One meat to rule them all

A nice vegetarian boy wakes up one morning with a ravenous desire for dead animal

Photo by David Robert

I was raised in a vegetarian household. My parents would allow us kids to eat meat at restaurants or friends’ houses, but they never ate meat themselves. By the time I was 15, I had fully adopted my parents’ vegetarian philosophy. But times change, and I have slowly been reincorporating meat into my diet.

It started with the occasional bit of fish. Then I started eating poultry, and then not too long ago I had my first hamburger in about 10 years. But still it wasn’t enough. I woke up on the morning of Martin Luther King Jr. Day with an overwhelming craving. I needed a transcendental meat experience. I wanted to invigorate myself by consuming another life. I wanted to discover the one meat to rule them all.

I sketched out a plan: Go to 10 different restaurants, meet a different person at each place, and then try the most exotic item on the menu.

McDonald’s, 440 Keystone Ave. Food: Big and Tasty Burger ($1.00). Time: 11:26 a.m. With: Aaron R.

I started out by breakfasting on a hamburger in this brightly colored building that appears to be made entirely of plastic. Prominently displayed was a shiny gold trophy crowned with what appeared to be a Chevy Nova and a plaque that read, “Highest Car Count Increase Reno Business Area.” I wasn’t exactly sure what that meant, but it seemed like quite a prestigious award for a restaurant to win.

The “Big and Tasty” was neither. It was small and gross. The meat patty was the color of wet cement, and it looked as though it had been eaten, thrown-up and then kept in a can for 40 years. The onions crawling all over it looked like glass maggots. I was one unhappy McCustomer.

Bavarian World, 595 Valley Road. Food: veal bratwurst ($7.95). Time: 12:44 p.m. With: Megan R., Cameron B.

Bavarian World was an enormous improvement over McDonald’s. It’s surprisingly spacious and, of course, delightfully German—German in the sense of lederhosen and drinking steins, not German in the sense of World War II or Kraftwerk. The bratwurst was tasty, even though it was a baby cow that had been killed, ground up and magically turned into something unhealthily pale and turd-shaped. The sweet mustard served with it complemented it quite nicely. I just kept telling myself that the young calf I was eating had probably been the worst brat imaginable.

Pirate’s Pizza, 180 W. Peckham Lane. Food: small seafood pizza ($14.95). Time: 1:35 p.m. With: Cameron B., Joe L.To match the Italian seafaring décor of what is really one of the best pizza places in town, I ordered the seafood pizza. It came loaded up with smoked oysters, clams, anchovies and baby shrimp. All in all, it was pretty good—but I did struggle a bit with the anchovies, a food item that most people either love or hate. I just found them confusing. It was annoying how I kept getting tiny fish bones stuck between my teeth. Whoever decided that oysters were aphrodisiacal because of their visual affinity to a certain part of the female anatomy must’ve spent a lot of time with some very unhealthy women.

China East, 1086 S. Virginia St.Food: Crab Meat and Pig Brain Soup ($6.95). Time: 3:28 p.m. With: Cameron B., Joe L., Lauren G.

At first glance, this soup seemed normal enough. But when I dipped the ladle into the bowl, there suddenly appeared, like a face in the “Dead Marshes,” what was clearly the entire brain of a single pig. I was spooked. I let out a little gasp of fear and quickly spooned the meat out of sight and into mouth. Half the fun of this dish was learning how easily one could discern crabmeat from pig brain. Just for future reference, pig brain is fluffier and has tendrils.

Woody’s Hot Dogs USA, 5075 Kietzke Lane. Food: Fire Dog ($2.69). Time: 4:25 p.m. With: Miranda J.

This little gem of a food stand is conveniently located in the foyer between the sets of sliding glass doors at Lowe’s Home Improvement Warehouse. It shares a cart with Woody’s Espresso. The primary clientele consists of people who have just bought some wood and a new faucet and suddenly feel like having a pretzel. I had the Fire Dog, which is actually spicy hot, unlike the somewhat misleadingly named “hot dog,” which isn’t usually especially hot, nor does it usually contain any dog. I was a tad disappointed when my “fire dog” didn’t come a flambé like I was hoping it would, but I loaded it up with this pickle relish that was about the color of the Incredible Hulk, and then it was pretty tasty.

Bricks Restaurant and Wine Bar, 1695 S. Virginia St. Food: Baked Mushroom Caps stuffed with Escargot and Blue Cheese ($8.00), New Zealand Elk Chops ($35.00). Time: 5:40 p.m. With: Mark D., Michelle D.

Bricks is a classy joint—though the hoity-toity atmosphere is marred by the wretched smooth jazz that they insist on playing. For appetizers, we had the mushrooms and escargot, which was sumptuous. The elk chops were served bloody rare and were bloody expensive—though the meat did come all the way from New Zealand, which is, as my friend Mark pointed out, “a long way for meat to come.” It had a dark, rich, full-bodied taste that actually came close to but did not quite achieve the carnal transcendence I was looking for.

Betos Authentic Mexican Food, 575 W. Fifth St. Food: Taco Combination Plate with one tripe taco, one lengua (tongue) taco, and one cabeza (head) taco ($4.65). Time: 7:55 p.m. With: Ryan Q., Jess V., Megan B.

Betos is quite good and, indeed, quite authentic. Of the three tacos that I had, the tripe was the most enjoyable. The meat was crispy and rather tubular. The cabeza and lengua were difficult to tell apart. My friend Jess asked me, “Isn’t it weird that you have stomach in your stomach?” I told her I didn’t have to, ahem, swallow that tripe.

Louis’ Basque Corner, 301 E. Fourth St. Food: Family Style Meal with Oxtail Stew, Lamb and Sweetbreads ($14.95 per person). Time: 9:06 p.m. With: Ryan Q., Jess V., Megan B., David T.

By this point, I was starting to get delirious. I was confusing colors with tastes. And all the food at Louis’ Basque Corner just tasted brown. The oxtail stew was pretty good.

Kim Son Restaurant, 102 E. Second St. Food: Lemonade ($1.50). Time: 10:43 p.m. With: nobody but my own damn self.

This Vietnamese place has alligator, frog, quail, pigeon and goat (among other things) on the menu but for some mysterious reason was not serving any of them when I was there. I was crushingly disappointed. This was going to be the pièce de résistance, but instead it was a total failure. I had enough animals in my system to start a zoo, but still I felt as though my quest had failed. I looked out the window. "Entertainer of the Year" Gordie Brown’s smug, grinning face mocked me from across the street. And I just sat there looking back at him, alone, broke, delirious, fat, bloated and wallowing in the unfulfilled and undigested promises of meat.