7:03 p.m.: "Hey, it's Dave. I'm here at the restaurant. Did you get a table?"
7:22 p.m.: "Hey, just wondering if you're on your way. LMK."
7:41 p.m.: "Everything OK? We still on for tonight?"
7:55 p.m.: "Okay, it's an hour past when we were going to meet. I'm leaving."
Being stood up for a date sucks. Being stood up for a date in South Orange County, where people have nothing better to do than to walk past and say, "Hey, you look like you're waiting for a date," is even worse. Mind your own damn business, Rancho Santa Marga-housewives.
Pissed off and embarrassed, I left and started driving, realizing only when Crown Valley Parkway dead-ended at PCH that I still needed dinner. I found parking in Laguna Beach–and you have to give me props for left-side parallel-parking a 20-foot-long truck on a hill in one shot–and started walking toward Main Beach when I smelled the unmistakable scent of spit-roasting meat.
I hadn't been inside the door of Adonis Mediterranean Grill for ten seconds when a burning-hot square of wax paper was thrust into my hands with a sample of gyros and a sample of chicken shawarma on it. It was salty, but good. I looked up and saw that the menu advertised gyros and donairs, and had an intense flashback to my first experience with donairs, in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, just across the harbour from Halifax. A quick question to the guy behind the counter established that he was, indeed, Canadian, though from Ottawa. Close enough. They eat donairs in Ottawa too.
Sold. One donair, please. He warmed an enormous pita, then spread sauce and carefully–oh, so carefully!–layered lettuce, cabbage, pickled cabbage and tomatoes in it. Then it was off to the spit, where the knife flashed and hot meat landed on the vegetation. He wrapped it up, added re-heated fries, and told me to pick a can of soda from the left side of the fridge. $11 later (what can I say, it's in the middle of a tourist zone), I had my sandwich.
Let's make no mistake: this is not a donair. A donair, Halifax-style, comes smothered in a disgusting-sounding but incredibly addictive sauce made of evaporated milk, garlic, vinegar and sugar, then topped with chopped tomatoes. This came spread with toum, the equally addictive garlic and potato paste that inspires such loyalty to Zankou Chicken, and was much more like the German idea of a döner kebab, a dish beloved of late-night revelers in Berlin.
It tasted so good as I wolfed it down, a haste which proved to be my undoing; it all just worked together, and miraculously stayed hot even as I crouched over it in the increasingly cold night air. Even though I got the end of the spit, it was still juicy and just barely crispy at the edges.
Like all torpedo-shaped rotating meat sandwiches, though, this was a gut bomb. Eat it slowly, and stop before you're full, or like me, you'll end up having to stumble up the alley into Broadway by Amar Santana and beg for a shot of Fernet to settle your stomach. Still, if you're not up for a two-hour marathon of fancy food at one of Laguna Beach's many sit-down restaurants, this is a good stop.
9:30 a.m. the next day: "You're dead to me. Lose my number."
Adonis Mediterranean Grill, 202 Park Avenue, Laguna Beach; 949-715-4581; no website.