Saturday, February 21, 2009

Beachland Ballroom and Tavern

15711 Waterloo Rd
Cleveland, OH 44110
(216) 383-1124

by Beau Cadiyo

I went to college with a kid named Frank Long. He was a product of a military high school; he’d never experimented with drugs or drinking, barely saw girls and, as told to me by his freshman-year roommate, ironed his underwear. When he asked me to be his roommate sophomore year, it may have been one of the biggest moments of his life. I don’t think he had ever asked anyone for anything before, and he was as nervous as most guys would have been asking for a prom date. He gave me a picture he’d made of Bill Clinton and then popped the question. I said yes(!). Later, he said that he had a vision of a barbecue where “slabs” of tofu would be slathered in barbecue sauce and grilled, and he said he thought I was the person who would make it happen. That summer, I went to work in Santa Barbara and Frank returned to New Mexico. He started smoking weed, and at one time either smoked so much, or did some other drug, that a leprechaun came and sat on his bed at night, right near his feet, and told him what was going to happen the next day. He was institutionalized and, as far as I know, never returned to college. ’

I never made the barbecue tofu a reality; I’ve only ever barbecued meat and veggies. The Beachland Ballroom, however, has a barbecue tofu sandwich, which I felt compelled to order. It is served on a cut section of baguette which has the consistency of common American French bread and is thus disappointing. The tofu, fried with onions, is slathered in sauce and is perfectly spicy, with a vinegar edge that I only recognized two days later after careful reflection. Together, the tastes and textures were a delight, but the sandwich is incredibly small – it MAY have measured 4.5” across and 6” long. Three times larger, it would have been a deal, and with the price of tofu at Trader Joe’s I’m positive they could still turn a profit.

Luckily, I was able to just turn my barstool 90 degress to the right and indulge in something not nearly as overpriced: the vegan cupcakes sold at the show by Mama Coffees. The consistency was denser than a regular cupcake, but the taste and texture were exquisite – chocolatey, moist, and yielding satisfactorily to the teeth. It was, by far, the single best vegan thing I have ever eaten. I had two, and would have had more if I’d had the cash. I finished them both off with my beautifully poured Dewar’s and soda, which, at $5, was an incredible deal.

As it was one of the coldest nights of the year, few people were out for what turned out to be a solid, tight set from one of my favorite bands, The Very Knees. Dave, of TVK, worked the crowd as best he could; the bartenders chatted with everyone. As the show went on, the tastes in my mouth worked themselves over, mixing in several burps – barbecue, tofu, Scotch, chocolate – and I reminisced. I wondered what might have happened had Frank not been committed. That summer, the campus outcast had decided it was a good idea to take Frank’s place in my dorm room since he thought we were friends. After two days his famous smell permeated the suite. My girlfriend at the time, who was studying in France, would call passionately every morning at seven AM. I would jump out of bed completely naked to answer the phone, which was next to his bed, and then order him out of the room so she and I could talk privately. After a week, he decided it wasn’t working and moved out, leaving me with a double room all by myself. While I have lived with people since, I have never had another roommate, and I wonder if it has negatively impacted on my ability to deal with people. I guess I’ll never know.

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