of it. If they could mass produce it and retain the quality, they could put Ben & Jerry’s out of business. I was saddened at first because it just looked like a scoop of vanilla ice cream, but after digging in a lovely core of fruit was revealed.
I was supposed to split this with my friend but I ate most of it before I gave it up. My stomach was severely protesting but my tastebuds demanded I attempt to finish the dish. We finished our drinks and paid the check and headed out to the streets with a nice heady buzz and happily bloated.
My plan was to hit up Brewer’s Art after dinner. I’ve been there numerous times in the past and never really liked it, but after seeing it rated the #1 bar in the country by Esquire (which made me laugh out loud when I read the article) I decided to give the place another chance. We opened the doors and were confronted with a crowd that was packed all the way to the entrance. I turned back to the rest of our group and said “Yeah, no.” and walked right back out. Luckily, as usual, I had a backup plan. We walked a few blocks to Dionysis. I’d been here before a few years ago and remembered it was pretty chill with good beers on tap. We got there and it was active but not crowded. The downstairs looks like someone’s basement so we felt very comfortable there. We grabbed a corner and secured our ownership of the Megatouch and ordered our drinks. I asked for an espresso martini because it is my dessert beverage of choice. I know it’s a pretty girly drink, but when they’re made right they go down like candy. I’m pretty his version was straight double espresso vodka, which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. We played photohunt and really enjoyed our time there. The place got a little crowded toward the end of the evening but after two martinis I was feeling no pain. We stayed till almost last call and then everyone off and headed home. It was probably the most drunk I’ve been this year. Luckily I got to sleep before the spins kicked in. Good times had by all.