On a recent Friday night, my lovely fiancée came home and said he’d like to take me to dinner. “Great!” I said. Let’s go someplace new, he said. “Great great!” I said. “You’ve never been to that Indian place in Basemar,” he said. “No,” I said, excited. I love Indian food. I once ate Indian food for 21 days straight, and I could have kept going.

I was so distracted by my excitement about the Indian food that I didn’t really pay attention to the fact that “Basemar” was the location he had mentioned. Basemar is a strip mall. I suppose the correct term is “shopping plaza.” Basemar Shopping Plaza is one of many, many shopping plazas around Boulder. People go to them for groceries, shoes, flowers, bread, wine, baby clothes, pharmacies, and costumes. Those are things people should go to shopping plazas for. However, restaurants should be in magically converted Brooklyn backyards, full of great wine, great people-watching, and the gaping industrial skyline in the background. They should not be in shopping plazas, and I should not be asked to be excited about a new restaurant opening up in town if it is in a shopping plaza.

Yes, you’re still in the middle of the mountains. Yes, some of the restaurants are great. But this Indian restaurant in Basemar Shopping Plaza was the breaking point for me. It felt like defeat. Like taking plastic bags at the store or using Styrofoam cups because you’re at a conference—the defeat of consumerism.

We ate a delicious Indian meal looking out on the parking lot. We had a great conversation, and a great date. Yet the scenic view of a million car hoods below us, as well as the neon lights of dry cleaners, bagel store, and hardware place next door, left me uneasy. I missed New York.

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Comment by Susan Kirby-Smith on February 3, 2010 at 1:13pm
I know exactly what you mean. Where I live now, Baton Rouge, some of our finest restaurants are in strip malls or on a street used by many to commute across town. Not the most picturesque. How do you get over the fact that when you leave your wonderfully romantic dinner date you must pass through a parking lot with Wendy's cups in it and there's a CVS right there, right next to where you just had your romantic dinner date? How can they do this to us? I have found that coffee shops in strip malls can be okay, however, especially if they're large and have an outdoor area. Our solution about dinner though: Go to New Orleans (1 hr away) or actually, they just opened a Galatoire's here, and the strip mall it happens to be in is kind of cute and clean. The only other thing there is an expensive outdoor decorations store and a rug store. It might not be so bad.

Also, there is Perkins Rowe, which is one of these town-looking shopping centers. It has palm trees, a wine bar and a movie theater among the J.Crew, Barnes & Nobles, Fresh Market, condos that will never sell. I wouldn't eat dinner there, even though there are restaurants --- it's all just too fake for me. But it's fun to shop and drink wine there sometimes.

Baton Rouge's downtown is nice, but it's not overfilled with businesses. There's more galleries and the big, quiet river. There are few ok places to eat, but I'm very picky now and will only go to places with great food, even if I have to go to a strip mall instead. Downtown is picturesque, but it's not where the food is.

Fortunately, in Greensboro, where I used to live and will live again, there is actually a nightlife downtown, cute little alleyways, a few good restaurants, etc. Not a ton, but some. Which is better than none.
Comment by Niki Eways on February 4, 2010 at 12:11pm
Mari, i hear you - the first few months for me in boulder were frustrating as hell moments of getting lost in strip mall parking lots. i couldn't remember where bed bath & beyond was and constantly mistook staples for office depot. i vowed to not shop much in boulder because it seemed like i was always having to contend with convoluted strip mall parking lots. one plus of that is that i really DO shop LESS in Boulder than I did in NYC. No more constant temptation wandering around the East Village. In regards to the Taj, i live right down the street and we do go there often - the one shining light that elevates it from the parking lot is that i can walk to it from my house. There's nothing I miss more from Fort Greene BK than walking to my favorite restaurants, so this at least gives me comfort that I don't have to get in the car to get there!
Comment by Mari Brown on February 15, 2010 at 2:19am
Niki--I am so glad you mentioned the Staples/Office Depot mixup. I have to psych myself up, as though going into battle, to navigate Flatirons Crossing. GoogleMaps is little help--go 0.012 miles on Flatirons Way, go east 0.0007 miles on Flatirons Road, quick left on Flatirons Street, and you're there! Maybe we will run into each other at Taj...
Susan--yes, it cannot be a romantic dinner if CVS is right there! Thank you, sister. It is good to be heard.

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