A few years ago I decided to check out a Russian restaurant near my neighborhood. So around 5:00 pm on a weekend I went into the place with a friend of mine. It was empty of customers, except for one big table in the corner. Six Russian guys in shiny suits sat at the table. When we entered the restaurant they looked at us and went silent.
My first thought was that we had interrupted a planning session for a hit. Not good.
But I was hungry. And if the restaurant was just a front, they had to at least try to be legit.
A waiter sat us at a table on the opposite side of the room. The guys at the big table didn’t resume talking. They just mulled around a bit, getting coffee and checking out the paper. I looked at the menu, which with three entrees was as spartan as the room we were in, which had almost no decorations. Given the slim offerings and lack of customers I was fairly sure the place was a front.
We ordered and waited. And then waited some more. And some more. Somebody from the back was probably hauling ass to Safeway to buy some actual food. But I wasn’t going to enquire about our food because there was no way I was taking a ride in the trunk of a Lincoln or Crown Vic. I’m quite claustrophobic. It occurred to me that they were probably trying to wear us down, hoping we’d give up on our food and just leave. Which proves how unqualified these guys were to be mobsters. Who in their right mind would order food from burly Russian dudes and then not pay? No one.
An hour later our food arrived. Mine tasted like someone had boiled down a boot and then added some spoiled cabbage. My friend got some strange potato dumpling thing. We ate quickly, paid up, and left. As we passed the gangster table I smiled and said “Thanks, that was great. We’ll definitely be back.”
The guys just stared.
My friend and I crossed the street and checked out the Russian furniture store. We browsed through elaborate but gaudy furniture covered with fake gold and silver. The stuff was cold and formal, but it was fun to feel like Czar Nicholas II before things turned bad. But other people obviously didn’t share our excitement. That place was empty too.