The Shining Star at the End of Trash Alley: Couscous Cat

by Eli Hodapp

couscous_cat

Today was another full day in France, starting with waking up at 6:00 AM to play some League of Legends with my friends back home. We owned some scrubs, and I retired to take a quick shower before heading down once again for the incredibly elaborate hotel breakfast buffet. Probably too much food later and we were off on another “short” walk to finish the judging session of the International Mobile Gaming Awards. After hours and hours we came up with the finalists. It’s a pretty good list, although it does drive me crazy just how many of the games the judges haven’t played. Maybe that’ll improve next year.

Following the judging, I insisted on hitting up this North African restaurant in Marseille that I remember going to three years ago. By this time, our massive party of twelve (or more, actually) had dwindled down to a paltry six Americans with none of us who really knew where we were going. Brian had Google Maps cached on his phone, so we were following his blue dot to get to the restaurant. Fortunately, or unfortunately, what seems to be the most direct route on Google Maps might not’ve been the best neighborhood for a pack of confused Americans to wander through.

We left the comfort of the “street of blinky lights” to delve deeper into the neighborhood where we believed the restaurant was located. Oddly enough, Google Maps was routing us straight into the direction of yelling. This eventually lead to “revolutionary square” where there were about a hundred riot cops and probably three times that of protesters before taking a quick turn down the “trash alley” which was this street that was absolutely loaded with garbage. Keep in mind, I have no idea what any of these areas are actually called, but these seem like accurate labels.

Among our crew was our friend Mike, who was getting increasingly cold on the whole idea of couscous, escalating greatly as we approached the crowds of “revolutionary square” and flat out falling off the deep end in the ruins of “trash alley.” The blue dot eventually lead us to the vague area we were supposed to be at, and finding the restaurant was only a matter of walking around the entire block at least once.

This place did not disappoint, I remembered it being beyond legit, and beyond legit is exactly what we got. I figure you know a restaurant is going to be awesome when they have an official restaurant cat. Affectionately dubbed “Couscous cat,” he came by to greet us before eating then traded laps to sit in after we finished our dinner.

couscous

I had barley couscous with a steak skewer affair, which comes served with some kind of chickpea-rich gravy to go on top of it. This all is dished in a super old clay bowl and eaten with an equally ancient looking wooden spoon. I can’t even accurately describe how good this all was. The meat was absolutely falling apart, the couscous was cooked to perfection, and once you added this crazy African gravy to the mix the whole combination was elevated to a level I didn’t really know food was capable of attaining.

We said our goodbyes to Couscous cat and headed back to the hotel, this time being sure to take the “street of blinky lights” which still seemed to be loaded with police officers anyway. We joked that there could be some massive riot taking place and we’re just totally missing it by coincidence alone like the beginning of Sean of the Dead.

For all I know that could actually be happening.

It’s 11:00 PM now, and I need to pack my suitcase to get up at the excruciatingly early hour of 4:45 AM to catch my flight to Amsterdam. Ugh. I should probably get on that.