Dining for Democrats
Political volunteers survive on the great restaurants of South Lake Avenue
By Erica Wayne 09/27/2012
With less than six weeks to go before Election Day, both Democrats and Republicans are tense. They’re biting their fingernails as they count off the days, chewing on the latest tracking polls and digesting all the most recent statements from their candidates and surrogates (not to mention the mountains of chips, cookies, lukewarm pizza, soft drinks and doughnuts) trucked in by the headquarters staff to stoke the volunteers manning (and womanning) the phone banks, minding the store, organizing the door knockers and poll watchers and inputting data to make sure not a single eligible voter is left uncontacted.
Luckily for the Dems this year, their Pasadena headquarters is located in a prime spot on South Lake Avenue (519 S. Lave Ave., to be exact). This means not only plenty of free parking for both patrons and recruits behind the store, but a chance to temporarily escape the ingestion of fingernails, polls, partisan blurbs and room-temperature fast food for some way more interesting meals within easy walking distance and, even better, some necessary R&R away from the boiler-room stress.
The simplest comfort food is right around the corner at Pie ‘n Burger on California Boulevard, open from early morning till 9 or 10 at night. As the name suggests, this ’60s spot made its fame from pies and burgers. But if you’re on the morning shift at headquarters, Pie ‘n Burger’s breakfast hotcakes and sausage or homemade pecan sweet rolls might fortify you before work.
Afternoon shift? Take a break and check out what’s available of the approximately 20 homemade pies on their roster. My faves are definitely peanut butter meringue and pecan. Of course, fresh peach and ollallieberry (à la mode, of course) take precedent if they’re available. And rhubarb, well that’s just a perfect pie for the animosities of this election period as well as being a delicious option.
Just a few steps south of the headquarters on South Lake, and with even longer evening hours, is Burger Continental, where I’ve often felt overwhelmed by the seemingly all-encompassing menu. From 7 to 11 a.m., Dems in need of sustenance can overindulge at a buffet including not only the usual breakfast offerings such as omelets, scrambled eggs, bacon and sausage, potatoes, fruit etc., but also baklava and, occasionally, kebabs. As soon as the morning items are cleared away, a meat and salad-focused lunch buffet takes its place!
One of the plusses of these buffets is not having to make choices among the dozens and dozens of individual platters on the menu. But, still, the siren song of the many kebabs, combos, pizzas, pita sandwiches, chicken specialties and salads cannot often be ignored. I’m addicted to the Mediterranean platter with hummus, taboule, eggplant, falafel, stuffed grape leaves and cheese boreg.
Another plus is BC’s beer and wine license, especially if the latest polls show a shrinking lead. If the Dems are feeling celebratory, there’s live entertainment including a jazz band on Wednesdays (think Nov. 7 if there’s a win) and belly dancers Thursday through Sunday (think Nov. 8-11 if it’s a landslide).
Dems I know are less likely to be red meat eaters than their Republican brethren, if I may use the word in these polarized times. So some may want to head directly across Lake Avenue to Noda Sushi for tempura, teriyaki and, of course, a wide selection of fish on rice. There is no entertainment here, other than watching the sushi chef work his magic as you sip your sake, but the sushi and specialty rolls are delicious. Seafood is definitely good for the brain and heart, two organs that need to be kept in tip-top order for the work at hand.
And, finally, if the pressure’s getting so intense that a stiff drink is in order, volunteers and staff can head a short block north to Neapolis. When it first opened earlier in the year, the Italian restaurant was only open evenings, but starting last month it began offering lunch, with additional main course salads and sandwiches added to many of the dinner specials (including pizza, pasta, main courses, side dishes and sweets).
If a chicken salad with dried apricots, arugula, candied hazelnuts, goat cheese and apricot dressing, or a house-poached tuna, fennel caper, tomato, potato and radicchio sandwich on artisinal bread, or a spinach pizza with scallions, feta, gruyere, Parmigianino and lemon zest, or a warm chocolate pudding cake with summer cherry curd, crema fresca gelato and fresh cherries can’t lift your spirits, Neapolis’ own high-octane spirits can probably do the trick.
In addition to a truly interesting wine and beer list, the cocktail selection is absolutely riveting. Perhaps a Moscow Mule to help with the slogging or a doctor for a quick pick-me-up? A millionaire? Nope, that’s definitely for the Republican 1 percent!
In addition to these four unique gems, Democratic staff and volunteers have plenty of chains to visit: Starbucks, Baskin-Robbins, Winchell’s Donuts, Peet’s Coffee and Einstein’s Bagels to the south, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Cold Stone Creamery and Beard Papa’s Cream Puffs to the north. If those aren’t enough to encourage folks to volunteer and keep spirits (and weight) up through Nov. 6, I don’t know what can — except, of course, increasing indications that Obama’s re-election may be more of a probability than they assumed when the campaign began.