Monday, February 15, 2010

Circumcised Comedian, Kosher Burgers, & Cafe!

After a tip from Aliza Hausman last month or a few months ago on her blog, I decided to buy tickets for today (also known as Valentine's Day in the secular world) for Tuvia and I to see the illustrious Yisrael Campbell in "Circumcise Me" at the Bleecker Street Theatre in New York City. We were down in Jersey for Shabbos in order to meet with our caterer and scope benschers and a ketubah earlier today, and we also happened to stop by Burgers Bar in Teaneck, which just opened recently. Talk about a busy, busy day. I'm finally back in my dorm and feeling a little overwhelmed about all I have to do, but there's always time for a little good press for others!

First for the show. Talk about a gut-buster! I'm a hard sell on a lot of comedy, but I was hopeful because comedy with a Jewish twist is always good. Add to this the fact that he's a convert and I was in. The room was packed, and the group varied from frum Jews in sheitels to little old ladies decked out like Sarah Jessica Parker might look in her 90s. The flow of the show was great, and I think I only checked my watch a few times -- I am, infamously, impatient. Yisrael Campbell's life story is, in a word, unique. He's seen a lot, been circumcised three times over his life (that's at birth and for his Conservative and Orthodox conversions), and watched friends die while living in Israel and experiencing the harder, more violent times there. He's also a father, a husband, and a hilarious comedian. How he juggles his show here while his family is in Israel amazes me, but I have no doubt that he has to be a great husband and father. Campbell also is a recovering alcoholic, which added an interesting and sobering (no pun intended) twist to his comedic narrative. The ups and downs of his life -- which I won't spoil for you here -- kept the audience captivated; there was laughing, some near-tears, and a feeling of peace and excitement for the comedian rocking a one-man show on the small black-box theatre-style stage. And for me, being a convert myself, it was especially surreal to hear him talk about meeting with rabbis and what it meant to convert and dip in the mikvah. I'll be honest in saying that his story was more than a typical conversion story -- it wasn't as emotional as I expected it to be. But overall? A great show, and I encourage you all to go see it. There are only a FEW showings left! If you can't make a show, seek out some of Campbell's work online. I promise you won't be disappointed.

Next? Tuvia and I found our ketubah. I'm so stoked about it -- it's very different, very artsy, and it integrates one of my favorite themes within Jewish art! Stay tuned for the wedding (a little more than 100 days left)!

Burgers Bar in TeaneckThen, Burgers Bar. I happened to win a "Tweet for Meat" free burger coupon on Twitter from @BurgersBar, so we decided to head to the recently opened Teaneck joint. There are a few others open in the U.S., but the chain is known mostly in Israel, especially for its location just up the stairs from the Kotel in Jerusalem (where Tuvia and I happened to eat in December!). I'll admit, it was no Jerusalem experience. We stopped in at around 2 in the afternoon, so the joint was not jumping. We were probably one of three or four tables of people, so service was fast and very friendly. My biggest beef (once again, no pun intended!) with Burgers Bar in Teaneck was the quality of the veggies they had for the burgers. They had no problem throwing a bunch of brown, obviously bad lettuce on my burger. It was really disappointing, to say the least. I ordered a spicy burger and regular fries, and the fries weren't quite as crisp as I was looking for and the burger wasn't quite as spicy as I remembered my burger in Israel. The quantity of food was on par with the price, and it definitely made filled me up. Overall, it was probably a 2.5 out of 5 star experience. The restaurant just opened, so I'll give them some time. If you're heading over, don't look for a "BURGERS BAR" sign -- it still says Discount Liquidation! The ambiance will surprise you, as it's very clean, very crisp, and very hip. They're open amazingly late (2 a.m. most days and 3 a.m. on Saturdays) for the late-night crowd, but I've heard they can get quite busy, so plan accordingly. And, don't be like me -- let them know if the veggies are less than stellar. (Location: 1383 Queen Anne Road, Teaneck, NJ)

We topped our day off with some coffee before hitting the road, and I can't help but show off the fancy footwork of the folks at Think Coffee, just around the block from the theater where we saw "Circumcise Me."

And that, folks, was one busy and thrilling day, despite a hacking cough, stuffed up nose, and achy body. Now? Now I rest myself and rock some Hebrew. L'hitraot!