[Monday Munchies:] Mustaches, Mark and Middle Eastern Cuisine!

Duck hummus is best hummus. Photo by Jefferson VanBilliard

While you are reading this article, there are roughly 39.56 million people currently living in California. Most of them are good, hardworking men and women–and then there’s Mark. I’m not sure what happened to Mark the day that our lives crossed paths, but I can say that after spending an hour wrapped up like a baby in a warm blanket of his misguided frustration that he probably deserved it. To understand how we ended up trapped in an enclosed space together, I must back up a bit and tell you about the events leading up to our fateful meeting.

It was Monday morning and I was getting ready for a day trip to Los Angeles. I had already finished my shower and was well into my normal shaving regimen when the unthinkable happened: the guard on my razor fell off, leaving me with a patch of bare skin on my jawline. After surveying the damage and considering my options, I decided that the only logical answer would be to shave everything. Unfortunately, my weak chin, boyish looks and thin frame manage to get me mistaken for a lost teenager whenever I choose to go clean shaven, so I left a mustache in hopes that it would act as a buffer if anything were to happen that day. As I made my way to the Amtrak station, I felt confident about my new facial accessory, but that feeling faded when I boarded the northbound train.

It was in the cafe car on that train that I first met Mark, and I knew instantly that he meant business. From his choice in sunglasses (Oakley’s exclusively worn by cops and rollerbladers) to his no-nonsense cadence, Mark is the man you picture when you close your eyes and imagine an overweight, high school gym teacher. His enormous frame towered over me as I attempted to purchase a can of overpriced beer.

“Did you check in upstairs?”

It might have been his commanding presence or the multiple joints I had smoked on my way to the station, but my brain wasn’t working fast enough for Mark and his impatience. After being sent upstairs like a child, I returned to the cafe car to quench my thirst and find a seat; the only thing that stood in my way was yet another interaction with my new friend Mark.

“I’m not selling you beer”

When I unknowingly left the land of the free and got on the train, I had entered into the kingdom of Mark. It’s a lawless place where there isn’t beer, fun or places to sit inside the cafe car because everything belongs to Mark. I hate the kingdom of Mark; it’s hot and the only thing to do there is argue with Mark or sneak into the bathroom and get stoned. Thankfully, our glorious ruler was too busy protecting his precious booths to find the cloud of smoke I left floating in the stall and after thanking him for keeping me somewhat sober and entertained, I excited the car at Union Station and promised myself that I would never again step foot in Mark’s stupid cafe again.

With the aura of Mark still haunting my day, I did my best to forget about my horrible train experience the best way I know how: with food. Bavel, located in downtown Los Angeles, has won just about every award a restaurant can win since opening its doors in 2018. Their menu of skillfully crafted Middle Eastern cuisine is second only to their lineup of cocktails, which are delicious enough to coax you into overindulgence. For me, the dish that keeps me coming back for repeat visits is their hummus. I challenge anyone to spend time inside the always-busy dining room and not have quite possibly the best dinner of their life while sampling the creamy, rich hummus appetizer topped with duck sausage and olive oil. It is served alongside a pita bread that has been fermented for multiple days and then baked to perfection inside their wood oven. The bread has just the right amount of salt, oil and smoke to make you swear it was cooked by Moses himself.

After finishing my appetizer and drinks, I made my way to the bathroom and wondered why Mark was so quick to judge me. Was it my tattoos? My hair? I struggled to figure out what about me had made that man so angry before I had even opened my mouth. When I was finished washing my hands, I came face to face with the obvious reason: my mustache. Without the usual amount of stubble I use to make myself appear older than a teenager, I was left with a face that looks like a teenager. Mark wasn’t mad at me for my tattoos or the fact that I probably smelled like a mobile dispensary. Mark was mad because he mistakenly thought that I was a young, self-entitled twentysomething with a chip on my shoulder and my whole life ahead of me–not the tired, overworked and underpaid adult in my mid-thirties that I actually am.

All things considered, I had a wonderful day that ended in yet another meal I’m unfortunately too stoned to remember. Mark, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry for the misunderstanding and if you ever want to share a plate of the best hummus in Los Angeles, you know where to find me: in the bathroom of the cafe car hot boxing the toilet. Happy smoking!

Bavel is at 500 Mateo St., Los Angeles, (213) 232-4966.

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