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I catered a strip club lunch hour

I found out hamburger buns trump lady buns, even in a strip club.

I found out hamburger buns trump lady buns, even in a strip club.

I always wanted to be a stripper but I never had the balls. The realm of the woman who wields that much power, using nothing more than beauty and wiles, held a seductive and glamorous allure. But the closest I ever got was catering the lunch hour at a small downtown club, every weekday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. I'd set up the buffet, light the chafing dishes, and come back the next day to do it all over again.  

Skin joints will often offer a lunchtime deal in order to lure gentlemen away from their regular sandwich and burger habitrails. If you only have one hour away from work, what appetites are you going to try to satisfy, anyway? Strip clubs try to make the decision less of a mind-bender by offering a twofer: a little lunch in between pieces of eye candy. 

Entering a strip club in the middle of a sunny day, completely sober, is nothing like the typical alcohol-soaked jaunts one usually takes after three tequila poppers, a bottle of wine, and two Grape Apes. On nights like those it can suddenly seem like thunderous inspiration to go see some naked ladies, regardless of your sexual orientation. Quality entertainment is quality entertainment.

But during the day, strip clubs are almost eerily quiet, save for the incessant thump of grind rock, the rustling of an evening gown dropping to the floor, and the squeak of cheap couch springs. This time of day, the clientele is much different than at night, utterly free of drunken dude bros and Twins fans, instead consisting of just a handful of older, probably married men —  the kinds of people who take this endeavor very seriously. Some dancers have told me that they prefer the day shift because the customers are more gentlemanly. They're quiet people looking for a bit of human company.

It takes long minutes for your eyes to adjust to the dark, and only the glow of the juice cooler, the stage bulbs (two of which are burned out), and the occasional iPhone screen illuminate the aquarium-like cool darkness. I'd clang in with my chafing dishes and serving utensils and coolers and attempt to set up the buffet as inconspicuously as possible. 

From the corner of my eye I can see a dancer pushing her booty out toward a lone observer on the tip rail; she drops her dress just for him, and then her panties. She leans forward onto the pole and I'm somewhat incredulous of all he gets to observe for the low price of a few crumpled dollar bills. Then again I make taco meats for a living so who am I to say? 

Turning my attention as best as possible back to filling steam table pans with braised beef, tortillas, and arroz con gandules (taco Tuesdays are a big hit), I spy a lap dance taking place in the corner and can't help but divide my attentions between the beans and the grind. I notice that strippers never look their clients in the eyes. I can't help but wonder how anyone can even feign seduction without an occasional, cursory eye glance. Maybe I would't make a good stripper after all. 

But I do make an OK cook, and when I arrive each day a few minutes before 11 to set up, all the staff is impatiently waiting on me, especially the guys — security, DJs, and management. I can see them peeking out the heavy, red, casino-style light-blocking curtains as I pull up in my sensible Ford Focus hatchback and plug the meter with the few quarters' worth of time it will take to set up and say my hellos and get back to the business of my straight job. 

Inside, the boys bumrush my little sliver of the club right up front, away from the stage. They want to know what's on today, they want to know what I'm up to, they're genuinely excited to see me. My arrival in my dowdy dress and cook's clogs is a true source of excitement in this mysterious den where naked sylphs in eight-inch platform stilettos and sparkly body spray wander as freely and gracefully as impalas in the jungle.

The men begin to pile their plates up high. I've become a ninja at producing vast piles of dude food on a budget. Hefty, thick pork shoulders braised overnight in whole cloves of garlic and cans of Coca Cola; pot roast dripping with red wine reduction to spoon over silky pomme puree without a single lump; juicy hamburgers that I made sure to slightly undercook so they stay moist and medium when it comes time to pile them up on a bun and condimentize with handmade aioli and caramelized shallots and sweaty slices of Gruyere. 

I'd pack up my kit and high tail it out to get back to the kitchen and start prepping for the following day's lunch. It was an endless routine of Costco runs, meat braising, and bread slicing. Guys can eat a lot. 

Eventually, I resigned from my post as bringer of edible treats to the skin party. It just wasn't profitable enough, and my daily glimpses into the mysterious depths of the club — like anything once unknown and now familiar — had lost its thrills. 

Later, a friend who worked there told me:

"The boys were all bummed when you left. They thought you were so hot! All these naked girls and they were looking at you!" 

Well, I have always known the way to a man's heart. 

What to eat at local strip clubs: 

Seville Club 

The gold standard in local strip club eating, the Seville serves it up restaurant-style with edamame pot stickers, Caesar salads, steaks, and pastas. Watch your pocketbook because nothing here is cheap, including the women. 

Spearmint Rhino

Frozen junk poured out of bags like mini corn dogs "served with mustard and ketchup," Jimmy Dean Breakfast Sandwiches, and tots. Employ only if the grumbling of your guts is making that lap dance even more mortifying than it needs to be. 

Deja Vu 

Free hot dog buffet midnight to close, because no club wants to lose a customer to the late-night munchies. Did we mention it's free, leaving you more to spend on testing the limits of passing bills from one person to the other without the aid of hands? 

Rick's Cabaret 

Another kitchen producing "fine dining," if grilled chicken breasts and prime rib every other Friday constitutes as such. "Come feast your eyes on the beautiful Rick’s entertainers while you literally feast on the succulent food available at Rick’s Cabaret Minneapolis." Um, yeah. 

King of Diamonds 

Make like you're at the State Fair with mac 'n' cheese bites, mozzarella sticks, onion rings, and cheese-stuffed pretzel rolls (where else are you going to get those, anyway?)