Mussel Mania: Real Men Eat Them

Larger-than-life movie heroes such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone may be bringing muscles back into style, but another kind of muscle is having a siege of popularity too.

Yes, you guessed it: that slippery seafood, the mussel, the one commonly found clinging to rocks when alive, is taking Valley restaurants by storm--in the form of a chichi appetizer.

"Mussels make me feel decadent," tittered one self-professed "foodie." "I'm young and upscale, so why shouldn't I eat them? It's more important for me to have one exotic little nibble than it is for me to consume one large, common meal."

The foodie's constant search for a status taste is one reason why mussel appetizers frequently appear on diners' plates. Another reason seems to be Americans' general trend toward lighter eating. "It's not too filling, yet very flavorful," said the menu manager for Le Cafe in Sherman Oaks, where the mussels marinara appetizer, at $7.95, is a popular item. "It's a small, yet potent flavor."

A struggling Valley career woman puts the usually pricey appetizer's appeal this way: "I like to know that I'm having a little bite of something that I can't really afford to eat."

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