Omnivore - Impersonating a smoked ham

The Standard is one of the best things to happen to my neighborhood, Grant Park, in a long time. It’s full of personality, has a great staff, attracts a personable clientele and serves good food, especially Monday nights when it offers a dirt-cheap, delicious curry as a special. Other specials, such as last night’s penne marinara, are usually good, too.

Unfortunately, on a cold night like last night, when you have to eat inside, it’s like impersonating meat that’s being cured in a smoker. By the time I got home my eyes were watering and my clothes smelled liked the cigarettes the table of three next to us was chain-smoking.

Now, this is not a rant about the Standard in particular. I smoked for 12 years myself. I called my ever-present cigarette my 11th finger – and I could not operate a keyboard without it. So I know how compelling the habit can be. There’s nothing like wasting your brain with booze and ruining your lungs with a cigarette.

Quitting smoking was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. I was editing Creative Loafing at the time and my brain turned into a monkey – no focus, jumping all over the place. I continued to crave cigarettes for a year and didn’t really completely lose the craving for several years.

One of the things that kept me devoted to quitting was embarrassment. I’d only quit a week when I walked into my closet and nearly passed out from the odor. Later, I kissed a smoker. Ewwww. Then we had sex. Oh my god! Head-to-toe nicotine. I didn’t want to turn into a typical reformed smoker, because I know what really motivates their self-righteousness is wanting everyone else to be as miserable as they are while they’re withdrawing from their habit. But I gotta tell you: If you smoke, you stink.

Non-smokers are generally spoiled in America, really. Most restaurants are smoke-free. You can’t smoke on public transportation. But go to Europe, especially France, and the idea that polluting the air with smoke is rude and unhealthy is still an eye-roller to many. I only complained to someone once and it became a duel about what causes more misery in the world – George Bush or cigarette smoke?

In actuality, the French, like the Italians, have had a ban on smoking in public places for a few years, but it has not been much enforced. The ban becomes effective in restaurants and bars in January. We’ll see if they actually enforce it. They do promise to.

Georgia law, since 2005, bans smoking in bars and restaurants that admit or employ anyone under 18. Thus the Vortex decided to consider itself a bar rather than a restaurant in order to preserve the filthy habit. It’s too bad that minors can’t enjoy the food at the Standard or the Glenwood. It’s also too bad that the General Assembly ignores the reality of the hazards of second-hand smoke to adults.

I suppose the idea is that, as an adult, you can choose not to patronize a smoky gastro-pub. But if the General Assembly feels right in adopting blue laws to limit alcohol consumption on Sundays, it’s odd they won’t ban a behavior, smoking, that is more directly hazardous to others. Other states and cities have. And, please, don’t bother to tell me second-hand smoke isn’t hazardous. If the French have decided it is, it is.

The very least that smoky bars can do is provide decent ventilation. The Standard does not seem to have any filtration system at all. There are a couple of tiny fans stirring up the hazy clouds of smoke but, as far as I can see, nothing to actually remove the smoke.

Please feel free to recommend your own nominees for Smokiest Place in Town.

(Graphics from http://ricketyclick.com)

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