So, this Vietnamese-Cajun crawfish boil place turned out to be the single most racially diverse joint in Utah. Asian, black, white, Latino, all united in a bliss of smeary crawfish slurping and crab-leg cracking and goo. A little part of me that had been clenched up for so long that I’d forgotten about it, unclenched momentarily.
And I remembered something, something I’d almost forgotten since I’d left Los Angeles, three years ago. Back when I was still posting on Chowhound like a madman and working for the LA Times, on the food beat, trying to cram in enough time to check out about four new restaurants a week between my bouts of grad school, I started noticing some patterns.
Like: diversity is a sign of good food. Not a sure sign, but a damn good one. I mean: racial diversity, economic diversity, cultural diversity, age diversity. If you hit a restaurant and it’s all young trendy Korean club kids, you’re screwed. If you hit a restaurant and it’s all elderly couples who’ve been going there for twenty years, you’re screwed. If you hit a restaurant and it’s wall-to-wall manicured mustaches and thrift store sundresses, you’re about to get screwed AND overcharged.
But if you walk in the door and there’s everybody – young kids, older couples, Asians, white people, black people, every indeterminate color – well, it’s a good sign. I’m not saying this out of some kind of soggy pseudo-liberal hopefulness. I’m saying it because there’s a genuine goddamn empirical correlation.
My theory, in the end, was this: people tend to move in herds. Like attracts like. But something that can break through that barrier is some good damn food. It calls people out of their comfort zone, of their cultural class.
So, Salt Lake City, I give you: Bucket ‘o Crawfish, a Vietnamese-Cajun seafood joint, and the best damned seafood in town.