Our night with the carnies: Vegansaurus goes to Straw! »
If you’ve ever read anything I’ve written, you know that being grouchy and hating things are integral to my persona. That’s why, when Vegansaurus got an invitation to a sneak preview of Straw, a carnival-themed restaurant opening in Hayes Valley, my first thought was, “Well, this is going to be a disaster.” This was not only because I am a fairly angry and unlikeable person, but because the one thing I do like is a good carnival. Yes, you have read that right: I love me a carnival. The creepier/cheaper, the better! My favorite carnival activity (besides the funnel cake; I love funnel cake!) is standing under the rides and screaming “you’re all going to die!!” at the people who were stupid enough to pay $8 to get into a death trap expensively provided by Butler Amusements. Then I have more funnel cake.
It’s Friday night, Jan. 21, and Allen and I are walking to Straw. I am grumpy after a long, hard day of lying in bed and playing with my Nintendo DS. “Listen,” I say to Allen, “here is how it is going to be: I am going to tell people you are my photographer. That way they have to let us both in, because I am important enough to have a photographer and they will be afraid to kick us out.”
"I don’t think you’re going to need to lie to anyone tonight," Allen tells me.
"Yes, I am. This is how these things work. They only let Press in, okay? I am Press and you are my boyfriend, so therefore Not Press. We have to lie."
"You are not Press! You are delusional is what you are," Allen says, and I huff away from him because once again he is being unsupportive. I am even angrier when it turns out he is right.
Straw is a small place. In fact, I almost walked past it before I realized where I was. The restaurant was packed and there were several people outside, looking at their awesome sign. My hopes of sneaking Allen inside as my photographer were dashed when a smiling gentleman in a plaid shirt—who turned out to be Greg, one of the owners—invited everyone to come inside and see the new restaurant. Not knowing whether I could take pictures without express permission (I am very new to being Press), I introduced myself and asked about vegan menu options. Greg assured me that there would be plenty, excitedly told me that I should talk to Ari, another owner who would be able to tell me more about the vegan options, and told me to take all the pictures I could manage.
Inside, the restaurant is warm, inviting, and awesomely decorated. On one wall, there is a giant photo of a some kids going insane for cotton candy.* In the corner by the door is a booth fashioned out of an old Tilt-A-Whirl compartment, which is nauseating because I have bad experiences with Tilt-A-Whirls, but also incredibly romantic. It is also important to note that this is the only seat I will ever occupy when I eat at Straw because it is the BOMB!** I meet Ari, who gives me his card and fields all of my questions about whether I can actually ever eat food here or just come to sit in the Tilt-A-Whirl booth and lord over everyone else.
Ari’s grossly paraphrased, not-at-all verbatim answers to my pressing questions:
- Yes, there vegan options
- Yes, he is sure
- No, it is not like one thing that is just beets and shit that you put on the menu to make sure we don’t burn down your place for being non vegan-friendly: it is like a million things
- You vegetarians and people who are gluten-free for health/Elizabeth Hasselbeck reasons get your own menu! In fact, to ensure that you don’t have to hunt through the menu to find something you can eat, you can tell your friendly waiter—WHO I SINCERELY HOPE IS DRESSED LIKE A CARNIVAL PERSON IF YOU ARE READING THIS, ARI!!— your dietary needs, and this person will actually direct you to the menu (vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free) that your heart desires
Allen and I try the house-made potato chips and agree that they are the most delicious potato chips we have ever had. Then we have some truffle oil popcorn and decided that this is the best popcorn we have ever had. Then I try to throw my popcorn box in the trash and Allen has to physically restrain me because these are not single-use popcorn boxes. In the midst of all this, people are having an awesome time. Ari introduces us to his beautiful wife (also very nice!) and hands me his card, inviting me to email him with any questions. Even the card, which lists Ari as Skee-Ball King, is adorable. And Ari is true to his word, responding to every one of my 15 emails with alarming speed and grace.
I do not know how to rate restaurants because I am still very new to this “judging others in an official way,” but I am going to rate Straw based on how my heart felt as I left, and my heart felt like it had grown three times its size. I can’t wait to take my rightful place in the Tilt-A-Whirl to gorge myself on Tater Tots and more popcorn!
Straw is officially open now so you should go eat there immediately—just don’t sit in my seat!! Here is what their entire current vegan menu [.pdf] looks like! Spoiler alert: It looks like THE BOMB!
Straw is located at 203 Octavia Street at Page Street in Hayes Valley.
*Which is like diabetes on a cone and is hella sticky and your whole day is ruined after one of those things so my kids are never getting any
**Are we still saying that, 1998?
[all photographs by Mark, as Allen “is the worst pretend photographer ever.”]