Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Penguin Game

Tonight I was introduced to the Penguin Game.

(All of this blank space is to indicate silence/a reverential lack of words to describe the experience/novelty.)

The Penguin Game
That is a not a working link.

Play it. Love it. Let it change you.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Restaurants with Booths, An Expeditionary List

I'm still working on my Wet Jell-o Theory article, at some readers' requests (interestingly--mostly requests from married persons), but I wanted to say a thing for humanity about restaurants with booths.

I'm for them.

Today, I was going to have dinner with a beloved friend who's daily trying to do a specifically hard thing, and I decided that it would be nicest if we could eat in a restaurant with booths. Booths are, I think, sympathetic but cheerful. I don't think I've ever left a booth feeling sadder than I did when I sat down in it. The same cannot be said about regular restaurant tables or couches, even. (One of my undergrad houses, Eden, had a breakfast nook. That was booth-like in its appeal, form, and comforting properties. "The Interstice of the World," I called it.)

But as I eat out about every day and a half (and fairly often with this particular friend), I was looking for a place I/we do not readily think of. But close. Fast. Reasonably priced. With booths.

And so, for you someday, in your need:

Eateries with Booths Near Stanford, CA
This list is only as comprehensive as I am.

Antonio's Nut House
Shady bar/pool place/burrito restaurants (but with a surprisingly good piped music selection, including, while I was there, Paul Simon and someone else great). Where Kimball B. told me he was for overcommunicating. (Turns out I am, too.)


The coupons! The Unofficial Guide to Stanford has this section of coupons to local restaurants, and I've had a goal to use a coupon in the book at each restaurant that offers one. This was a coupon find, and it's surprisingly satisfying, despite being just a hole in the wall burger place. Furthermore, the booths are short but cute (and possibly sticky). And there are always old people eating there. It's reassuring somehow.

Buca di Beppo

Glad to say that here in CA, I've managed to visit this overpriced restaurant for only part of one birthday party, leaving before I drank anything but soda water. (But, if I recall, there was an oversized birthday party in a booth behind our more oversized birthday party at an yea extended table. The booth is the point.)


First noticeably successful booth experience and site of one of my birthday celebrations this year. Great booths. Good food. Fine coupons. (Steaming fajita fixing on those metal, handled plates is always transfixing. How can one order something else?)

Cheesecake Factory

Oh my heavens. I've only eaten here twice in CA, but in Austin, my roommates and I made many, many excuses to eat salads at Cheesecake Factory (specifically the barbecue chicken salad--such a thing. Such a good, good thing). But there are booths, which can help to counteract its usually feeling loud, clangy, chattery. Heavens, such good salads.


I was convinced to go to lunch at this chain restaurant with three male classmates one Friday a few months ago. I had this greatest peppercorn/pepperjack/peppersomething burger. The booth was little and not particularly welcoming, but the hamburger made up for what the booth may have been lacking. No coupon. Great, great burger.

The Empire Room*

I just read about this for the first time today, looking for a boothed restaurant for dinner. Looked too woowoo for a fast 45-minute dinner, but the booths are reportedly only exceeded by the fine American cuisine. (Okay, it's actually called the Empire Taproom and Grill, or something, but I'm getting braver at eating at places that explicitly sell alcohol. I actually had dinner with some classmates/friends at a full-on sports bar on Valentine's Day. I forgot that divorced men need a place to go on Valentine's Day, too. So, so sad. But mostly by inference.)

Olive Garden

It's standard. And the booths have treated me well. (Especially one particular booth, which I've sat in at least two times thus far.) I went with Reed Criddle (friend/brother-in-law's brother) and some friends for Reed's inaugural visit last Friday. Something about being with someone seeing Olive Garden anew was great. Maturing, almost, like something had come full circle. (Though I did decide, perhaps forever, that OG breadsticks are, sadly, only good when they are hot hot, butterbuttery, and garlic-salty. But that sausage/potato/kale soup. Holy kamoley. I think I'd dream of that if I were stranded on a deserted island. Especially if that island were super rainy and served salad family-style in those mottled clear plastic bowls with whole peppers and parmesan cheese.)

Peninsula Creamery

Booths. Good shakes.

Pizza My Heart

Coupons. (In fact, Pizza My Heart put a coupon in the book for a free slice of pizza. But all of the student guides I got--all eight of them--had this coupon cut out of them, though they arrived to me, by the grace of a friend, in otherwise pristine condition. But I've used the coupon for a free salad with a large pizza.) Note: I went to Pizza My Heart in the afternoon the other day. I don't know why. But with the light coming in that wall of full west windows, it was so, so beautiful. It was almost idyllic, in this dark-wood, wide booth, faded surfing memorabilia on the walls kind of way. Also note: Its pizza is controversially good. Some people hail it as the All-Palo-Altoan pizza. Others find the mention of it nauseating (due to its "sogginess"). I like it fine. Of course.


What's to be said? It's on University. It's why it stays in business, I would guess. (And booths.) (But it did have chili when what I wanted was chili.) (It's been raining a lot here.)

Thai Garden

Is a restaurant connected to a bowling alley on El Camino. Some law students in my dorm encouraged me and some friends to join them there for dinner, hailing it as their bread of life, and it was this funny old restaurant with cheap decorations and cheap Thai food. I laughed almost my whole way through the meal. But there were booths, I'm told, though we sat a table extended for the occasion.

The Treehouse

Turns out there is seating (including deep, college-eating-type booths) in the back past the pick-up window and condiments. This is new to me. There are no windows back there, but there is a TV and the wood is warmish. And it's the Treehouse. It's open at 1 am, which has only saved me once, but then, that drizzly, brief-writing night, it was so, so nice.


Ben P. says (a) this is nice, (b) it's expensive, but not too ($15-$20), (c) there are booths, and (d) it's so, so good.

The diner at the Stanford Shopping Center

Closes at 11 on the weekend. Surprising (except not, because for some reason Stanford/Palo Alto doesn't count as a college town and everything eateryish closes earlyish, even on the weekends. I've ended up trying to buy dinner at Safeway at midnight more often than I would ever, ever like.) But I sat post-adult-stake-conference in one of their chrome and shiny vinyl booths (was it blue? I remember it being something easy to forget, like blue) and drank a fat shake with DB and Eric B.

*I haven't eaten here, so I can't actually confirm the existence of the booths.

What's mildly appalling is that I've eaten at each of these establishments myself (except the asterisked ones), some of them more than once. (Six of them more than once. And some of those more than twice.)

And that's my story.

(Oh, for tonight, we went with Brix, for the good boothness and for the location/ease-in/-out. And yes, there were old people there, but some families and college-aged students, too. It worked (again) for me. And we couponed, which is consistently satisfying.)