VCU, we have a love/hate relationship with you.
A group of us at the bar at 821 cafe were discussing how glorious the city is these days with the students gone.
Walking, biking and driving are exponentially easier than when school's in session. Certain restaurants (like 821) become accessible in a way that they aren't most of the time.
Which is exactly how my friend and I ended up there for lunch today. That and we were both starving.
We're one of those rare couples where the female orders the regular Coke and the male wants the diet version.
But he also uses the carcinogenic pink packets for his coffee, so there's really no hope for him.
I tried to talk him into sharing the black bean nachos with me but he was hankering for a burger, so with an order for both we were guaranteed more food than any two people could need or eat at one sitting.
And not just any burger, but the Union burger with Swiss, bacon, Portobellos and fried onion rings. The thing sat up about 5" high.
I teased him by calling it a heart attack on a plate, which is not to say it wasn't incredibly delicious.
One of the servers greeted me with, "Long time no see," a crack on us both having been at the same dinner party last week and then, rolling her eyes, told me she knew that I'd order the nachos.
Just call me Karen, the predictable.
From a few stools down, I heard, "So, did you enjoy the ballet?" and, lo and behold, there was the scientist having a massive Friday breakfast.
Who has two large glasses of orange juice at one sitting?
We indulged in a little "Nutcracker" nerdiness about what we'd seen.
We talked about our New Year's Eve plans with him saying he goes to a Northside party that always includes fireworks, a bonfire and gunshots fired at midnight.
I admitted that I had never heard of those NYE traditions until moving to RVA but now look forward to the sound of shots to ring in the new year.
As my friend and I shared the nachos and burger, we talked about what Santa had brought us, including the bottle of rum his sister had given him.
He doesn't drink. Merry Christmas.
That doesn't stop him from scanning the back bar (he is a bartender, after all) and we both wondered about a gaudy bottle which turned out to be pickle-flavored vodka.
Repulsive as it sounded, we were assured it makes stellar Bloody Marys, not that either of us drink them. Or vodka at all, for that matter.
We totaled about 2/3 of the nachos and half the burger before throwing in the towel and making plans to start the new year with a first together.
Leaving 821, I said hello to a couple of musician friends sitting in a booth and looking like they were enjoying their Friday feast as much as we had.
If they'd decided to open their mouths and start singing, I'd have sat down on the floor to listen.
It's not that VCU doesn't bring much of what I love to the city's fabric. It's just kind of special when the city is down to just us regulars.
And many of them are friends. As 2011 winds down, I raise my glass of Coke to them all.