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Wednesday, March 01, 2006
It's not every night that a friend takes you to a Russian bakery-cum-restaurant-cum-nightclub. The sort of place with patrons that look like the Eastern European-equivalent of minor characters from The Sorpanos, the ones that nobody can recall the names of or their connection to Tony. The sort of place where a guy in a track suit checks your ID at the door and you wander inside to find a virtual legion of expats, also in track suits, tossing dollar bills at a belly dancer. The sort of place where if you say the wrong thing or bump into the wrong person your nose could go from waxing to waning in two seconds flat.
But that's Ararat, a spot that's been around for a while on MLK and one you've probably known about for a while. Before you proceed, you should probably get a look at this quote found on Bar Fly, allegedly written by one of the place's bouncers:
"i am work the door for the ararat and i will crush anyone who is not of russian race . i am vitaly and i will crush ! when saturday night is late and american man with brown coat show up to steal away russian lady , i will be prepare . i have my eyes on you brown coat man.
From what I'm told (we got there late), at the stroke of 12 the place transforms from a restaurant into a nightclub with the arrival of a belly dancer. After her performance, the DJ in residence breaks out an collection of post-Soviet dance hits and every inch of the glowing dance floor fills. Guys bumping and grinding with their gal pals, drunks dancing on the stage, middle-aged women with beehive hairdos waiting in wings and angry-looking men with gold chains weaving through the crowd, looking like bad guys from an early '90s action movie.
While I can't prove it, Ararat only seems to sell one brand of beer: Baltika, which is brewed "just for you" in St. Petersberg and comes in eleven varieties, numbered from 0 to 10. The bartender handed over three bottles of #6, a porter. Not available: Baltika #2, "the party mix" that comes in cherry, coffee, lemon and orange flavors. According to the website, it's been taken off the market.
We were there for a few hours and the DJ only spun one song produced west of Ukraine: Haddaway's "What Is Love?"
What is love
Oh baby, don't hurt me
Don't hurt me no more
Oh, baby don't hurt me
Don't hurt me no more
As indicated above, Ararat doesn't take kindly to strangers mucking up the works. At any point I figured a needle would scratch across a record and all eyes would point at our table- that one of us would have to save the rest of us by dancing on the bar to "Tequila (the Caucasus Remix '95)" ala Pee Wee Herman. That didn't happen. The regulars took little notice of us but went frickin' nuts for that song.
A quick note about the bar itself: it had a gilded "Ararat" with running LED lights around each letter. They also apparently do a mean pork shish kebab during dinner hours.
Sitting at one table, amidst the madness, was a tiny, old man in a pair of enormous glasses. He looked exactly like Junior and even had the same glasses and hat. At no point did I see him get up out of his chair. As we left he was still there, hunched over with a Hugh Hefner smirk on his face.
On the way out, the bouncer stopped us and demanded to see our IDs again. Out of nowhere, an older woman appeared. Topping out at, maybe, five feet, she scolded him. "You be nice to these people," she growled.
Actually, don't. The last thing Ararat needs is more "tourists" coming to gawk and write about its wonders on their blogs.