Ben Beres is tired, hungry, and stressed out about building a desert island. We're sitting in a corner at the Deluxe under what seems to be a floodlight at 10:30 p.m. (exactly the start of the late-night happy hour). Ben is one-third of the art collective SuttonBeresCuller. He lives .10681 miles from Broadway and subsists on the food of starving artists everywhere: ramen (he likes his "dressed up in a tuxedo" with green onion and an egg cracked into it), big salads he makes himself, and Broadway happy-hour cuisine.
Ben is the most cheerful stressed-out person ever. He loves the Deluxe, and the Deluxe loves him. A pretty bartender, Crystal, brings us drinks even though we're not at the bar. Ben usually comes for the bargain-priced burger special on Wednesdays; now he orders the arepas—corn cakes with a red sauce and avocado. They're pretty much gone as soon as I've had the bite he politely requires I take. "I'm fairly satisfied with that. It left my mouth spicy," he summarizes.
We move on to Charlie's, where the first booth we try is broken in such a way that Ben's being pitched forward out of his seat. The second booth has the same issue. He surmises that maybe it's his legs. Despite my best efforts to dissuade him, he orders the tempura vegetables. Charlie's makes a decent happy-hour cheeseburger, but ordering tempura here is a bold move. Ben has had everything else on the menu, however.
His spirit of adventure does not go unpunished. A glistening, giant browned pile is placed before him. If it were possible to deep-fry grease itself, it might come out like this. Ben describes it as "violent tempura," and it does look sort of spiky and angry. He eats as much as he can while it's burning hot, then gives up. I poke at a fried blob. "What is this?" I say.
"That's an ear," says Ben. I eat it. Ben vows to eschew the tempura here in the future.
At 1:00 a.m., we're at the glam, mirrored bar of the Broadway Grill. Eric the bartender hands Ben his drink with a flourish, saying, "There you go, Mr. Beres." Ben is, incredibly, still hungry. He orders a chicken quesadilla and pardons himself. Upon his return, I learn that the urinals here are filled with ice, making an exciting experience for the gentlemen patrons, who can cut a melted swathe, create a hole, or conduct other experiments in erosion.
The quesadilla's got three cute ceramic dishes of condiments, and its triangles are splayed out invitingly. Ben declares it his favorite snack of the night. Eric takes such nice care of us that we're the last ones to leave.
Details about SuttonBeresCuller's upcoming exhibits may be found at www.suttonberesculler.com.