Somewhere, in the reams of universes parallel to our own, a cluster of students wait eagerly in a classroom. They are graduate students, to be exact, a fact betrayed by their possession of a few white hairs, and a non-ironic enthusiasm for cool jazz. To be more exact: they are studying the Philosophy of Restaurant. The study of the foundations, implications, and quality of restaurantness – an exploration of the restaurant qua restaurant. Their minds are battered after a semester in the dark and musty cave of pure theory but today: they’re going on a field trip!
They are going to a place contrived to challenge their notions of Essential Restaurantism. It is a working restaurant yes, but it is also an examination. A place where the a posteriori and the a priori collide; like waves of reason relentlessly slapping the sands of perception. The place is a test. The place is Iron Pan.
Everything is kind of fucked up at Iron Pan.
Even the dumbest student in this class will comment on the entrance. Though the yawning veranda beckons patrons in, there is no host stand. Only a tiny paper sign at the door instructs you to order at the counter. For established locals this isn’t fatal, but new patrons should feel greeted.
The more attentive student will address the menu next. The signage promises breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but all-day breakfast is more accurate. Crepes, bagels, eggs, and “specialties” (mostly breakfast items) dominate the menu. When you get to the counter to place your order, an overhead menu looms. For an order-at-the-counter kind of place there are a lot of options. And pasta for some reason?
After you have furrowed your brow for 20 seconds, the kind person behind the counter will offer you a paper menu. Not sure why they printed so many, but anyway, they have the same information as the menu above. You’re still baffled so you will order the Belgian waffle with fried chicken. (As a hungover grad student, it’s the only choice.) The shamrock Benedict is good too.
The ambitious student will notice the legion of logistical quodlibets. For one, if you order a cold coffee, it is handed to you immediately and you will find cream/sugar at an arbitrarily placed station near the back. Order a hot coffee however, and it is brought to you at your table. At that moment, and only then, will someone ask you if you would like cream or sugar, which he will then fetch from the back. Perhaps Sisyphusian is too strong a word for this server’s plight, but… that’s messed up right?
The student gunning for a strong letter of reference should address the decor. There is wine everywhere. It is not merely a beverage option they seem desperate to encourage—it feels like a bottle might pop out of a wall fixture and into your face at any moment.
And consider this: a large painting depicts a couple seated at a bar in evening finery, sexily sipping away. The painting is right next to the actual bar where you order your food. But you can’t sit at the actual bar, and it’s not nearly that sexy. It’s as if this painting is an arrow pointing squarely at what this restaurant is not. But which half of the schizophrenic design team demanded its erection? The half that wanted this place to be a wine bar, or the half the knows that it is not? Or is assuming this is the work of a dyad a naive presupposition? Is this some Tyler Durden shit?
SUCH IS THE VORTEX of maddening design “decisions” that seem to have brought Iron Pan to life. In conclusion, I contend that Iron Pan is indeed an example of Non-logical Restaurant Constructivism (McCloud, 1992).
Obligatory Highfalootin’ Title: On Constructivism and Reductive Physicalism at Breakfast on Telegraph Ave.
Menu Readability: It’s handwritten in chalk above the counter. Very nice.
Need to mention: Perhaps most baffling of all: the menu is delicious. I really enjoy eating there.
What this place teaches me about myself: How many reductive physicalists does it take to open a breakfast spot? UGH SCHOOL WAS SUCH A WASTE OF MONEY