Depending on my mood and intent, Mar’s could be read two very different ways.
If I felt like talking about the food, it did what it needed to do and I was pleased. Before the holidays, I was feeling a little down and a lot bougie, soliciting Facebook suggestions for the nearest place to find cocktails, oysters, charcuterie, the Brooklyn basics (#notallnegronis), which would still require public transportation because that’s how it is. Ultimately, I decided on new-to-me Mar’s in Astoria. (Astoria is like this black hole that’s only two-ish miles away and yet I haven’t heard of half of the contemporary bars and restaurants there.) Yes, that’s what I had in mind. Happy hour oysters and a drink involving pumpkin liqueur that by all rights should’ve been sweet and gross but wasn’t. I even stuck around for a full-priced steak tartare, generously portioned, grass-fed, and a glass of Tempranillo (that turned into two when it got topped off by the woman bartending). People were friendly on both sides of the bar.
But if I wanted to approach it as a Middle Ages subject, which I haven’t done in a while, it was kind of a strange, funny fail. The only human obviously over 40 was a salt-and-peppery man at a table, holding court among extended family. The bar was sparsely occupied by regulars. Two young men in patterned sweaters too muted to be signaling ‘90s childhoods, and which I’m fairly certain weren’t intended to be ironic, were getting ready to head to their families on Long Island. One was talking about his Aunt Stacie who drinks too much and recently got a boob job, and I caught myself internally agreeing with absurdity of an old, drunk woman vain enough to think she needs nice tits. When asked how old she was, he said, “I don’t know…maybe 40? 45?”
I felt relieved when the second-oldest woman, 35 at best, appeared at the bar alone. After one drink, though, she morphed from quiet and sensible into authoritative and sassy and struck up a conversation with the only overtly single guy, a clean-cut, paperback-clutching beardo of the type that I’ve only started being able to recognize as handsome in the past few months. I kind of wanted this woman whose New Year’s resolution was to “have more fun” to stop talking even though I know that’s not what I’m supposed to say, and I was just jealous that she was starting her fun early. I was also fascinated because a friend just asked today whether anyone asks anyone out in person anymore and I never witness it but maybe in Astoria? Maybe they are married now because they both read books.
I didn’t stick around to find out. And I was “ma’am’ed” by a man when I asked for my check, which became divisive when I complained about it on social media, going as far as saying I’ll leave a lower tip if addressed as such even though I realize the intent is politeness.
Earlier, I asked Aunt Stacie’s nephew if there was a female equivalent to a mensch. It was decided there is not.
Mar’s * 34-21 34th Ave., Astoria, NY