Houses of Cards

Dinner and a movie, or, if you prefer, dinner with the movies.

The best Friday nights are when I find myself with absolutely no social engagements. After feeding the cats, turning off the ringer, and requesting a dry martini from my live-in bartender, I start thinking about what's for dinner. Often, Friday night dinner includes something wrapped in newspaper; Friday night dinner always includes Professor Fred's Movie Marvels. Aired on SCCtv, an educational and community-oriented television station run by the students and staff of the three Seattle community colleges, it's the only program I like well enough to memorize its time slot (9 p.m. on Fridays, with reruns at 1 a.m. on Saturdays). Professor Fred is really a lawyer from the Eastside, but he's also the guy who, in the late '80s, wrote about the world's worst movies for the now-defunct Rocket. If it stars killer shrews, giant leeches, or hot female Mexican wrestlers about to become dead hot female Mexican wrestlers, Professor Fred knows it, and come Friday night, he'll discuss the plot, divulge tidbits about the B-list actors, and then play it. Of the wonderfully few commercials that punctuate the program, one extolling the virtues of House of Pizza on Aurora always gets my attention. When I found out that Professor Fred had once hosted a screening of a "marvelously bad" Japanese sci-fi movie there, I had to go.

It's hard to say who might call House of Pizza home; the uh, foot traffic in these parts is typically characterized by a lack of appetite, and those arriving by car from points south must navigate an obtrusive median strip. But Lord knows any mismatched dive bar/pizza joint with $1.50 PBRs and big booths presided over by garden gnome–style statuettes of various U.S. presidents certainly has its merits. As for the pizza, the Quattro Formaggio—which I'd suggest, given the address, would do better to go by it's less fancy Yankee translation—was better at lunch the next day after marinating in the refrigerator, but I probably won't go back for it. We also had the vegetarian lasagna, served in an individual casserole dish spotted with the stains of lasagnas gone by. The bubbly and not overly cheesy dish was layered with artichoke hearts, spinach, onion, mushrooms, and lots of garlic. It was fine, but nothing you couldn't pay twice as much for at the Pink Door.

While in the neighborhood, we wanted to check out another Aurora hot spot, so, waiting for hunger to set back in, we killed some time by paying a visit to a curious—and, as it turned out, incredibly messy—liquidator of overrun paper supplies. It was good to know, finally, where all those disregarded wide-ruled spiral-bounds have gone. If you've wondered where Marilyn Monroe's Cadillac went, we know that, too: Shoreline. Club Hollywood owner Mark Mitchell must have the largest collection of entertainment memorabilia in the Northwest, if not the world: glass-encased movie posters, autographed 8-by-10s, and various celebrity detritus line the walls—floor to ceiling—of the rather immense and fairly new space, which includes a piano bar, a mini-museum, a casino, and a restaurant called Red Crane Steak & Sushi. I was brave enough to actually try the sushi, but my Aurora roll (terrifying in theory, fairly benign when wrapped in rice) ranked only slightly higher than the grocery store six-packs you find next to the Kraft Lunchables. But listen, you've got to see this place, if only for the garish carpet and mammoth display of movie-biz propaganda. Forget the sushi; order a ridiculously named drink, situate yourself on one of the blue velveteen couches between Yul Brenner in The Ten Commandments and Eddie Murphy in The Nutty Professor, and just enjoy.

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