There is something undeniably attractive about playing hard to get. Aloofness tends to elevate the object of attention above those who seek it. Lim's could care less about getting you in the door, but make an effort to try this place and you'll discover more than just the seductive aura of indifference.
Vintage flat placard signage, opaque glass block windows and defiant metal doors make this location tough to find no matter how many times you've driven Broadway.
There are two street-side entrances, posing the question--lounge or restaurant? The right door leads to Lim's, the left to Ves' bar, which has been around since 1969. Given my mission, I went right, entering a shotgun style diner with eleven tables lined up against a backdrop of seventies-era linoleum floors and wooden paneled walls. The friendly waitress had an appetizer of BBQ pork on the table within minutes of my arrival. Thinly sliced pieces of ham encircled hot mustard and sesame seeds. If you need to go to the doctor to get rid of a cold, eat the pork with a healthy slather of Lim's mustard instead--it's cheaper and more effective. I liked the dish. Next came a main course of spicy beef. Lean shards of tender steak were intermingled with carrots, onions, celery, and green peppers. The sauce was too gelatinous for my taste, but overall I was pleased. Total bill was eleven and change. I must admit that the moment I arrived, all I really wanted to do was hang out at Ves'. There are two entrances leading temptingly from the restaurant into the lounge, so after dinner, I wasted no time wandering next door.
Ves' is so dimly lit that your eyes need to adjust when you first enter, strategically giving patrons a chance to escape out the back if need be. Five televisions are interspersed among shuffleboard and pool tables, video games, a jukebox and ample seating.
I went straight to the sparsely populated bar to order a beer. At first the fifty something bartender looked busy with orders from the waitress. Then he made drinks for a guy who came up to the bar after me. Finally he ambled over in my direction, looked right through me, sat in the corner and took a few leisurely drags of his cigarette. I lingered, eagerly rocking over the bar with my eyebrows raised, trying to look more like someone who wanted a beer (maybe he didn't know). He cruised by, and I tried to speak, but at this point asking him for a drink felt like asking Josie Wales how his wife and kids were doing. So there I stood, the only guy at the bar, trying to look purposeful with my real cool courier bag slung over my shoulder while Clint Eastwood ignored me. I loved it. The bartender was making it perfectly clear that I would be welcome on his terms only. Eventually I got my beer and struck up a conversation with a regular and an off duty waitress. Turns out that the bar leases space to the restaurant. You can get food on Ves' side from Lim's, but only a limited selection of American bar fare like hamburgers. I was told that the owners of Lim's take great pride in their restaurant and work very long hours. The pool tables are in great shape, and Ves' has a rule that if a ball hits the floor, then a quarter fee is paid to the bar.
So for the New Year, eat at Lim's, drink at Ves', and you will have a very good year.
--Waj Nasser does hot mustard shots