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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    All the class of classic without the kitsch

    Tyler Bush/ Arizona Daily Wildcat

Owner of the Glass Onion Cafe, Jen McDonald.
    Tyler Bush/ Arizona Daily Wildcat Owner of the Glass Onion Cafe, Jen McDonald.

    The classic Beatles hit, “”Come Together,”” embodies a common goal in our society, all double entendres aside. The buzz about social networking sites is all over the blogosphere; Facebook provides a swifter alternative than word-of-mouth when a party is in the planning stages. Students meet up with classmates for late-night, last-minute cram sessions before major exams. Even single-player videogames have become a spectator sport in some circles. And heaven help you if you ever actually get caught out to dinner or at a bar alone.

    The cluster of coffee shops, bars and eateries immediately surrounding UA, which extends down University Boulevard to merge with the slightly less chain-driven Fourth Avenue, has an advantage in the market of places to meet up or stop by. It’s hard to argue with walking distances, and in most cases you have more than one option in any edible category you could want. Craving pub food and beer on tap? Take your pick. Need a sandwich? There are three sub shops within a block of each other on University alone.

    Apart from a few notable exceptions, the glaring trend here is that there is very little that really stands out. Convenience is a powerful draw for most of these venues’ business; were they located elsewhere, there would be nothing to set them apart from any other branch of their chain. And familiarity breeds contempt, or so it’s been said.

    Of course, a reinterpretation of the familiar can also breed innovation with a hint of nostalgia. Jennifer McDonald, founder and owner of the Glass

    Onion Café, can attest to that fact. McDonald moved from her hometown in Massachusetts to Tucson to “”make it happen here.”” She brought the Fourth Avenue vibe to a northwest neighborhood, and the Onion is flourishing, providing a fresh and organic alternative.

    A sign stating “”Hippies Welcome!”” is visible in the front window of the café. The Glass Onion has been labeled “”the Beatles-themed café,”” but while the artwork on the walls pays homage to the music legends, the presence of tie-dye and mystic crystals is hardly overwhelming. The café is full of sunlight, and snapshots of visitors from the live music nights sprawl across the “”Wall of Fame”” behind the counter.

    “”If you look on the wall of fame, you’ll see there’s people’s grandmothers, infants, little kids … as well as your golfers and lawyer and doctors from the offices around here,”” McDonald said. “”Everybody loves the whole ‘peace, love and understanding’ thing.””

    Her plan for the Thursday night live shows is to give local up-and-comings a foot in the door. “”We want them to come in and play and get their start here,”” she said.

    Tyler Aken, an undeclared UA sophomore with a passion for music, will be playing at the Glass Onion this Thursday night. “”Why did I get this? I don’t even know how to play guitar and I don’t even really want to,”” Aken recalled thinking upon receiving his first guitar as a birthday gift during his freshman year of high school. “”But after a couple months of it just sitting in my room I was like, ‘well, I’ll try to learn a song’ and I just fell in love with it,”” he said. He writes his own songs, which fall into the self-described genre of “”acoustic indie soft-rock.””

    The Glass Onion will prove a fitting venue for Aken’s show; he spent this past weekend at the Coachella music festival, where Paul McCartney played around three hours’ worth of classic Beatles songs. “”It was almost surreal,”” said Aken, whose favorite Beatles album is “”definitely Abbey Road.””

    If Aken’s lucky, McDonald will still be serving the “”Crabby Road”” sandwich on Thursday. It’s not on the menu; you have to ask specifically. If not, the other items on the menu are masterfully crafted, both in title and taste. The “”Back in the USSR,”” a juicy Reuben, has just the right amount of house-made Russian dressing and quality Boarshead corned beef on marble rye ($7). Or maybe Londonport roast beef calls to you from “”London’s Calling,”” laden with hatch green chiles and longhorn cheddar ($7). Breakfasts including the “”No Yoko”” egg white omelet with avocado ($6) and “”Fab Four Fruit Platter”” ($7) are also served from open to close. The dessert case holds ten different varieties of brownie, and the “”Magical Mystery Bar”” is just that: a mystery, albeit a tasty enough one that it doesn’t matter that McDonald might give the secret recipe away.

    The Glass Onion is situated near several other restaurants; however, those who decide to stop by after a “”Hard Day’s Night”” to see what the café is all about will not be disappointed. As for the other restaurants in the neighborhood? When the café is packed, and the doors are open, and the band is playing? “”Their employees were dancing!”” McDonald said.

    “”Play music that makes you feel the way you want to feel, and ‘dream until your dreams comes true,'”” McDonald said, quoting Aerosmith’s “”Dream On.””

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