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First Taste: That under-the-radar new Planned Parenthood

First Taste: That under-the-radar new Planned Parenthood

The new Planned Parenthood complex is located along I-45, straddling the seam of EaDo and the Third Ward. Arriving at the building, I was pleased to bypass the awkward social dance of avoiding a valet service — Planned Parenthood has none, giving visitors the option of selecting their own parking spot within the safely gated lot (an impressive improvement from the Midtown location).

The building's foyer is expertly appointed in warm wooden hues and trendy hanging light fixtures — a look that's somewhere between Herzog & de Meuron's organic interior of the CaixaForum Madrid museum and Benjy's in the Village. The facility offers thorough security, which is nice because I got to show off my vintage TAG watch and Paul Smith frames before I even passed through the metal detector.

Let it be known that Planned Parenthood does not always take reservations — it depends on what sort of experience you're looking for. It's probably a tactic to make guests spend more at the bar, but I'm not above such antics. The hostess (who was awkwardly dressed as a security guard, but whatever) directed me to a waiting room. I sat down with a waitress.

"What's good here?"

After a careful perusal of the menu, I was directed towards ordering an HIV exam — a classic choice when trying out a new place. I found it odd that Planned Parenthood prefers that customers pay for their services upfront, and on top of that, the waitress refused the discount from my expired 2009 Entertainment coupon book. But I was happy to pay in full to such a noble organization. (Note: Planned Parenthood does not accept the Diner's Club card.)

It was tedious devoting nearly half an hour in the waiting room, but unlike many other similar establishments, Planned Parenthood is stocked with the latest issues of Us Weekly and Bon Appetit.

However, a lunch hour is a lunch hour, so I did summon the nerve to say something to management, at which point I was assigned a new waitress, who whisked me away to an exam room. It was a private, cozy space with soothing, cool green elements. Perhaps the architects had stolen the design scheme from Haven or Canopy, but I didn't mind.

At first my new waitress seemed gregarious and personable, but she soon stepped over the line of privacy, asking about my sexual history and then — the ultimate faux pas — my weight. I honestly didn't have the patience to request yet another staff member for assistance, so I grinned and beared my way through the inquiry.

The exam itself was just a simple prick, followed by (what I was told) would be a short 15-minute pause for my results. I asked if I could just wait at the bar (getting tested is a very stressful experience, so I could really go for a kumquat mojito to take the edge off). Instead, I was taken to a VIP waiting area inside the maze of examination rooms. There weren't any velvet ropes, but the building just opened, so I'm going to give Planned Parenthood a little leeway here.

"What are you in here for?" a fellow guest turned to me and said. She was wearing a T-shirt with an illustration of different crayons above the phrase, "Color me Gangsta." I was charmed. We exchanged a few laughs, and shared our ideas on the southern European debt crisis and the best late night dives for finding vegan tamales.

I'm not one to make new friends at bars, on airplanes and the like, but perhaps it's just the lighting at Planned Parenthood that inspires instant comradery.

Still, I was a little disappointed by the extended wait. Before I knew it, 15 minutes became 30, and my lunch hour excursion had become almost a two-hour affair. "I am so giving this place a negative review on Yelp," I surmised. I finally flagged down my waitress, who seemingly had completely forgotten my entire order. In such a situation, I would expect the manager to comp a dessert or offer a few free samples of birth control, but this was not the case.

I'd like to clarify that I never experienced any negative attitude from this staff member, and she was responsive to my time constraints (I admit, I did lie and said I had to catch a flight to Auckland). I was directed to a new exam room — which had a few really nice photographic portraits adorning the wall, might I add.

I heaved a sigh of relief when I was informed that indeed, my test had returned negative. She attempted to keep me tied down with a discourse on safe sex practice, to which I responded, "Clearly I'm already on top of this."

She mentioned purchasing other services (do I look like I have the clap?), but I called her out on trying to upsell me. She let me leave to "catch my flight." By this point I had really worked up an appetite, so I treated myself to a plate of pad thai at Kanomwan (always a pleasure!).

I have a lot of faith in Planned Parenthood. Their new location is just what the area needs to spark some smart-growth development, the services are top notch, and although I did experience a little difficulty with the efficiency, I think I can justify the blips in service on the fact that the facility had its grand opening only one week ago.

Perhaps this aspect is comparable to the way European restaurants allow guests to loll away the afternoon while dining at a neighborhood bistro. The new digs are still a little under the radar (Zagat has yet to give it a proper review), which I kind of like.

I give the new Planned Parenthood four stars — and if this summer proves to be as much fun as I anticipate — I'll be back.

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The building's foyer is sophistication epitomized. Photo by Steven Thomson
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Being read the day's specials by the hostess.
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In actuality, the art on the walls is not for sale. Photo by Steven Thomson