It is Sunday morning and I'm perched on a stool inside Smarty Pants, a restaurant/bar located in Georgetown. I'm sipping orange juice and unabashedly eavesdropping as owner/bartender Tim Ptak churns out bloody marys and carries on four conversations at once.
"So guess who got to sign a bunch of man-tits last night?" the woman next to me asks rhetorically.
"I was doing hair in a tent outside last night," Ptak counters. "It was 40 degrees out, windy, and I was supposed to create an up-do. I was like, 'You've got to be kidding...'"
Autographed man-tits and straight men creating runway up-dos on a Saturday night? Why hadn't I ventured into Georgetown before and where the fuck was my Sharpie?
Smarty Pants resembles a biker bar tucked in a desolate part of town dominated by empty, crumbling brick warehouses. I'd expected it to be as deserted as the street outside. Instead, it's hopping with families, church groups from Beacon Hill, tattooed hipsters, and adventurously monikered roller-derby girls, like Dirty Little Secret #007, the John Hancock of man-tits to my right.
Half the customers who stride in are greeted by name. A DJ spins classic soul and funk in the corner, while another Rat City Rollergirl turned waitress, Betty Ford Galaxy #12 ("Because I don't drink. Get it?"), zips by on skates while carrying plates of food the size of well-fed house cats. Suddenly I am very hungry.
I order the corned beef hash with eggs and hash browns ($6.95) and cave in to my craving for a bloody mary ($6), which turns out to be the best decision of the morning. Lime and ice are crushed together, followed by a healthy spoonful of horseradish, spices, vodka, and tomato juice, before the concoction is violently shaken and served. It has the perfect amount of lime juice and horseradish to awaken the tongue and sinuses.
"Hey Tim," a patron hollers to the bar. "Did you get the bumper stickers I left you?"
"Yeah," Ptak answers, "but I think the staff's already raided them. You might want to drop some more by..."
The only thing more delicious than eating out is eavesdropping, because unlike eating, eavesdropping is not something you can do successfully at home alone. I love restaurants where it is impossible not to eavesdrop, where conversations are comfortably carried on over and around you. You cannot resist listening, and eventually joining in.
"What bumper stickers?" I ask.
"The city's trying to put in a new garbage dump in our part of town," Ptak tells me. "So the bumper stickers say, 'Flush twice, it's a long way to Georgetown.'"
"Do you think they'll help?"
"We're banking on the community to not let it happen," he answers, "but we need to get the word out. Georgetown was surveyed for a garbage dump four years ago, and this area's developed a lot since then. We definitely generate money for the city; we don't need 200 garbage trucks driving through here every day."
Smarty Pants has been thriving in Georgetown for the past two and a half years, Ptak says. He runs a welding shop down the street and would often get hungry, but there was no food in the neighborhood. So he decided to open a restaurant.
My corned beef hash arrives, and it is deliciously firm and juicy. I notice that I've missed my bus home, so I order another bloody mary and start quizzing Ptak on his colorful career choices.
"Hair and motorcycles are both sculptural, which is what attracted me," Ptak explains. "I reasoned that the likelihood of making money as an artist was slim to none, so I went with hair. Plus, cute girls get their hair cut." He had no previous restaurant experience.
"This one helped me design the menu," he points to Dirty Little Secret. "I like sandwiches, so we make a lot of sandwiches."
I'm enjoying myself. Ptak has created community at the site of a garbage dump out of simple sandwiches and good conversation. I look at the menu again. The Lil' Brat ($7.25) is calling to me—a grilled Reuben made of field roast, sauerkraut, and sauce on marble rye. A glance at my watch shows that I've missed my bus again. I listen as Ptak describes the 24-hour motorcycle ice race that he's just returned from.
Maybe I'll stick around for a late lunch.