Beer in Branford
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The dining experience at Jackie Tonight is somewhere between dreams and inebriation. The interior of Jackie’s house is a warren of dark rooms made yet more befuddling by the smoke from open fires and cigars that Jackie smokes. The rough walls are a jumble of mysterious objects collected by Jackie on the theme of magic, herbology and astrology. The mix of furniture recalls a pawn shop, and piled in every corner are ‘gifts’ left by diners, a pair of shoes, an umbrella, a mask of Mr. Bean. But it’s the lucky that bag a seat on the mismatching gold thrones and Rococo chairs. Those who draw the short straw find themselves gingerly perching on a coffin.
It might sound like the lure of a serial killer, but Jackie opens his home and hospitality to anyone brave enough to venture in, and asks for nothing in return. In fact, if one takes the time to listen, the story of Jackie is both moving and uplifting (if true). Playing in casinos from a young age, he learned quickly about winning and losing, and about injustice when forced to surrender winnings to a Mafioso. He claims to have lived in a castle with a ballerina, and to have opened 20 restaurants in Germany that he then gave to friends to run. As such, he offers wine and food to his guests, but won’t bring you a bill. If you wish to show your gratitude for the meal you simply leave your contribution underneath the grappa bottle on your table.
Jackie may be mad (and won’t be offended if you tell him so), but he might just understand how to live life better than all of us. If you choose to venture down the dark alley and stumble across the jungle of plants, old bikes and strung-up shoes outside his home, if you are brave enough to knock on the door and be ushered brusquely into the dark chaos within, you will be well rewarded. Dinners are generous and well cooked by him and his wife, including a family-size pan of spaghetti and squid (appropriately black), a second course of grilled fish, and a dessert of cake and a bottle of grappa plonked on the table. Jackie himself will happily partake in selfies, persuade you to search for his internet presence, and invite you to take a tour of his unique abode.
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