Look, first let's make it clear that Atlanta has really grown on me, OK? First off, the weather is pretty nice here. Second off, people are charming and say cute things. Third off--well, today I was taking care of a patient who just so happened to be an "ambassador" (his word) for Chick-Fil-A, and he had such a nice time talking to me that he gave me a personal business card which could be redeemed for one free chicken sandwich. Free Chick-Fil-A! How was your day?
But one thing that drives me crazy about Atlanta is the restaurant hours.
OK, so forget the fact that no non-fast-food restaurants open before 10:00am, like, ever.* I like to get an early start on my day but whatever, I can deal with having to stand outside a self-proclaimed brunch establishment at 9:00am on a Sunday morning waiting for them to wake up. But what really kills me, especially in my line of work, is the fact that no restaurants stay open past 10:00pm. It's ungodly. Don't people get hungry at night down here? More importantly, don't people want to make money selling food to people like me?
Back in New York (oh, not this again) I would often get off work late. Obviously. Being a resident means working weird hours, and by "weird hours" I mean all the hours. Many days I'd get in before the sun rose and leave work at 10:00pm, midnight, sometimes 2:00am, knowing I'd have to be back in to work the next day.
After a certain point of the night (I'd put that cutoff at around 9:00pm I guess) there was really no point in me hurrying home anymore, since I knew everyone there was already asleep and therefore there was no one to see. So sometimes, on my way back downtown, I'd stop for a very late dinner by myself. And if this sounds pathetic, it absolutely is not--eating alone in restaurants is awesome. You get to order whatever you want and you don't have to share it with (or feed it to) anyone, and you can eat your whole meal while reading a book or listening to "This American Life" on your iPod. And for someone who always felt like she was at the beck an call for other people (kid, patients, attendings, spouse), these occasional late night dinners were the ultimate indulgence.
I don't know how your tastes run, but when I'm up late at night, especially after a long night at work with limited sustenance, my appetite runs towards the hot, the brothy, the spicy, the comforting. Korean food was always a good default--relatively inexpensive, lots of food, and restaurants in Koreatown (the only redeeming feature of the Herald Square area, in my opinion--please don't counter with "Macy's," you'll just depress me) are open all night long. And everyone goes there. There were many nights that I'd be grabbing a quick late-night meal on my way home, past midnight at some Korean restaurant that I didn't even know the name of because nothing in the restaurant was written in English, and the restaurant would just be packed with people. Old couples grimly gumming down their hot pots, not speaking to each other. Masses of young teenagers oozing booze and karaoke. Single people like myself at many of the smaller tables, sitting alone but looking utterly contented. It was so busy and alive, even at that hour. And that made the food taste really good.
You'll forgive me this lament because obviously we're happy in Atlanta and we love the people here, but that last part is the key to why I miss New York so much. And it's not just because I'm a creature of habit, or because everyone I've ever known in my life up until this point is in New York. No, it's because in New York, you don't ever feel like you're just you. You always feel like you're part of something bigger. And that's fun.
There's a Vietnamese pho place up the street from where we live now in Atlanta that has some decent food. But when I drove past it tonight, at 10:00pm, it had long since closed. The lights were off, the parking lot was empty. So instead I came home and made some instant noodles and sat in my dark house eating them by myself.
It wasn't the best late-night dinner I've ever had. But it was all right.
* I already know what you're going to say. "Something something The Flying Biscuit." Right?