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Brown Sugar Cafe and The Paradise Rock Club

October 29, 2011

I may stop bringing my camera along to restaurants. I’m getting tired of interrupting the flow of my meals and I think photos might be becoming an excuse to not write much or well.

To get to Brown Sugar Cafe, take the Green Line towards Boston College and get off at Babcock Street. If you’re a fast reader, you might be able to see who’s playing at The Paradise Rock Club that night and whether or not they’ve sold out. Brown Sugar Cafe, like many other restaurants on Comm Ave, is a storefront eatery with a big front window and a little wrought iron patio. The tiny waiting area is flanked by a colorful tropical fish tank and the hostess’s podium. The comforting and enticing smell of fried egg and sweet soy sauce hits the nose upon entry.

True to its name, the cafe is bathed in golden brown light with natural finish furniture and oak panel walls. Hanging Thai tapestries and impressive butterfly collections add color and exoticism. I think this would be a fine place for a first date, especially if you’re lucky enough to be seated at the small table for two in the corner, next to the glass looking out onto the street. Your waitress may make a point of giving you and your companion a tea light in a crystal glass holder if your table doesn’t already have one, which you can nestle with the shaker of chili powder and sugar bowl full of toasty brown sugar. Look up to admire the stained glass chandeliers and fascinating antique-looking twin fans spinning on opposite ends of an incandescent light fixture.

A young woman sings a wistful rendition of a Jason Mraz song while you peruse the lengthy menu. Thai food in America standards with some authentic dishes thrown in for the Thais and foodies in the dining room. For diners looking for certainty but not conventionality, order the Country Pad Thai, which differs from it’s university student standard by mixing succulent grilled shrimp with rough slices of chicken breast and infusing the whole dish with a subtle heat that burns from the back of the tongue. At some point, about halfway through a large plate of Pad Thai’s burlier country cousin, you might be interested in sprinkling some of the house’s brown sugar onto your dish for a sweet distraction. Your inflamed tongue might thank you as you polish off the rest of your dinner.

If you still have room, and there’s time before your show at The Paradise, Angora Cafe across the street has frozen yogurt and a more than adequate array of toppings. T’s Pub is next to the Paradise Lounge and has cheaper beer. The Ring Boxing Club, sitting above, named the Best Gym by the Boston Globe for 2011 has finished a comprehensive round of renovations but unfortunately only offers monthly memberships.  Blue State Coffee is a few doors down from The Paradise, past the Goodwill and City Convenience. Dessert accomplished, and the heat of the Country Pad Thai a faded memory, enter The Paradise to find an almost warehouse-like space, an effect created by the decorative pillars supporting the balcony in a long half-octagon surrounding the stage. Large hanging speakers compete with your heart for control of the beat in your chest.

Depending on the headliner, you may find yourself seemingly surrounded by bros in various shades and styles of plaid, who like their fellow plaid aficionados the hipsters, may be slow to dance until drunk enough or the very last song of the night. They will, however, irritatingly tell the attractive female lead singer that they love her. The thing with seeing shows of bands with only one album is that the band has to come up with some clever and entertaining way to give the crowd it’s money’s worth. The first salvo is to have two opening acts. The second is to prolong instrumental transitions within a song or from one song to the next. The third and one I wish I see more often is to do covers. The Naked and Famous had one cover, and I’m not sure I knew the song. After the show, the crowd spills out to form the familiar post-show scene of smoke and immediate re-living and re-telling. It’s not quite midnight (doors at 7, first act at 8, headliner around 10?) which means it’s possible to avoid the real last train of the night, the one that waits at Downtown Crossing until 1:30AM for the stragglers from the bars and clubs.

Walking home along the still not quite empty streets of JP, my ears keep ringing.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Chickpea permalink
    October 30, 2011 9:04 am

    “I’m getting tired of interrupting the flow of my meals and I think photos might be becoming an excuse to not write much or well.”

    I love your photos, but only when I look at them after lunch. If I look before I get hungry.

    That said, this was five kinds of lovely with a cherry on top. Cheers, bro!

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