Issue 30

The Dumpster: You Are What You Eat

The Dumpster: You Are What You Eat

Some say you are what you eat. That’s fine, I get it: if you eat carrots, you feel good. If you eat a cheeseburger and waffle fries, you feel better. If you eat gluten-free paleo tofu, you feel like a sucker.

I’m offering a different take on that old saw. If you tell me what you’re eating, I, the great and powerful Campbellini, can tell you where you are. Kind of like a tongue psychic. For example:

If you’re picking wee bits of meat off a boar’s head while a farmer, who still has the rest of the boar in the back of his pickup, sits at your table and tells you blissful tales of its former life (“She was a shy piglet, an orphan, but her aunt loved her and looked after her as if she were her own”):

You’re at: The Boiler Room

If you’re eating rabbit sautéed in duck fat after enjoying an appetizer so small it was brought to you on a spoon, but the real reason you’re there is because the chef is so goddamn good-looking:

You’re at: The Grey Plume

If you’re eating a $45 steak:

You’re at: Sullivan’s

If you don’t care because the bill is going on someone else’s Amex Black credit card:

You’re at: Omaha Prime

If you’re filthy rich but you went to a cheap steakhouse where every dish comes with a side of spaghetti:

You’re at: Piccolo Pete’s

You’re not filthy rich but you’re politically connected:

You’re at: Cascio’s

You’re neither:

You’re at: Venice Inn

If you’re surrounded by autographed photos of famous people from the 1960s in a room that’s shaped like the steak you’re eating:

You’re at: Johnny’s Café

If you’re eating mac & cheese made with a blend of five cheeses you’ve never heard of:

You’re at: Marks Bistro

If the mac & cheese is bright orange and has hot dog chunks in it:

You’re at: home, you’re high, eating out of the pan

If you’re eating Mexican food in a restaurant where there isn’t a Mexican in sight:

You’re at: Cantina Laredo

If you’re eating a cheeseburger at 11pm surrounded by noisy actors:

You’re at: Goldberg’s

If it’s 2am, you’re drunk and you shout out the first thing you see on the menu:

You’re at: Burger King’s drive-thru

If you’re eating ice cream with bits of fresh spinach and sage in it:

You’re at: Ted & Wally’s

If they offer to put your name on a pint of it:

You’re at: eCreamery

If you’re drinking a gin and tonic that’s brown and tastes like patchouli:

You’re at: Lot 2

If it’s brown and tastes like lemonade:

You’re at: Side Door Lounge

If it’s clear and tastes like straight gin:

You’re at: the Green Onion

It tastes like straight tonic:

You’re at: Harrah’s casino

If you don’t care how it tastes, you’re just there to get laid instead of wanting to go back home and view
You’re at: The Interlude

If you waited 20 minutes for it because the bartender carved mountain spring water ice into the shape of his own head, then made you say please and thank you before he gave it to you:

You’re at: Berry & Rye

If you’re drinking PBR while telling everyone around you that you were personal friends with Conor Oberst back in high school:

You’re at: Pageturners

If you’re drinking wine from a tap:

You’re at: Brix

If you’re drinking champagne from a tap:

You’re at: The Homy Inn

If you’re drinking sangria out of a pitcher:

You’re at: España

If you’re eating authentic Italian food delivered by a waiter who insists on mispronouncing it:

You’re at: Spezia

If he pronounces perfectly even though he’s from Sarajevo:

You’re at: Avoli

If there are only two things on the menu but you took five minutes to decide which you wanted:

You’re at: Amsterdam Falafel

If you’re choosing between chicken fingers and fried mozzarella balls with Ranch or honey-mustard dip, there are retro signs on the wall, your server is wearing a red Oxford shirt with black pants and just finished singing a customized version of “Happy Birthday”that had the restaurant’s name wedged into it:

You’re west of 84th Street. I’m sorry, but I can’t be any more specific than that.

Michael Campbell

Michael Campbell

Michael Campbell is a songwriter and humor essayist. His “Dumpster” column closes every issue of Food & Spirits magazine. He has authored two books, including Are You Going To Eat That? (2009), and Of Mice and Me (2017). He also has four albums of original songs. The latest, My Turn Now, was released in 2015. Learn more at

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