Saturday, January 22, 2005

Dinner Club: A Route to Social Calendar Freshness

Just like everyone else, I like to have fun. However, I'm not what I would consider a "social butterfly." I actually like quiet nights at home with my TV and a glass of wine or a beer and my dog snoozing warmly by the couch. When I do go out now, it feels like a treat. An indulgence. A guilty pleasure. I think I enjoy my occasional social forays more than I would if I were regularly going out three or four nights a week.

My friends and I have discussed this very topic: how did we ever survive college? I can't possibly imagine how I kept up the schedule I did when I was at MSU. I remember I'd go out on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights until bartime, then stumble, bleary-eyed and often half-drunk, to my 8:00 classes the next day. Somehow I functioned. SOMEHOW, and I'm still not sure how, I graduated with honors. Perhaps my growing infrequency of social outings is the pendulum swinging the other way. Delusional excess leading to a compensatory paucity.

Anyway, last February, I started a Dinner Club as a way to keep my social calendar fresh. It was actually Yosh's suggestion, as he is part of one in Milwaukee that has a large number of attendees. It sounded fun, and there are several friends that I don't get together with often enough. Over the past couple of years, when we would get together, every four or five months of so, we'd say, "You know, why don't we get together more often?" Thus, the Dinner Club was born.

The rules are simple. Once a month, we pick a restaurant in Madison to try. I send out an Evite with the details on the place, the menu, any reviews it's gotten, etc. I give my Dinner Club members two dates to vote on, and whatever date wins is the one we go with. Usually, we have a turnout of between 6-10 people. I think our largest Dinner Club was 14, at Eldorado Grill (oh ye place of voluminous subtotal and scarcity of cash). The smallest was probably four people. All of them have been fun. Since we started this thing, we've gone to the following fine Madison establishments:

  • Frida: Yummy Mexican food, with a decor full of Frida Kahlo knockoffs.
  • Tuscany Mediterranean Grill: Way overrated. Horrid ambience. Won't ever go again.
  • Fitch's Chophouse: Good food. Because I know Drew, we got a free round of drinks after dinner. I tried the 12-year Laphroaig. Soooooo good!
  • Lulu's Deli and Restaurant: Can't go wrong with Lulu's. I mean, they scent their water with orange blossoms! Come on! That's PIMP!
  • Brocach Irish Pub: A very fun Irish pub with absolutely delicious Bangers and Mash. One of the co-owners is the previous Quality Manager for Guinness in the Midwest, so you know the black nectar was top-notch.
  • Claddagh Irish Pub: A chain Irish pub. Pretty good, but Brocach was better.
  • Capital Brewery: Not a restaurant, but we brought munchies and ate them in the Bier Garten while listening to music and drinking lots of good Capital beer.
  • Saigon Noodle: A Vietnamese noodle house. Good food, and AWESOME spring rolls!
  • Eldorado Grill: Good food, but pricey and we had a bad experience with the check.
  • Yirgalem: Our most recent outing. A fantastic Ethiopian place that you'd miss if you didn't know it was there. The food was incredible, the ambiance completely perfect, and the Tusker Lager was so refreshing.

So, we have a good time. It really is fun to organize this -- not a lot of work, and I end up seeing people I normally wouldn't see. Other than the occasional challenge with reconciling the check, we have a great time. And my social calendar stays so fresh, so clean.


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