Review: Old Ironsides Café

The ground floor of a typically dull office park might not be where you’d expect to find some darn good, authentic Greek fare, but the owners of Santa Clara’s Old Ironsides Café (located just off Great America Parkway north of Highway 101, and about a quarter mile south of the Old Ironsides lightrail station) have been serving it up since 1988.

Photo © Old Ironsides Café

Most of the valley’s Greek-themed luncheonettes dish out Cypriot-style gyros, some even serve them in a bowl — a culinary crime, in my book! But Old Ironsides leans toward the classic Greek. Thinly sliced strips of mildly spiced lamb piled high with red onions and lettuce are smothered with a tangy yogurt dressing, then folded into a soft, warm, round, wheat flatbread. Like all good gyros, once you remove it from the paper wrapping in which it is served, you won’t be able to put it down for fear of it falling apart.

Old Ironsides’ lunch combinations come with hummus and the café’s Veggie Delight — essentially Mujadara (a traditional Mediterranean rice and lentil dish), subtly infused with caramelized onions, and enlivened with crisp diced tomatoes and cucumbers. Mixing in a spoonful of minced jalapeños (you have to ask for them!) transforms the side dish into a delicious transcontinental fusion one would only find in Silicon Valley. The tabbouleh (made from crushed wheat bulgur, and finely chopped parsley and tomatoes) is cool and fresh with a hint of lemon. If you’re not quite ready to plunge into unfamiliar kibbeh, kabobs, falafel, dolmas, or gyros, a wide variety of less-Mediterranean choices are available, ranging from Hoagies and Polish sausages to Philly cheese steaks and a slew of vegetarian dishes.

A can of soda is included with any of the combos, but you can substitute anything else (the typical bottled waters, juices, and beers) for a nominal surcharge. I don’t drink coffee, but I’ve been told by several coworkers that the traditionally thick, twice-boiled Turkish coffee, a specialty of the café for many years, is exceptional. I’m sure it goes quite well with the assortment of flaky, homemade baklava and various slices of cakes displayed on the ample countertop.

There is a reasonable amount of seating, but the round tables are quite small — suitable for two, but very cramped and a bit awkward when forced during peak hours to accommodate your party of four. High-top counters and bar stools line the front, and there is room for some spillover in the patio area of the office complex at the rear of the café.

Old Ironsides sports the kind of wall treatments one would expect in an informal Greek restaurant, the somewhat confusing exception being a large poster of Bavaria’s Neuschwanstein Castle. The misnomered “Deli Bar” in an unobtrusive corner begrudgingly relinquishes a small space for communal sauces and condiments, as it mainly serves as a touching mantelpiece of old family photos. The familial atmosphere is further enhanced by the proprietors themselves, who — while a bit brusk and hurried during the busiest times — are otherwise very caring, friendly, and accommodating.

The pair of surrogate Greek relatives coupled with the fresh, authentic Mediterranean cuisine entice me back once or twice a month to fulfill a frequent craving.

Author’s note: I’m feel like I should be somewhat apologetic to these nice folks that a review of their family-owned restaurant happens to sit between Maria’s breasts and two prostitutes from Dominican Republic.

Hmmm… On the other hand, I guess I shouldn’t feel too bad because I wouldn’t mind being between Maria’s breasts and two prostitutes from Dominican Republic myself…

Dominican Republic: Prostitution

Finding a prostitute in the Dominican Republic is easy. Really easy! You just won’t believe how positively, undeniably, mind-bogglingly easy it is! I mean, you may think it’s easy to find a pineapple stand on the side of a pothole-encrusted road outside of Santo Domingo — but that’s just peanuts to finding a prostitute.

For those over the age of 18, prostitution is legal in the island country as long as no third party (such as a pimp) is involved in the transaction. At night, the local discos and bars fill up with Dominican women in their late teens or early twenties, who stare suggestively at male tourists or rub up against them like cats. Nearby strip clubs allow you to take a working girl out if you pay the club a salida, or exit fee. Adult resorts — such as BlackBeards in Puerto Plata (where “fantasies become reality”) — cater to single men and swingers with on-site companions. Passion’s Night Club in Sosua even offers a no-haggle, full-service menu, with a take-out option!

