Walter Mencken 2:37 p.m., March 1
Beer Candy and Gypsy Jazz at Ritual Tavern
Last Wednesday, I decided around 6:30 that I wanted to go out. I called Sarah and told her it’s now or never. It took less than one minute for me to talk her into leaving her family at home and joining me out in the world. And then, three minutes after that, we settled on Ritual Tavern in North Park. We were thinking food. Neither of us had any idea we’d wind up in a world inhabited by tap dancers, Gypsy jazzers, and men with magician mustaches.
I landed first, found miracle parking right on 30th, and got us a table before the place got crowded. I couldn’t look at the beer menu without feeling dizzy and overwhelmed by choices. I asked for the server’s recommendation, told him I like a Belgian (I mean, I like Stella) but couldn’t go any further to tell him what kind of Belgian. Not too dark, I said.
He brought me a Delirium Tremens in a beautiful bottle. I tend to poopoo glasses and opt instead to drink my beer from the bottle, but the server brought a pretty glass with tiny elephants all over it, and I couldn’t resist. Being far from a beer expert, I can find no better way to describe this drink than to call it Beer Candy. It was rich and sweet (but not overly sweet), and it made me re-think the whole Stella-Corona-Sapporo-beer-as-I-know-it loop I’ve been stuck on for so many years. And holy high alcohol content, Batman!
(Seriously, if there’s someone out there who can describe Delirium Tremens for me, tell me what it is I like about it, it will help the next time I’m confronted with an outrageous and unfamiliar beer menu.)
Sarah had problems finding parking, but she showed up just as the house band was setting up for their almost-every-Wednesday night gig. I don’t know if Trio Gadjo would call themselves the house band, but they play at Ritual every 1st, 2nd, and 4th Wednesday of the month.
(Based on their appearances, I’ve renamed the band members: The Professor came dressed in loafers and a sweater. John Travolta sported a tight white T-shirt, jeans, and slicked back hair. And The Magician wore a mustache that curled up at the ends.)
When they started playing, I felt like the music transported me to some romantic and mysterious place and time, though I couldn’t place the music or the place or the time. Later, The Magician (whose skinny jeans stirred Sarah to tell him, “I’m totally jealous. Your legs look way better than mine.”), said the music is inspired by Gypsy jazz.
The band covered a Selena Gomez song. Guest artists (a singer, a horn player, and a tap-dancer among them) came and went. Before long, the place was crowded – standing room only. The up-close and personal of the restaurant’s physical space made for an intimate evening of sexy, fun spontaneity.