Dining Out: Lounge on 20

Many 2nd Saturdays, you’ll find my girlfriend Joy and me at Lounge on 20, usually with her two kids in tow. We’ll be among those off in some corner, playing with long pieces of masking tape.

No, it’s not the latest trend, as far as I know. It’s because our friend Danny Scheible has been brought on as the artist in residence every Saturday. Danny’s hard to miss; he’ll be the 6’5” guy carrying several rolls of tape. Not bad work if you can get it. For five months, he’s being paid to just talk to the customers while making art.

We’ll usually end up there after checking out some galleries, hanging out with Danny’s girlfriend Zara and sometimes some other friends as well. Danny developed his unique style while a student at UC Santa Cruz, but he’s been kind enough to show us the basics: lay out a long section of tape, roll into a tube just so, then start rolling and folding that into an infinite variety of shapes. Danny’s made lamps and figures, sometimes casting them into glass. Currently he’s been working on a fanciful tape version of Sacramento, now several feet long, which lives at Lounge on 20.

On our most recent visit (after initially being turned away at the door and only let in because we knew Danny), Joy casually mentioned that “we really ought to actually eat here sometime. The risotto is amazing.”

So we did. There’s something really decadent about having a fancy meal on a Monday night. Lounge on 20 is spacious and spare, with lots of white—part of the reason the tape are fit right in. We sat on a leather couch together while we ate. There was no one within 20 feet of us.

I turns out, the risotto really is amazing. It’s got lots of mushrooms, and lots of butter, but the dominant flavor is truffle oil. It comes in three sizes, $5, $12 and $18. We had the $12 plate, which was small, but filling. As good as it is, she noted, “this isn’t the kind of thing you’d want to eat every day.”

I had the prix fix meal ($25 or $35, depending on courses and the day of the week). We started with the baby beet salad with arugula and citrus (available individually for $6 or $12). As the main course, we split the lamb chops ($23 a la carte). These were very tender, served on the bone with mint. They came with a really excellent medley of mashed potatoes and vegetables.

For desert, we had two “tastes”—itty bitty little deserts. I was most excited by the chocolate hazelnut mouse, but it wasn’t as good as the lemon buttermilk panna cotta, which tasted like cheesecake in a shot glass. And speaking of drinks, Joy had a cocktail that costs more than a pizza and sounded like a James Bond movie—the Vow of Silence ($10), with vodka, grapefruit, campari and honey. I don’t drink, but it sure smelled good.

In short, Lounge 20 reminded me of a lot of the kind of places I went back during the dot-com scene in San Francisco—except a lot more casual and a lot less crowded (both good things). And the arts scene is better here than it ever was there.

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