Entering 521 East Washington Street this afternoon, I was struck with warm air and a welcoming and friendly feeling, things that customarily greets the Red Avocado’s customers. However, on this day something was obviously missing.
Today, Saturday January 22nd, 2012, was the last day for Iowa City to get out and enjoy organic, locally grown delicacies at the wonderful Red Avocado restaurant. The atmosphere in the quaint little business today contained a feeling of excitement, uncertainty, and of sadness. I do not use those words lightly, either, for they are just mere attempts at describing the end of an era for not only the business, but for Iowa City as a whole. Today we lost not only just a great restaurant, but a staple of the community, a piece of the puzzle that makes Iowa City the uniquely wonderful city that it is.
I walked into the far room of the restaurant, where I was meeting a friend, and took a seat. The room was tiny, but not cramped, in fact it was rather cozy. The melodies of a jazz saxophone solo played quietly in the background as patrons eagerly exchanged conversation. As I surveyed the menu I was struck with the overwhelming urge to purchase every item on the menu, for I knew this was my last chance to enjoy the unique array of options the Red Avocado had been serving to the community for nearly 13 years. I am saddened to even have to speak of the restaurant in the preterit tense, for it is such a place, so unique, so wonderful, that to see it go is describable only as I have already described it previously; saddening.
Our waitress came to the table with glasses of water. She handed us two menus, which were neatly printed on a single sheet of paper each, double sided, and contained brief descriptions of the nourishing, delicious food that makes their standard of excellency comparable, in my opinion as a proud City High student, to that of the School that Leads.
We looked through the menu with interest, but needn’t have, for we both knew precisely what we were to order. Aptly named ‘The Bomb Veggieburger,’ the Red Avocado’s veggie burger is exactly what it is called; an incredibly tasty burger containing an assortment of delicious vegetables, topped with a sauce similar in taste to that of mayo or Miracle Whip, all enclosed between two pieces of perfectly toasted bread. As previously stated it is, “the bomb.” I also ordered the side salad, and my friend the home fries, which I later regretted not having ordered myself, for they were equally, if not more, delectable to my more expensive salad.
We savored our sandwiches to the last bite and watched as more patrons came and went, all saddened to see the venue go. The jazz changed to reggae, specifically that of Bob Marley, pleasing both myself and my company and spiking reggae recollections into our conversation. After a few minutes our waitress returned and shared the delectable dessert menu with us verbally. Unable to decide between the four elaborate options we requested a few more minutes, so as to decide which of the delicacies to select. After some debate, the truffle was decided upon, and we proceeded to order two. Shortly after that our waitress returned with our rich chocolate confections, warning us of its richness and sadly informing us that they were “the last two truffles we’ll ever serve.”
The three of us shared a bittersweet moment, and, after our waitress returned to the front of the store, the then two of us enjoyed a bittersweet concoction. The truffles consisted of rich chocolate spheres coated in sliced almonds, and were elegantly presented with an orange slice on the side, creating a vibrant picture. They were indeed rich, but equally delicious. The thought of the dessert being the Red Avocado’s last drove us to lick our plates clean, literally. After having finished our lunches we loitered at our table for nearly an hour more, conversing and simply enjoying the enticing atmosphere that is the Red Avocado. I noted that, although originally slated to close between lunch and dinner, as they usually do, at two o’clock, a steady stream of customers still flowed through the doors, driven by a feeling of necessity to enjoy their beloved restaurant for one last time. Finally feeling that we had stayed long enough, we paid our bill, tipped our charming server, gathered our things, and exited the restaurant, thanking the help as we left. The Red Avocado truly is one of a kind and I am sad to see them go. May they find a new home, and may we continue to keep Iowa City’s wonderful businesses such as the Red Avocado alive. A truly sad loss for all of us. Here’s to individuality among us all, it’s what the Red Avocado brought to the table, it’s what we all need. I just hope what Bob Marley sang comes true, for if the Red Avocado can come back, then “every little thing is gonna be alright.”
Now, after reading this (if you made it the whole way through,) you may be a bit disheartened, and I don’t blame you, I know I am! Just remember that we can all make a difference so we don’t lose anymore of Iowa City’s soul. Stand up for your favorite restaurants so you can continue to sit down in them. If you want something done, do it yourself, because sadly, you can’t always count on others to do the right thing. And as a message to Iowa City, don’t lose heart either. You lost a building filled with greatness today, but stay classy, stay unique, it’s why we love you.
Photos by Eli Shepherd for The Little Hawk.