Plus! Barbie vs. Oppenheimer!! The Deal With Your Goodwill Donations!!!
Anne, I was first completely fascinated with why on earth anyone, even you, would be interested in spending ANY time on Avenue U. I ran away from these neighborhoods in 1994 and swore never to return, for every reason you seemed to actually enjoy. The only cool thing to have ever landed on Avenue U was Groove Records waaaaaaay back in the day. It was one of NYC's very first shops/labels dedicated to techno, run by a bunch of now-legendary Brooklyn DJs. I don't know how South Brooklyn managed to produce anything that cool, but yea it had an insane techno scene in the early 90s.
But, that fascination quickly gave way to my fascination with the name "CMOLOVAR". It made absolutely no sense, yet just couldn't be that non-sensical, so I had to Google the storefront. Of course you were the only actual English speaker! They named that joint in a combination of Cyrillic and Roman letters that anyone other than for whom the place is intended would find unpronounceable. It is meant to read "Stolovaya" and translates into something like "Eatery".
PS: USSR didn't have Sweet’N Lo, so your Soviet vibe was a bit off-base. And to your question of: "Is this really like the food they would have eaten in the Soviet Union?" — NO! NO! NO! No one sane in the Soviet Union ate at restaurants unless it was some posh celebration-type joint where you paid them off well to put real food on the table. Restaurant food was considered inedible for most people used to home-cooking. I remember maybe 2 or 3 times eating out as a kid when we were traveling and had no choice.
Oppenheimer was a family movie for me. Both my mother and my father worked for the Manhattan Project, and my home life was filled with visits from and to Manhattan Project sites and people. George Kistiakowsky appeared in the film, and the night Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated, Kistiakowski was at our house for dinner. My heart was in my mouth for the entire three hours, but my husband and I are opera nerds. Three hours is NOTHING. We love Wagner, and Die Meistersinger von Nuremberg is 5 1/2 hours, which FLIES by.
The Russian signs on the wall, roughly:
- Bringing in and drinking alcoholic spirits is strictly prohibited
- A cafe is a treasure. No littering. Take bread in moderation.
- Do not dig into the salt with eggs or fingers. (It's better in Russian, eggs and fingers rhyme. )
- BREAD -- OUR WEALTH
We did Mission: Barbenheimer. Three movies, three days, three reviews.
Mission Impossible - Think less, enjoy it more. Also, Tom Cruise really does those stunts. Come for the popcorn, stay for the popcorn.
Barbie - Loved it, laughed, thought a little. But way too much Ken.
Oppenheimer - I wasn’t expecting to enjoy a film about a scientist’s attempt to renew his security clearance, but I did. Not sure why you need 70mm IMAX when it’s mostly people talking though. Also, this would’ve been way more interesting if it had been written by Aaron Sorkin.
Big picture: (most) people like going to the movies. Hollywood has been trying to dissuade them from doing so for more than a decade, but there’s a lesson in this recent bout of movie mania. Will Hollywood moguls learn that lesson? Probably not.
The Cafe never disappoints. Your disdain for one of the two movies shows in the misspelling in the byline :)
What an eclectic pair of movies! One is the rut of a formula that Hollywood believes makes money (Oppenheimer) while the other is a daring take on a new way of seeing the world (Barbie). I loved both of them. Barbie, like the end of the Civil War, the Civil Rights Act 100 years later will shake us to our roots, make sense universally and then the old guard will set out for the next 50 years to undermine it ever recurring or taking hold. I liked Oppenheimer because it inspired my post of this week. It is a decent vehicle to explain how it so simply explains the world and perhaps angry old men might let go of old beliefs.
Your trip on Avenue U was a blast. It is why, when I return to the Buffalo area, I always want to get a taste of Broadway on the East Side. It is the cauldron of reinvention.
My favorite absurdity "Quality Meats Perfection" -- I love the extra word in the store name to convince the skeptical. I fear their store suffers from the same challenge as the Naked Cowboy (NC) consuming turkey out of a bag in his SUV with muscle milk. Someone needs to be wiping down the meat residue on those pleather chairs and NCs steering wheel.
The Soviet-inspired restaurant needed dour-faced people waiting in line holding a meat ticket.
What you missed??? I would guess there is a business on Avenue U that is selling and repairing fax machines.
Going to see Mission Impossible tomorrow to complete the trifecta (Tuesday cheap day for movies). My post this week was partly inspired by seeing "Oppenheimer". Despite your bad karma, I think it is the very best thing I have ever written (not about Oppenheimer really). Movies nearing 3 hours can be pretentious.
What really impresses me, Anne, is the way you get people to open up and talk to you. You have the knack.
Except for Papa Sal of "Expresso U Café" and his three Sopranos.
Neighborhood deep dives are my favorite!! Keep them coming, please! :)
Also, as fan of the Richard Feynman book "Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman," I was super offended that he was represented in the movie simply as "guy playing the bongos" in every scene he appeared.
"Well, we aren't going to give him any lines. How will we let the audience know he's there?" I guess it worked though.
I didn't and won't see Oppenheimer. But Barbie was a florid pink dream with a message that more people need to hear. Unfortunately, the people who need to hear it probably won't be seeing the movie. That said, I hope the message reaches little girls and women and teaches them to stop putting up with all the shit society expects of them.
"Do you have any gadgets?" I asked. That's when he lost it. "I don't know what gadgets you're talking about! I don't know why what they call it! I can't answer something I don't know!"
Just an hilarious exchange!! Customers say that the atmosphere at the shop changed when Vivian left; she LOVED talking about gadgets!! Maybe the proprietor thought you were asking about “marital aids” type gadgets??
Loved the avenue U review. I last visited for a bowl of borscht on the day after Russia invaded Ukraine. Time for my next visit. I remember the fruit shops as cornucopias of summer goodness
Great article (as always). Can someone tell me what the object is on the bottom left of the very top photo? A red globe thingy with satellites on it. I'm intrigued.
Pass 2 -- Sometimes Cafe Anne is a sensory overload -- this was packed with goodness.
(1) WTH is that red globe in the Goodwill store
(2) Filipino dude with the bong in a display case is your best picture yet
(3) The Compact Disc Shoppe -- still with the old neon advertising cassettes -- nice
(4) Sparkle on U -- still requires masks -- the Avenue where time stood still
(5) What NEVER CHANGES -- Anne knows where the good donuts are (Shaikhs)
"I don't understand it, if that's what you mean," he said. "I don't understand what the fascination is with these kids, with vinyl. I think they like watching things go round and round. Keeps them busy!"
I grew up with vinyl; it's cool in a nostalgic way, but it was a PIA in real time. Scratches, skips, and if you had enough money for a turntable and not just a record-player, adjusting the damn thing constantly. The ONLY good thing was that you got to say, "I'll just put something on the turntable," to set the mood if you were fortunate enough to fool a young lady into coming up to your dorm room; kind of made it seem like you were Hugh Hefner (a laughable image now).
Anne, if you loved Einstein on the Beach, you have got to see Lady Macbeth of Mtensk! Shostakovich, and you would eat it with a spoon! Check out one of the Met Live in HD shows in Lincoln Center , and we'll have you sitting in the Family 'Circle in no time!
You'll see, hilariously enough, two entries there. Stolovaya is the actual name of the place, and yea it's pretty tongue-in-cheek. The Google menu pic (the one advertising "Russian Style Ravioli") says at the top: The Ministry of Public Nutrition of the Brooklyn region of the city of New York welcomes you at our Eatery LOL.