No Hats Allowed at Mastro's Steakhouse
I’m bald. Not balding. Bald. I can’t remember the last time I had use for a brush or comb (do people still use combs?), but it was definitely before Los Angeles became the best food city in the country, which means I was wasting a luscious head of hair at dumps like Jerry’s Deli on Beverly (R.I.P.) for far too many years. Want some more perspective on how long I’ve been an aesthetically lesser human? Here are other things that didn’t exist when I last ran a grooming tool through my now deceased locks: Instagram, Kevin Spacey talking to you with a creepy accent while you’re Netflix and chilling (this saying also didn’t exist), and avocado toast being a thing or maybe even existing at all.
My hair isn’t thinning anymore. There’s no trace of a fertile landscape for Propecia, Rogaine or any other so-called follicle-enhancement that trades a slim chance of growth for a definitely crippled sex drive (an easy decision: eat the pills). There’s no hope at all.
BALD, like a young Larry David, like a slightly less successful David Geffen, like Andrew Zimmern without a taste for sous-vide rhinoceros penis.
B-a-l-d, bald. And I don’t want to be bald, but those are the breaks, and we only got one life to live, so I wear a hat most of the time because friends have taken me aside, placed sympathetic hands on my shoulder and revealed I look better with one of my many New Era baseball caps covering the genetic snake eyes on my head. So, that’s that. That’s me. That’s what you need to know. And you’re learning this from a man with what most people consider an embarrassing food obsession, so here comes the restaurant angle: A RESTAURANT THAT DOES NOT ALLOW BALD CUSTOMERS TO WEAR HATS IS A RESTAURANT THAT MAY NOT RECEIVE MY BUSINESS! Except for Mastro’s. I really love Mastro’s, and will always eat there.
From the bread and butter to the butter cake and all the churned dairy-painted steak plates and side dishes in between, Mastro’s is the perfect rendering of a quintessential steakhouse. It is a must-have in any city with a healthy population of budget-blowing gourmands and/or fans of prostitution (let’s just say HBO could do a late-night docu-series on the bar scene in Beverly Hills). Moving on. The breadbasket: piping hot, pretzel stick-dominated greatness. The shrimp cocktail: three of the plumpest prawns you’ve ever seen, dipped in liquid nitrogen spewing, nostril-stinging horseradish whipped cocktail sauce nirvana. The steaks: marbled hunks of aged perfection. But the dress code: soul-crushingly horrific.
Speaking of soul-crushing, have you ever found yourself flirting with someone miles out of your league at a bar, miraculously received the nod to take them home for possible sexy late-night activities, only for them to finally see your bald spot while exiting and instantly vanish into a sea of young drunks, leaving you alone and wondering what the hell just happened? Well, I’ll tell you what the hell happened: GOD HAPPENED. Your mom’s bald bastard of a gene mutation-spreading father happened. Baldness happened.
I didn’t only start losing my hair at 20; a confidence and self-assuredness that had fueled my social engines also began to erode. I was the bald guy, and unfortunately for me, no one else in my circle seemed to be transforming into George Costanza. It’s not like George didn’t get laid, but I didn’t want to get laid like George. No one wants to get laid like George. I was supposed to be Jerry! And if a Jerry dating life wasn’t in the cards, I would have happily accepted Kramer (how sad does this sound? This is really sad). And sure, Marisa Tomei may have had a thing for George, and almost all of his girlfriends throughout the years were attractive, but he was still George Costanza: the bald guy. And when you’re the bald guy, it’s hard not to feel like the bald loser.
My last year at college, when depression from feeling the breeze a little too much on my scalp was really blanketing me all nice and snuggly, a friend from high school who attended a nearby college invited me to stay with him for the weekend. There was a big football game and an even bigger house party, and it was “Can’t miss, dude,” and the school was only a short drive away, and a football game sounded fun, but the house party sounded like a nightmare. Now, keep in mind, this was in the beginning stages of Jordan’s hair loss, and in the beginning, he didn’t know what to do or how to handle the newly developed handicap. The best plan of action, the action he participates in weekly these days — shaving his head — is still a far-off reality. Jordan (like many bald schmucks before him) was clinging to whatever decaying skull protein he had left, and being a rookie soldier in this DNA war, he hadn’t yet armed himself with a collection of hats to cover the Homey D. Clown wig length irregularities.
