The Cold War is a 20-year-old memory, and only the most reality-challenged zealots believe socialism poses a threat to the United States. And yet it is so hard to let go of the glorious past.
And so, comrades, let us march boldly into the People’s Nostalgia Sector! Let’s see what lies behind the Ironic Curtain.
Chairman Bao bun truck in Little Saigon, San Francisco.
Chairman Bao, above, was my first indication that Communist Chic was becoming a Thing. (Indication? Make that “blaring alarm”: Those graphics are hard to deny.) The bao of the name are steamed, filled buns; the allusion is, of course, to Mao Zedong. The restaurant doesn’t have a website; its Twitter page says Chairman Bao uses “secret recipes from the Little Red Cookbook” and “is leading the Great Culinary Leap Forward.”
You could wash down your Chairman Bao lunch with a bottle of Leninade, the “surprisingly satisfying simple Soviet-style soda” with “a taste worth standing in line for.” It’s made by Real Soda in Portland, Oregon.
The slogans on the bottle mock old Soviet propaganda: “A Party in Every Bottle,” “Get Hammered & Sickled,” “Drink Comrade! Drink! It’s This or the Gulag!” and “Are You Putin Me On?”
In Detroit, the People’s Pierogi Collective uses socialist-realist graphics to reinforce its claim of being “a revolutionary pierogi phenomenon.”
Pravda, a subterranean speakeasy/restaurant in New York’s SoHo neighborhood (or Nolita; accounts vary), is “part French bistro ... and part Russian bathhouse,” according to a New York Magazine listing:
Lamps designed to resemble Russian streetlights add to the Iron Curtain chic; but it’s a trip to the bathroom, with its stainless-steel toilets and chicken wire separating the stalls, that really makes you feel like you’re back in the U.S.S.R.
Cyrillic-esque typeface: more Iron Curtain chic.
In the Soviet Union, there were two state-approved national newspapers, Pravda, whose name means “truth,” and Izvestia, which means “news.” There was a creaky old joke: “There is no izvestia in Pravda and no pravda in Izvestia.”
I assume that Pravda pours Stoli, da?
Communism may be dead, but Constructivism lives forever. Here’s to friendship between nations!
UPDATE: Commenter Linnaeus alerted me to Walzwerk, which offers “authentic and unique East German cuisine” in San Francisco’s Mission District. There are framed photos of Marx and Engels on one wall, and the menu is heavy on cabbage and potatoes.