I'm never going to get used to Sprout having become S@mple.
Granted, it was only my second time in, but the differences are so striking that they jump out at me as I eat.
As one in our party of four inquired, "Why did you pick a place that has so many screens when you hate screens?"
Truth is, I wanted to try their Intermezzo Hour menu, so I was willing to ignore the screens to the best of my ability (admittedly, limited).
Fortunately, one of the screens had an old episode of "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" on, meaning black and white images of terrified looking people.
Meanwhile, I ignored the ones with sports and nature images completely.
After a lovely walk over on an unseasonably gray August day, we made it in time for the last thirty minutes of happy hour.
Prosecco rose got us started, along with fried oysters and a spicy remoulade.
For a Monday, it was a fairly good-sized crowd, and while we waited for our food to arrive, we discussed the music.
"This could be a Lamplighter mix," observed one of us who works there.
It was obviously Pandora, although we couldn't be sure of the starting point because of the way certain artists seem to appear no matter what the starting band is.
Fleet Foxes (whom I like) and Mumford and Sons (whom I can't stand) seem to show up in every mix whether you begin with electronica, garage or chamber pop.
Personally, I think Pandora could use a tune-up.
But S@mple's music isn't my problem, so we moved on to moules frites (mussels tender and served with the thinnest, saltiest matchstick fries ever) and spicy sausage flat bread (basically a simple white pizza), both of which were dirt cheap ($4-5) and tasty.
I showed the others the latest Rolling Stone where RVA's own Matt White was featured as "An artist to watch," making me proud I had been watching him since 2007.
For dessert, we got the chocolate espresso pot de creme, a tiny little serving which arrived without its billed ginger snaps (small chocolate bars replaced them), but provided a sweet ending.
Walking back toward Jackson Ward, it was through roving herds of incoming freshmen who have been rolling into town since the weekend.
I always have mixed feelings about a new VCU school year.
I'm thrilled that music and art ratchet up in quality and frequency, but I can only be knocked into so many times by oblivious groups of kids who haven't yet mastered city walking (or biking or driving) without casualties.
So we wound our way around chattering and unaware groups who would stop dead in the middle of the sidewalk when they got lost or confused about where they were going.
And while I know realistically that they must be at least 17 or 18, a lot of them look like they're 14.
So they'd probably have no idea what "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" was.
But I'll bet they love Mumford and Sons.