Why is Jordan suddenly writing in the third-person? I don’t know, but it ends now. Then, I remembered something. And the anxiety connected to being the only balding student at the party eased without chewing numerous Klonopin. It dawned on me: One of the other kids I know from back home who goes to this school and will be at this party is a balder schmuck than me! He was full-blown Ed Harris, while I was only full-blown Woody Allen. I had options, some cover, some sort of a head of hair (from limited angles). He had nothing. I wouldn’t be the baldest schmuck at the party. I could deal with that. Second baldest schmuck at a party is a whole different ball game. I decided to roll.
It was good to see my friend, the football game was whatever, and then it was party time. I strolled in as confident as I could muster, ignoring my goblin-like deficiencies ... and you know what? I wasn’t thinking about being the second baldest schmuck at the party; I actually found myself having a good time — until, I ran into the Ed Harris bald kid I knew from high school who was inexplicably and totally out of the blue wearing an absolutely beautiful toupee that made him look like a goddamn Adonis. I was now the baldest schmuck at the party. Within minutes, I would also be the drunkest.
So, that was college.
When I moved back to Los Angeles and was still the only bald guy in my circle, I began wearing hats as I adapted to my new post-college life, and soon word of a new steakhouse in Beverly Hills spread, and reviews from friends were impressive (a cascade of accolades like: “It will melt your fucking face”). I obviously needed to shatter my Mastro’s virginity after glowing raves like that, so I put on a crisp pair of jeans, a freshly dry-cleaned button-down shirt and, of course, a Dodgers hat after starving myself in preparation for what would surely be an epic stuffing of the face. And now remember, at this time in Los Angeles (we’re talking very early 2000s), the restaurant scene, especially our steakhouse status, was dustier than Donald Trump’s personal salad spinner. It was Taylor’s, The Palm and Mussos. There were no fire-grilled bisteccas. There were no Miyazaki Prefecture selections at Cut. There was no revamped Michael Voltaggio menus or cool ocean air at The Arthur J or sliced porterhouses and red sauce bottles at Wolfgang’s. There was Morton’s and Ruth’s Chris and some place called Monty’s. But, that was in the past, because there I was, standing in front of a cow carcass paradise with an aqua blue facade, and nothing was going to stop me ... except for the doorman, who threw a Heisman pose forearm into my chest, demanding I remove the Dodgers cap before entering.
No hats allowed at Mastro’s Steakhouse.
The anxiety spilled and splattered as flawless heads of hair surrounded me, as physically untainted beings who had looked down upon my bald people for centuries came and went, and it was in this fearful moment of impending public cranium exposure, I realized a change had to come. I needed the best new steakhouse in Los Angeles. I needed to get over feeling like the bald guy. I ditched the hat, gulped into a dry throat as that familiar breeze hit my most northern regions, and proceeded inside.
And while experiencing what would quickly become one of my favorite meals, I couldn’t help but think about a scene from The Sopranos, where Tony and his chef pal, Artie Bucco, are eating at a nice restaurant and get all bent out of shape over a yuppie in a hat dining nearby. I used to watch that scene and think, well that makes sense, only a murderous, sociopathic gangster like Tony Soprano would demand an innocent person remove an article of their wardrobe in public. But while sitting at Mastro’s that first time, my hat finally discarded, I felt different. Something happened; something more powerful than my fucking face melting (as my friends correctly and so eloquently stated): I got over the bald thing. I got over needing to wear hats everywhere. A restaurant helped me come to terms with and conquer this monstrous condition, and I started enjoying that sweet breeze on the scalp ... but almost only when eating at Mastro’s. There’s a good chance I wear a hat in your restaurant if you allow it, because my friends are right, I look better that way, and as we all know, looks are everything (besides food).
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