If you like your steak sandwich with a side of soft core pornography, do I have a place for you.
Zorba's a/k/a The Zorba Lounge is a bar first and a restaurant second. I can say that with certainty as I have never been there at any time of day, noon or night, when there was not at least one person sitting at the bar having a beer with no food. And I have been there a fair bit over the years. On this random Tuesday at lunch it was a pony-tailed fellow having a longneck Budweiser and calling the waitress "honey" multiple times before asking what time she could have a cigarette break. Shortly after he paid his tab another Budweiser appeared in front of him, on the house. You know, Tuesday.
But I am getting ahead of myself. Zorba's is located on the corner of Washington and Laurens just up from Cleveland Park. It is close to the central business district yet on a commercial corridor. It is around the corner from multiple neighborhoods yet right off the interstate. You could hit a nine iron to a foreclosed house but driver to high dollar property. Many worlds collide here so you will find an eclectic mix of people from all walks of life. I am aware that preceding sentence has redundancy, but that is what I call "for effect." You are just as likely to see an adult wearing a jersey as a suit. It is the kind of place where all of the different people in the spot can be minding their own business and when something funny happens on the small TV above the bar everyone laughs together; everybody is paying attention to their surroundings even when it looks like they are not. Today two businessmen reviewed documents while a lady ordered a margarita at the next table, but they all laughed when the Jets coach had a bunch of bleeps in his press conference after last night's big loss.
Walking in, when you open the outside door you find yourself in an anteroom with a typed sign posted to the wall that says simply "No Overnight Tabs. No Exceptions." It feels vaguely illict and as if someone will ask you for a street reference before you will be allowed through the second door and into the lounge itself.
One side of the restaurant is covered with mirrors that would not be out of place in 1983. Same behind the bar. The bar itself has red pleather wrist wrests and dozens of free pour booze bottles sitting behind the counter just begging to be poured - and from the looks of them they get picked up regularly. All the cabinets below the bottles are locked with chains and padlocks. There are more than a dozen hand-written tabs scotch-taped to the mirror behind the register serving a warning to those who have skipped that they are not forgotten. In fact I would bet my mortgage on the fact there is not only a gun behind the bar but there are two, and at least one is a shotgun that has the minimum barrel length allowed by law. And I bet someone calls it "the shotty."
The other side of the place has seating that is totally blocked by the back of the bar. The waitress told the pony-tailed fellow that all kinds of things have gone on back there. I assume that is not just a euphemism for eating.
In fact, the whole place looks like a set from Miami Vice yet it commands loyal regulars. The waitress has been working there 17 years next month and somehow during lunch I found myself looking at her phone (ring tone: Bad to the Bone) with pictures of various customers. Mind you, I did not ask to see her phone. It just appeared and there we were.
But when it comes to the decor the real treat is the nudity. Mulitple fake bronze statuettes of men and women engaged in various sexual positions. Multiple mugs on bar shelving in the shape of a female breast with prominent nipple. A poster on the back wall of a girl on the beach with bare breasts exposed above the word "Fantastic." Honestly though, it used to be much more in your face and now you kind of have to squint to find it. Maybe they were required to clean up the place when "Spinx University" moved in next door and put up new awnings.
Why, pray tell, am I here for lunch on Tuesday? For the steak sandwich. Because it is dynamite . . . and the waitress is too. The more I am here the more I want to be a regular with my picture in her phone.
Order: Steak sandwich (comes with mayo, you can add lettuce/tomato/raw onion without charge, cheese, grilled onions, mushrooms, etc. are extra; you want to add cheese), side of fries (sandwich is a la carte), water (trust me, you will need it), $13.50.
Maybe Don't Order: Anything else. You are here for the steak sandwich.
Pro Tip: The tables and chairs are close together which can be awkward when it is busy. And the tables are not big enough for plates and condiments if there are four of you. Sit at the bar.
I Don't Believe I'd Told That: This entire place is the phrase "I don't believe I'd told that" come to life.