Dinner with Dracula

Back in the college days, my old girlfriend and I took a trip to my hometown of Chicago (actually, Waukegan, home of author Ray Bradbury, but nobody knows where that is, so I just say Chicago, close enough).

We stayed with a couple of guys, two Italian brothers, and to reward them for putting us up (or, putting up with us) for a week, we offered to take them out our last night in Chi-town. One of the brothers suggested a local Romanian restaurant that he’d been “wanting to check out.” So…. out we went for Romanian.

The whole idea of Romanian Cuisine seemed a bit suspect to me, but I’m game for most things at least once, usually twice, just to make sure I didn’t like it the first time.

Anyhow, we walk into this restaurant, and the place looked like the seventh room from The Masque of the Red Death : black tapestries, stained glass, brass and scarlet. I was horrified.

We were seated underneath an enormous stained glass window depicting some Bruegelian ghoul. It took me a second to realize that the figure was Vlad the Impaler, a.k.a. Dracula. Puzzled, I asked the waiter and he smiled and pantomimed “impale,” using an invisible stake to jab himself in the ribs.

Vlad the Impaler was the scourge of the Ottoman Turks, and he became a folk hero in Romania, despite the fact that he was responsible for the agonizing death of tens of thousands of his own people. Gotta represent for your team, you know. Never mind if it makes the diners a bit nervous.

I’d thoroughly lost my appetite; it was pretty much downhill from there. Sausages that tasted like undercooked deer, a mushy polenta, more meats of indeterminate origin. I kept waiting for them to serve me a bowl of blood. Oddly, my friends seemed to get a big kick out of this bizarre experience. (However, this was my girlfriend who was known to eat raw beef.)

I just felt like I was going to faint.

What little I managed to eat I ended up tasting for a week. Then they handed me the check. Oh, how that hurt$…

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After remembering this for so many years, I began to question myself, wondering if maybe I had not fever-dreamed up the whole incident during one of my many battles with rotovirus or giardia. Nothing like liquid pouring out of your every orifice to get you thinking about vampires. :-{}

So, after some Googling, I found out that the restaurant, since closed, was called Little Bucharest. In it’s newer incarnation called Continental Cafe, the owners have apparently decided to keep the Dracula. This review notes “Judging from the six-foot tall stained glass window featuring Vlad the Impaler, it’s clear that this restaurant is serious about its heritage.” It was real!

One web reviewer said “Everything was bad except for the Dracula!” To be fair, the vast majority of people noted positive experiences both with the food and the atmosphere, and almost no one mentioned the Dracula.

Why was I so troubled by this experience? As Uter’s mom says to Principal Skinner, “vee just vant closure!” I just vant closure.

So, I kept trying to find some levity, and finally found some happy ending to this disturbing experience.

Over at Flickr, this young lady is “Just Chilling with Vlad the Impaler”

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and this nutty guy gave us “Vlad the Impaler Wishes You a Merry Christmas!”

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I think I finally found my happy ending!