Monday, April 26, 2004

Virgil's blog.

The beer menu at Virgil's on 44th St., just off of Times Square, starts with a heartbreakingly ordinary selection: Bud, Miller, Corona. But it gets better. Among many other choices, picked more or less at random for inclusion here, was Magic Hat Blind Faith, a golden amber lager from Vermont; Xingu, a dark lager from Brazil; Rouge Dead Guy Ale from Oregon, a "German maibock-style beer," according the menu; Scarlet Lady Ale ESB of PA; and Abita Turbodog from Louisiana.

I like beer names, and beer origins, as much as the brew itself. That probably makes me ineligible to be a true beer lover, one of those guys that sets up a BEER IS MY LIFE website, but it's just as well; I'm fat enough as it is. Also, I drink beer only once or twice a month, and that certainly doesn't an aficionado make.

But when I do drink it, I want it to be interesting. I want interesting choices. I don't particularly agree that too many consumer choices are bad for consumers, or for the nation's moral temperament, or something, as some writers have suggested recently. But a large selection can give you a little pause: will I miss something good by picking one and not the others? But the moment passes, you make your choice, and you enjoy it if it's any good. At least that's what well-adjusted people do. I picked as locally as I could: Brooklyn India Pale Ale, made in upstate New York. It was good.

When you're dining alone, it's always good to have something to read, or at least something to watch, and I had both last week at Virgil's. I had the beer menu, for one thing. I kept it after the waitress had taken my order, just so I could read about the beers I didn't order. I had the window as well. Virgil's, which is a Northern outpost of Southern-style barbecue, is a two-level establishment, and I got a corner seat on the second floor next to a large window. It wasn't quite dark, so I could see the passersby on the street below, along with most of Virgil's second floor at eye level.

Virgil's was full that night, a Wednesday. It seems to be well on the beaten path of people who visit New York, helped lot by its location. But even near Times Square, a restaurant probably doesn't live by tourists alone. The place was recommended to me, after all, by a native New Yorker, a fellow in my company headquarters.

It was a good tip. The 'cue was good. Several regional styles were on the menu -- there's that variety bugaboo again -- but I went with the Memphis-style beef barbecue. Few barbecue experiences can compare with Memphis. Kansas City is in the same league, as well as some Texas barbecue I've had, and some here in Chicago (created by Southerners, of course). Virgil's couldn't quite compare with my memories of Memphis, but nothing could. All the same, it had a fine, tangy, smoky flavor, and I couldn't complain.


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