On this bright Sunday afternoon, its indoor-pool-like acoustics amplify a varied din, making it almost impossible to hear Alia Shawkat as she leads me up two escalators to a vegan restaurant she likes to patronize after spending an evening downtown drunk or stoned. The entrance is so nondescript it’s hard to tell it’s an entrance at all. I fumble for a bit until the 27-year-old actress pulls aside some drapes to help guide my way. Inside it’s quiet, save for some vaguely flamenco-sounding music and the soft, ASMR-like voice of our hostess. “Are you guys OK with vegan food?” she whispers. We reply in the affirmative. Shawkat is dressed in a button-up blouse, black T-shirt, and khaki shorts, her freckled face framed by her signature curls, her eyes seeming to bear the world-weariness of a much older woman. We’re led to a table covered with sheet paper near a big window. Our view: a semi-vacant mall flooded in fluorescent lighting.
“You know, what I just remembered about this restaurant is that it’s always a challenge to order,” Shawkat says quietly after we’re asked a second time by the hostess whether we’re OK with everything on the menu being vegan. A few minutes later she returns to find out if we have any allergies. “No, we don’t,” Shawkat replies. The hostess walks back to the kitchen. After a few more trips back and forth asking si