On birds...and bees...and things in between

Tucked away at 306 17th Avenue, SW...look for the door on the side--and come with a reservation!

According to the internet (and we all know the internet knows everything), to “pigeonhole” someone or something means to put them into a category they don’t necessarily fit into—mostly for the sake of convenience (for you, not them).

But to pigeonhole them, to try to put them into a neat slot—to assume they are something they’re not, or to not even think about other possibilities-- suggests that perhaps you are making too many generalizations about a person or thing.

And that’s precisely the reason Pigeonhole, the eating place that occupies the space where, for many years you could find Victoria’s Restaurant, has decidedly not given itself a descriptor beyond its name.

Our waiter explains that, although the menu features an amazing array of appetizers or shared plates, this relatively new spot (anything less than five years is new to me) is not a tapas bar, not a “small plates” restaurant, not a snacks-and-apps place.

It’s whatever you decide it is for you.

On a Monday evening (yay—another place open on a Monday!) I met up with Jody to find out more about the place, and the food. I’ve been very close to Pigeonhole before, as it shares a common wall with Model Milk (and is professionally affiliated).  This is the side of the building where the original Model Milk dairy was (guess if I’d done more homework, I’d have brought Bill here, although I am not sure it was his style).

Busy on a Monday...and every other night.

So, this space is the one that was Victoria’s, the neon sign still visible under the new logo for Pigeonhole, which, in a nod to its predecessor, features the bird wearing a crown. It’s cute.

I haven’t seen Jody for a couple of years.  We used to work in the same place, in different offices, but we had several occasions to work together on large scale projects and Jody was always professional, thoughtful, diplomatic (and in a position where a lot of diplomacy was required—more than most of us would have the patience for) and always discreet.

She moved on, yet Facebook has kept us connected.  So I was really pleased when she reached out, told me she had seen the blog, and suggested we get together.

And Pigeonhole it was.

Our waiter(I wish I’d gotten his name) was wonderfully versed in the wine selections, even offering a small taste when I couldn’t decide on a by-the-glass selection. He was also excellent at helping us decide on our order.

And while Pigeonhole won’t be pigeonholed into a word or words that identify it as one thing or another, Jody and I decided our best tack was to order a half dozen items to share.  I won’t call them small plates (but that’s what they were) or tapas (well, what are tapas?) or even appetizers…on the menu, they’re listed as “food”.  And that’s exactly what they are.

On my insistence, we tried the tomato and peach salad; I have to admit, it didn’t blow me away as much as I had hoped, but others we ordered—zucchini strings on Buratta cheese with mint; toast with ricotta, white bean and honey; and an amazing hangar steak on arugula --were all delicious.

We even had room for dessert, which was house made lemon-vanilla madeleines, made to order, so they came to us warm and fresh from the oven.

You can almost smell them from here.....

As we were ordering our final dish, we learned that our waiter had a little side project directly connected to our meal.  Seems he is an urban beekeeper, and he showed us some photos of his hives and his gardens.  He was clearly passionate about this sideline, and he even treated us to a little taste of the honey alongside our madeleines.

Funny... It occurred to me that perhaps we had pigeonholed him by thinking his skill and expertise were all tied up in his ability as a server (at which he was incredibly, perfectly suited). But I’m so glad we learned about his other interest; it taught me that by making assumptions about the people around us, we tend not to ask questions, not to find out just a little bit more about what makes them do what they do.

So, my advice?  Strike up a conversation with your server, the bartender, a friend you haven’t seen in a while—I guarantee you’ll learn something new.