Saturday, May 17, 2008

Cheeseburger in Paradise

They say confession is good for the soul. Last night, while heading back to the Cathedral, I stopped into a restaurant called Mediterra in Adams Morgan. I ordered, I am ashamed to admit, a cheeseburger. Consider the irony: this is an upscale, trendy restaurant in one of the most cosmopolitan neighborhoods in one of the most internationally-oriented cities in the country. Embassy Row is within walking distance and the Islamic Center's minaret is visible on the other side of Rock Creek Park. I order the most Mid-American of foods.

Upon reflection, it occurred to me that I had not had a hamburger in quite a while. This whirlwind of a research trip has been one of ethnic cafes with cuisine ranging from Korean to Indian to Thai to Afghani to Mexican to Ethiopian. Lots of salads and pastas. Local fare has included Philly cheese steaks, Canadian poutine, and Cincinnati-style chili (with a hint of chocolate and cinnamon, served on spaghetti with a heaping mound of shredded cheese). A lot of the meals have been delightfully vegetarian. It is striking that the humble cheeseburger, in this environment, IS exotic foreign fare. Sometimes you just hanker for the basics.

Yes, the burger, by the way, was wonderful. Having not had one in a while, it was quite rich and satisfying, even decadent. Somehow, it even seemed appropriately Mediterranean in that cafe's setting with subdued lighting and reproductions of 1930s French travel posters. Yes, I did have to make one concession to the region: an appetizer of hummus. Hummus and cheeseburgers. Now there's a combination for the 21st century!

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