Los Angeles, CA
For my friend Mindy’s thirtieth birthday, she decided to celebrate at the uber kitchy Sketcheroni Grill. She claimed with there being such an eclectic mix of personalities from our friend group—the majority being graphic artists, along with a critic, dance instructor, two actresses, and me, a stylist— the restaurant’s infinite variety of choices would be able to satisfy every craving, as long as our menu renderings were clear.
Let me explain: The whole concept of Sketcheroni Grill is that they arm you with the same crayons and white, doodle-friendly tablecloths as another, similar sounding Italian chain. But instead of giving you menus, they tell you to draw whatever it is you’d like to eat, anything from kebabs to fried gyoza to spaghetti and meatballs. So first you draw, and then they bring your art to you on a plate. If only everything we wanted in the world could be so simple. I’d draw Ryan Gosling’s face on my pillow beside me and call it a day. 😉
So being a stylist and all, I was a little worried about the whole drawing thing. I mean I can mix prints and work the black-on-black, way-beyond-a-Goth-inspired trend, but give me a paintbrush and you’ll most likely see me shaping my eyebrows into a perfect arch. Yeah, some people are born ferosh. Cheetahs for instance. And I envy their natural animal print coats to no end. I on the other hand only adorn my body with faux fur, though I’m highly allergic to the thriftosity of pleather.
So my friend Mindy, the birthday girl herself, knew exactly what she wanted. She took a black crayon and drew a long glass, with little circles inside of it to represent bubbles. Mindy being a graphic designer did not hurt the fact that her champagne looked almost drinkable from her 2-D drawing. The rest of us followed suit. And I myself drew a glass with a frozen white frothing liquid and pineapple garnish, with an umbrella of course. I was feeling festive.
Our cocktails were delivered shortly after: Cosmos, bubbly, and G&Ts rounded us out, but when my server brought mine it seemed a bit unusual. It looked like someone had emptied one of the flower vases adorning the tables and filled it with milk. A giant umbrella was sticking out of it and a stick of butter bobbed on top. “Excuse me,” I said, “but this doesn’t look like a piña colada.” Our server looked pained. She took a strong look at my drawing and asked my friend Trish sitting next to me what she thought. “It looks like a white skyscraper with a yellow window and a baseball cap,” she said very unhelpfully. “I see a an ivory monolith with a golden door,” chimed in Becca, a film critic of course. “Look,” the server said, “I’ll go back and get you a piña colada, but can you muster a little precision next time?” And she walked away looking like I just dumped a bucket of worms on her head.
For the appetizers I asked another graphic designer among us, Janet, to surprise me with something we could split. I figured her steady hands could do no wrong—and boy was I right. Our scallop and octopus ceviche was fresh and zesty with their crisp house-made tortillas. She even drew separate little green specks for cilantro and jalapeno, which added a little heat to the dish. Everyone else’s dishes looked just as tasty—Trish’s oxtail toastettes with wasabi crisps, and Melinda’s bacon cheeseburger sliders. Melinda’s metabolism is insane, though her taste in footwear is eighties-geriatric at best.
By the time our entrees were set to arrive, I was feeling confident. Two piña coladas and I was light-headed, craving buttery carbs. On the table I had drawn a plate of pasta with a white sauce and little bits of bacon with the red crayon. Pasta Carbonara. I added a basket of warm bread on the side, so I would have something to sop up the sauce. Becca sketched a beautiful broiled trout with a wedge of lemon and a side of asparagus. Mindy wasn’t holding back; she straight up drew a lobster-stuffed lobster.
When our meals arrived everyone’s dishes looked scrumptious… except mine. Somehow instead of pasta someone had placed a mop on my plate, doused it with nacho cheese and sprinkled cinnamon candies on top. My steaming sponges in a basket looked even more disgusting. Janet looked over at me from her impeccable lobster. “Are you pregnant?” she said. “Hell no,” I said. Like I really needed someone to remind me I hadn’t been touched by a man in nearly half a year.
“Excuse me,” I said to our server, “I can’t eat this.” To which she replied, “Look, under the circumstances it occurs to me that you can’t draw worth a damn,” before walking away. Can you believe it?! If the tip hadn’t been automatically included in the group bill, mine would’ve been in the negatives! Needless to say I skipped ordering dessert. Thankfully Melinda ordered an ice cream sundae that ended up being brought in a punch bowl. She admitted she could use some work on her scale. And I would have to ignore mine after all that ice cream! Get it! Haha. Anyway, it’s pretty clear I’m never coming to this place again. But I did take home the mop in a doggy bag because honestly, my floor’s seen better days since my Swiffer broke.
Sabra Embury is a book critic for Brooklyn's L Magazine. Her confabulations and fantastications can be found in the Los Angeles Review of Books, the Rumpus, Tottenville Review, NANO Fiction and other places. Follow her antics on Twitter @yrubmEarbaS.