the viceroy

78 Ingraham Street, Brooklyn
APRIL 2, 2013




There was a time, before it was made punishable by Bloombergian bastinado, when you could walk into a restaurant and plumes of cigarette smoke would be all around you. In fact, you yourself might even be smoking. Those days are long gone.

This is fine: while I might remember being intrigued by the smell of fried fish and cigarette smoke after walking into a diner in North Carolina, it's almost certain that I did not enjoy it at the time.

Equally certain is the revelation that as I grow older I hate smoking more and more, not because of its life-leeching of the people I care about, but because it is so transparently useless and antiquated. Smoking feels like something that was an acceptable idea a long, long time ago.

So when I heard about The Viceroy, Bushwick's secret new hotspot, I was infuriated. Cigarette smoke in the food. This may be the most inane gimmick in the history of gimmicks. But maybe I can think of something worse: How about a cafe where the servers just yell at you all day? Or maybe pound nails through your palms while force-feeding you celery? Where can I go to get a big glass of artisanal arsenic?

But when I actually went to The Viceroy, my ire dissipated, the same way it did when I saw Dick Cheney at a Starbucks and wondered if he always got a venti latte (it seemed very large for him). The Viceroy didn't smell like an ashtray, almost suspiciously so. Had the Bloomberg Brigade arrived ahead of me and put a stop to this madness?

The dimly-lit booth seating was attractive, the kind of refurbished wood and Edison bulb setting that I'm used to. The music was loud, but not unbearably so. I found myself wondering if this was all some kind of trick. Maybe once I ordered the crab cakes, brunswick stew, or the bluepoint oysters on the halfshell, my waiter would arrive with a menthol in his mouth.

Or maybe there was some kind of hideous robotic smoke-machine in the background, like a black and white cartoon from the 1930s, moving all herky-jerky before blowing up and filling the room with a bombcloud of smoke.

[Let me be clear: part of the reason I resent this robot is because I believe that it has having a great time doing its job.]

These things did not happen, dear reader. What did happen is that while I was contemplating the cornbread sticks and the red cabbage coleslaw, I thought I detected the faint, faint taste of something not unlike smoke. Then when I had a bite of the roasted chicken I was certain of it. But cigarettes? No. Maybe artisanal cigarettes?

Clearly, smoking robot was not the culprit here. Liquid smoke. Specifically liquid smoke flavored to seem like a cigarette. Yes. Really.

If you've made a decent southern meal in NYC, you've done something few people can manage. So why go to the award ceremony wearing a t-shirt with a tuxedo printed on it? Why not just be content with your own greatness? How about a big glass of artisanal dignity?

Sure, some people actually like liquid smoke, and I know one or two of them. I don't trust them to cat-sit, but I know them. And I will leave it at that.

Next: The future of doughnuts
is revealed to A. Pontious

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