CafeteriaHere, once again, is a restaurant at which I didn’t eat a thing. I just kind of sat back with a beer and soaked in the gay. It’s not as if I’m a burly mountain man or anything, but the clientele at this Chelsea eatery did kind of have me feeling like a big frat jerk. Perhaps that’s why they banished us to the basement space, and only sent a server down accidentally at one point to most likely retrieve a mop or something from the utility closet. The booth we sat in could only be likened to the weird half-shell tilt-a-whirl ride that one finds at like church carnivals. It’s probably a false memory, but the all-white modern Ikea look of the place just screamed theme bar to me. And what’s a better theme than a space-aged carnival? I suppose that thematically the food is, well, all about the cafeteria. Literally serving pumped up, high quality versions of junk you’d find in your average school cafeteria (mac ‘n cheese, meatloaf, etc.), it allows trendoid Manhattanites to live like the rest of us schnooks–or at least pretend to. It’s kind of like ordering that PBR at the bar that’s paying $15,000 a month in rent and pretending you’re in a shanty shack in Alabama. Three cheers for kitsch. My beer tasted like beer, and eventually people filtered downstairs to join us, but there was a weird homogeny I saw down there that was not repeated upstairs when I ran up to use the restaurant. While we were a relatively somber group, the main floor was a little more, uh, happy. Maybe it was the lack of natural light. Maybe it was just the feeling of being a pariah. All I know is that my outlook drastically improved when, after one beer, I left to go get a nice greasy burger down the street at Peter McManus. [MF]