Tuesday, December 09, 2008

A restaurant that gets it

I've found a new favorite lunch place on the Wednesdays when I trek to Ashburn (and, of course, assuming there's time to be had for lunch).

It's called California Tortilla; I've seen them refer to themselves as Cal Tort for short, even if it sounds like a small, forgotten branch of a law firm.

I used to get my daily dose of humor on the hilarious bumpers for Lucy. Then Sirius went and ruined the channel, turning it into a soulless wasteland (though thankfully it doesn't have a DJ, unlike most other channels).

These days, CalTort fits the bill. Those are some of the freebies pictured above. The napkin should be easy enough to read; the drink behind it has some poor sap getting a drink dumped on his head by someone woman who looks to be having way too much fun dumping. The tagline reads: "Refills are on us!"

Yes, it's a silly gag. But when a place is full of them, it shows you that it doesn't take itself seriously. And that brings a smile to your face.

Just above the soda fountain is a sign that goes where a Coke or Pepsi logo would be. It's a two-part sign that's split by the ice dispenser. The left side reads: "Bad Bob fills his water cup with soda." And it shows some guy, Bob presumably, getting the finger-wagging treatment from another, equally random guy, presumably an authority figure. The right side of the sign says, "Good Bob fills his water cup with water!" Same two random guys, except the lecture is now a celebration. Conflict resolution while you tap the Sprite spigot.

This is part of a long, backward "L" shaped counter; this is the very top of the letter. The sign reads: "Need Help??? Use Megaphone or Bell!"

Sure enough, down the counter a bit - where near the point where the two lines meet - there was a megaphone and a bell. I wonder how many people opt for the former...

For all the silliness, it wouldn't matter if the food sucked. Fortunately, it doesn't. Twice, I've tried the - brace yourself - Buffalo Chicken Wing Burrito, which should come as no surprise to anyone who has shared a bar with me. It's good, and the wing sauce they have works well with the rest of the ingredients; I daresay it would beat what most places pass off as wing sauce.

A quick aside: If you happen to go, for heaven's sake, get the smaller size burrito. Not knowing any better on my first visit, I got the large. When I was finished, about 5/6 of the way through that beast, I couldn't eat another bite. And that was after untold contents spilled because I wasn't smart enough to keep the thing in its wrapper.

For me, the gem of the place was this:

It's called the Wall of Flame. I was heartened to see such wonderful, and ambulance-inducing, sauces. Just to the right of the Jack Daniels-looking bottle (more on that in a sec) is our old friend, Dave's Insanity Sauce.

In my younger stupider days, I bought a bottle of DIS from a German restaurant/novelty store/beer store back in the Lehigh Valley Mall. I couldn't wait to actually use it on my food, so I took a dab and rubbed it off on the front right part of my tongue. That spot burned - and I don't mean smolder, I mean unrecognizably charred - for a good 20 minutes. Not unlike this guy's experience.

It's part of a line of super-hot, XXX sauces, ones that do their damndest to give you space for a tongue ring. Many have catchy and humorous names.

But the Jack-looking bottle caught my attention this day. It may have the greatest product name in all the glorious history of American capitalism: Professor Phardtpounder's Colon Cleaner Hot Sauce, the Elixir of Capsaecin Extremus!

There's something to be said for a bottle of sauce who's biggest words jump out at you: COLON CLEANER.

And it fits in perfectly at Cal Tort, where it seems no gag is silly enough if it makes your day.

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