Well, it’s the new year and so I naturally started to think about the Chinese New Year and which animal is going to represented, and then I started to think about our favorite Chinese restaurant on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Very logical stream of thought.
Actually, Kris and I have decided to add another section on H2FaLoon about restaurants/food shops we’ve visited we’ve really enjoyed. We are calling it “Loon Feedings: Away from the Nest”. Cute, right? This is what started me thinking about The Cottage.
We lived on the Upper West Side while we attended the American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA) from the late 80’s to the early 90’s. We absolutely adored the UWS and still do but it can be kind of pricey. Nothing like the Upper East Side, but for two broke college kids in the 80s, pricey is pricey.
Part of our income consisted of a small pay check I earned at this little shop called Star Magic. Star Magic sold items such as crystals and stones that helped align your chakras along with runes and tarot cards. To this day, if I hear anything from Yanni or Enya, I am right back in that little shop trying to sell some sweet old lady a rose quartz and amethyst necklace, telling her it’ll add a couple more years to the ole’ ticker. I know, I’m horrible, but I had to earn that six bucks per hour somehow.
Kris’ contribution to our bank account was waiting tables at this little Italian restaurant next to the Beacon Hotel and Theater called Jean Lucas. This was a little better than my paycheck, but the only time he ever made a decent night of tips was when there was something happening at the Beacon Theater. These nights were few and far between, but when he did have good night, we would splurge at our favorite Chinese restaurant, The Cottage.
When growing up in a small town in South Dakota, eating Chinese food was only on special occasions, or never. I lived a sheltered life. So sheltered that I had no idea that Cats and Phantom of the Opera were musicals on Broadway (I hear people gasping). I think I might have had Chinese food one time before moving to Manhattan. So going out for Chinese was HUGE!
We usually went on Friday nights because Kris always had Fridays off. Since he was the fresh meat at the restaurant, he never had the best shifts, so our weekend nights were always free – which can lead to trouble for youngsters new to NYC. We we’re always on our best behavior though…wink, wink.
Our favorite thing to order was chicken fried rice. It was delicious and safe, and by safe I mean nothing weird like duck tongue or chicken hearts (this is what all little boys from the Midwest think is in Chinese food). It was also the cheapest thing on the menu and we would split it. Besides the chicken fried rice being so good, there was also one other key factor of why we loved The Cottage so much…FREE WINE!
Kris and I would sit there for hours nursing our shared plate of fried rice, drink carafes of white wine and talk about everything under the sun – which was usually all about AMDA. We would talk about our emotional breakthroughs in acting class, what songs we were going to sing in musical theatre class. We wondered why we needed to place a giant cork in our mouths to help with our diction. We tried to interpret what were the actual ballet terms coming out of our “English is his third language” ballet teacher’s mouth. We argued about which teachers used the best techniques, bitched about acting choices people made during a Shakespeare monologue, discussed the difference between a single-time step and double-time step, and last but not least, dreamed of our future careers in show business. It was always a great night – and all for under $10!
I guess this was the beginning of our love of going out to dinner and trying new restaurants which is what you’ll hear more about when we start “Loon Feedings: Away from the Nest”.
A few of us AMDA alumni still get together from time to time at The Cottage for a fun evening. The conversations have definitely changed but the fried rice and carafes of free white wine are still the same.