Photo © Passion‘s Sosua

If you somehow still can’t figure out where to get some sweaty entertainment, popular adult websites educate subscribers on where they can go to “get 18-year-old girls for less than the price of a good steak.” A plethora of available “guides” on every street corner will gladly steer you to the closest cold beer, hot food, or “skinny chica” in exchange for a buck or two.

According to a Wired Magazine interview with a Dominican Republic prostitute, “there is always a demand for sex. Men will always pay for it, especially in here where they can get anything they want at a discount.” Right before Christmas, more girls than normal work in brothels and massage parlors in order to earn some quick money for the holidays. In the same interview, a 15-year old girl in a hot-pink Lycra dress stated, “I don’t have an education, and I’ve got two children. Where else can I make such good money? To be a prostitute, you don’t need schooling, all you need is your body.”

Well, she needs a cédula if she’s going to visit clients in their hotel rooms. A cédula is like an internal passport, a government-issued identity document that allows citizens access to public services and to move about freely. It is common practice for hotels to take a girl’s cédula during the conjugal visit and return it to her when she leaves. That way, if there are any crimes committed during her stay, the hotel can take the girl’s cédula directly to the police. Citizens found without their cédula are often arrested, or even deported to nearby Haiti if their skin color is dark enough — a whole other story.

Most of the bigger hotels or all-inclusive resorts have on-site security officers who will refuse to allow streetwalkers inside, limiting entry only to registered guests. Not to worry; the opportunity for sex is everywhere. The country is littered with ”turisticas”. Also known as cabanas, these upscale, rent-by-the-hour hotel rooms are frequented by the locals even more than the tourists.

About a half hour east of the capital city of Santo Domingo, Boca Chica, a seedy beach town, is a popular destination for sex-seeking tourists, despite a short-lived crackdown on the negative image of prostitution and its related crimes several years ago. Yards from the beach where families with young, half-naked children wade in the shallow water, nubile dark-skinned women snuggle in the laps of plump, elderly American and European tourists.

My Search for a Prostitute

Photo © Richard D. LeCour

My reward being solely material for my website, I set out to corner a prostitute in Boca Chica in order to snap a picture. After strolling the beach for about 20 minutes and realizing a bit too late that I needed to ditch my traveling companion since we looked like a bit too much like a staid gay couple, it took less than three minutes to catch the attention of Marissa and her friend. It required only the flash of a smile.

“Just relax,” said the voice in my head pleasantly, like a flight attendant in an twin-engine airplane with only one working engine, the other of which is on fire. “You are perfectly safe — they’re harmless.”

Marissa (the girl in the green-tinged, off-white tank top) was clearly in charge; she monopolized the brief, now-forgotten conversation so much that I never heard the name of her darker-skinned partner. After posing briefly for the photo, the pair morphed into a form of land-based kraken, tentacles groping and grappling. I strove to disengage, feigning ignorance to their profession, while Marissa persistently sought to keep my attention. I suppose I could have paid them for the photo as Marissa requested in a valiant last-ditch effort, but I was not about to expose my wallet as I had used the sorry-no-money ploy in my getaway.

Obviously, the recent crackdown in Boca Chica has done nothing to actually discourage business; it is quite rampant throughout the country, although the majority of the sex trade has been pushed to the north coast. A German-language on-line tourism guide to the Dominican Republic states that “prostitutes and their inexpensive offerings are the favorite goal of many single male German travelers”, noting that the “center of sexual tourism is now Sosua”, a city on the northern beachfront of the island. The German guide website states that “the women already possess the vocabulary of the most important language.” My German’s a bit rusty, so the translation after that point is a bit questionable; the women are either (a) quite proficient linguistically, or (b) really good with their tongues. Both have their merits, I suppose.

Mostly harmless.

Author’s Note: This article is intended to educate readers on the prevalence of prositution in Dominican Republic. While written with artistic license in a seemingly approving tone, I do not actually approve of, condone, or support prostitution of any kind in any way. All comments and questions regarding legal prostitution are encouraged, however anything surrounding the topic of underage prostitution is prohibited.]