1948 W 25th St
Cleveland, OH 44113
by Beau Cadiyo
I’d seen Inglorious Basterds twice in the last three weeks, and had a desire for European aesthetics on my mind. Thus, I met Frank Ciepiel at Bar Cento for happy hour. I had only expected to redeem a coupon that I had for a $5 pizza and get a drink. Little did I know that I would be in it for a burger masterpiece.
Bar Cento is part of the McNulty’s empire, but, unlike the trashy bar on Coventry well-known for admitting 17-year-old girls trying to meet 23-year-old guys (and vice-versa), it is timelessly classy, with dark wood, creative curtained tables and romantic lighting. Bier Markt, part of the same empire, is just as beautiful, with incredibly knowledgeable bartenders and a stunning beer selection. Frank and I ordered our food and drinks, and talked over our lives.
At some point I looked at the happy hour menu. Something about it struck me through the thin veil of red wine. It was only after deep personal reflection that I realized that it contained a $6 happy hour burger, the song of which I could hear distinctly. I immediately looked around for our barmaid, and threw my hands up cheerleader-style to catch her attention. She was a short, pretty brunette, who immediately threw her own hands up and took our order.
The burger arrived shortly thereafter, jauntily perched on an oval plate with a small ramekin of ketchup. The first thing I noticed was that they put the lettuce below the burger; on top were caramelized onions, melted cheddar cheese and tiny bacon strips. What appeared to be sun dried tomatoes joined the lettuce. Lettuce, of course, has a texture better suited to being shorn by the top teeth than the bottom, since resistance is better handled by the top of the mouth than the bottom. This is shown by the dominance of the upper bite over the lower, or the fact that vampire fangs are larger on top than on bottom; it is the natural order of things. I mean, what would it look like if the bottom teeth or fangs were larger than the top? It's just crazy talk; when natural order is violated, all hell breaks loose. It reminds me of the debate over gay marriage. Conservative Christian women like Sarah Palin and Ann Coulter implore Americans to preserve traditional Judeo-Christian marriage values and prevent laws changing to allow for "unnatural" gay marriage. Of course, true Christian women who believe in the concept of the natural order, or “traditional marriage,” should practice traditional marriage in their own lives, and that's something that very few of them do. If these women believe in traditional marriage, it’s only right that they should follow true traditional marriage values and renounce all of their rights to their husbands, including rights to property, suffrage, even the right to socialize with their friends. After all, that's what the Bible commands as the natural order - see, for example, Titus, Timothy, Ephesians and Peter. If they want to promote traditional marriage values, they should stay home, raise their children and serve their husbands as they should serve God. (Well, married conservative women like Sarah should at least be following the dictates of Ephesians 5:22 – Ann appears unable to maintain natural relationships with men.) If they believe in the Judeo-Christian natural order, they wouldn’t even be participating in the debate – they’d be standing behind the men who participate in the debate. If Christian conservative men and women want to bend the rules for their own temporal, corporeal desires and decide to practice non-traditional marriage, it is disgusting, repugnant falsehood for them to claim to be practicing “traditional marriage,” and disgusting, repugnant hypocrisy to prevent other forms of the non-traditional marriage. Is the 50% divorce rate somehow related to their violations of the natural order? Only God knows. All I know is that by violating traditional marriage values and concepts, they cannot deny that they violate the will of God, and they thus invoke and deserve the rebuke and wrath of God. Having never violated the natural order in which a burger should be constructed, I do not feel at all hypocritical in advising Bar Cento to put the lettuce on top of the meat patty next time.
Luckily, the wrath of God was not here invoked - the meat was perfectly medium-rare, seeping glorious cow juice into an above-average bun. The assorted toppings mixed in flavors without being overpowering, and though I wouldn't have put the lettuce on the bottom, the reality of its existence couldn't prevent me from enjoying and celebrating the burger as a whole. Together, the combination made the item certainly worth the happy-hour price of $6. A side of pommes frites – second only to Greenhouse Tavern – rounded out a shockingly good meal.
Frank told me of a problem he's been encountering, and we laughed as he said, "Maybe God is trying to tell me something." Our barmaid came over again. I told her that God was talking to Frank, and she looked at him, eyes sparkling, and said with studied nonchalance, “Tell him I said hi.” With this wonderful cheek she gave us our check and we walked out. As the cold blast of our first winter-feeling night of the year hit my face, I thought that Bar Cento is the kind of place I’d like to be a regular at.