Sunday, June 16, 2019
Put the moss in context: A visit to Clever Rabbit
My younger son turns 22 today. So Friday night we took him out for a birthday dinner. His girlfriend is a vegan so he selected a restaurant with a deep vegetable menu, Clever Rabbit on Division Street in Wicker Park.
Not purely vegetarian, but "veggie-focused," which should have been a tip-off. I always say that vegetarian restaurants must be excellent, that mediocrity is a luxury they can't afford, because otherwise nobody would go there. With meat on the menu, indifference has a foot in the door.
But we're getting ahead of ourselves. The place has a pleasant, severe aesthetic, and I admired a wall of moss by the host's station.
"Is it alive?" I asked our waitress.
"It's still alive, but not living," she replied.
That isn't a contradiction to someone who just turned 59.
"I know the feeling," I said.
After we ordered, I excused myself and went over to take a photo, first asking permission of the host, a young man in his mid-20s.
"May I take a photo of the moss?" I said.
"Everybody does," he sighed.
Oh. There is a certain small shame in doing what everybody does, but I took the picture anyway, already feeling conspicuous. Then I compounded the error. I liked the close-up detail, but felt the moss should really be placed in context.
"Do you mind if I include you in the photo?" I said. He said he didn't, but something about his manner, which I took as an embarrassment, a frost, made me feel he really did mind, but was indulging a crank.
I had made another mistake.
I retreated to the table, but the encounter percolated, slightly. I decided to lay out the situation for family feedback.
"It was if he felt I were some creepy old guy taking his picture for some strange purpose," I said. "I'm tempted to go back and try to explain that I'm not. I just wanted to put the moss into context for my blog. But my sense is, that would only make matters worse."
Everyone heartily agreed that yes, it would make matters worse, and I should let it go. Which I did. We enjoyed a festive meal, with much laughter and conversation.
Dinner consisted of a variety of plates—carrot dumplings and wings, for appetizers, then a rhubarb tart, asparagus and burrata, a cheese plate, a burger that we cut in quarters and shared, except of course with our new vegan addition, who had plenty to eat, she claimed. I tried both of the two non-alcoholic cocktails on the menu, and they were fine. Service was desultory, and while we had a good time, that was more our doing, without much assistance from the Clever Rabbit. The place opened two years ago, and while it is a pleasant space to sit, it wasn't one of those restaurants you love at first nibble and are keen to go back to. Maybe that explains the unenthusiastic service. It's almost as if they know.