Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles.
The sign of the place looks so iconic I had to resist snapping a photo in front of it. I would have, but there was a group of people in front of us and I didn’t want to seem like a punk. There was another reason too but I’ll go into it a little later.
The interior was a perfect Los Angeles diner setting. I felt like I was going to meet Marcello Wallace to talk about my next gig. Except I was with Lena. There was a group of older black folk in front of us. When we came up behind them to walk in the place, they looked back at us. Most of the staff was black. A framed picture of Obama with his arms draped on the shoulders of the staff hung on the wall.
We took a seat in a booth. It was a hot day. It was nice to be in the cool, dim, neon lit diner, some old classics humming on the speakers above. We were handed big laminated menus. The item had a nickname. I like that kind of shit. I like calling a sandwich by a girl’s name. I always imagine she’s a cutie.
I wanted to order a bunch but I knew this restaurant was old school so the portions would be huge. Kinda crazy how our minds have changed when it comes to how we order and what we expect. The portions have gotten smaller and the prices have gone sky high. Every new restaurant on the block wants to recommend five dishes a couple and no one eats their fucking leftovers. And none of those employees can use any of those to go containers for their own spoils because that shit costs money. No matter if the guest can be seen from the front window throwing away their recycled to go box with the restaurant sticker pressed on the seal.
But this place was old school. We were gonna have leftovers for sure. And I already couldn’t wait to open the fridge later that night, stoned and ravenous.
The waitress came to our table, a good looking black woman with her hair up and hoop earrings and lipstick, and asked us what we’d like to order. Lena and I ordered the same thing except I ordered my chicken and waffles with white meat and Lena ordered hers with dark. The waitress’s eyeballs darted back and forth between the two of us, she smiled politely, and went to go put in our order. It took me just a few minutes afterwards to see what happened and I started to laugh my ass off.
“What is it?” Lena asked me.
I told her. She smacked her forehead with her hand.
See, if you don’t already know, I’m mixed (My dad is black and my mother is Dutch and Indonesian. However, we live in America. So that means, if there is any black involved, you are black. It’s just easier that way for everybody, but mostly white folk. Until it comes time to introduce me to the parents. Then we get much more specific. You are welcome on this lesson of dating a person of color 101.) and Lena is Jewish (white). This restaurant could very well be white owned but this was a place mostly occupied by black people. Here me and girlfriend were, basking in the neon glow of that jungle fever. It wasn’t like it was all that awkward. I felt better seeing Obama hovering above us smiling down. Funny enough, there was another interracial couple a row over from us. We tried hard not to be caught looking at each other.
Now these awkward feelings didn’t necessarily have to do with any sense of shame. Or maybe there was a pinch of it in there, I don’t know. It’s a conversation we could have. But more, for me, it was just the acute awareness of knowing you are doing some different. No one in this place was someone that I was thinking was necessarily making a terrible judgment… though who can know for sure, I’m no mind reader. I don’t know. It’s a mix of a lot of things really. You just stand out, and you feel exposed in some way, and I’ve always been aware of those situations. Sometimes I’ve even been eager for them. But this was certainly a different feeling from when I’d walk into, say, an old school restaurant in New Orleans where the majority of the staff was old white folk who’d been there for generations. That kind of thinking doesn’t rub off so easy, no matter how much green I got in my pocket. How do we ever know for sure what somebody else is thinking? But rest assured, you walk into a restaurant, eyes are on you. I know. I work in restaurants. We watch a person enter our space and we wonder about their lives. Where they came from and what do they do for a living and is she for real about that cilantro allergy or is she just a picky jerk off?
So that’s why I didn’t take a picture as we entered the place. I didn’t want to make a spectacle of something when I knew I’d already be getting my fair share of attention. That was going to happen even if I wasn’t there. Because Lena was looking good as hell that day.
The big plates came out steaming. I ordered a side of gumbo too and Lena ordered a side of macaroni and cheese. The gumbo was fantastic and made me miss New Orleans but the macaroni was just so so. Good mac n cheese was hard to come by, I swear. I drank shitty black diner coffee and chugged an orange juice. I tore the fried chicken up and smothered the waffles in syrup. I impaled a big bite with my fork and went for it. Good Lord in Heaven, this was living. Barry White came on. The Sultan of Love. So that meant life got even better.
The good looking waitress came by and asked how everything was. I growled like a wolf getting his tummy rubbed.
The meal was over-the-top good and for the amount we got, definitely worth the money. I could see some wise ass arching their eyebrow at paying over ten bucks for fried chicken, but they would expose themselves. The South has for a long time now embraced the luxuries of fried chicken. I’ve been to an unlimited fried chicken and champagne nights at a white linen restaurant in the nice part of town. There is no better way of living. You can’t eat like this every day. But sometimes, goddamit, you deserve it.
Old school, like I said, so after we got everything boxed up, we paid up at the front. I took a mint for the road. I had Herb’s Special but I was already thinking next time I’d go for the E-Z Ed.