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A restaurant review, alternatively entitled, "What Was I Thinking?"

I had a talk to deliver in the Powell area recently, up around Sawmill Parkway. Rather than racing up there and arriving just a few moments before the whole thing was to get going, I thought that maybe I'd leave early and find something to eat while up there. Normally, it would make plenty of sense to get very close to the actual location of my appearance so that I would reduce the number of possible complications that could make me late (like traffic, for example), but I'm not so sure in this case.

Lee, a colleague, went with me and did the driving. We thought that we'd just do some looking around when we got up there and find something that looked interesting. What I was not expecting—but perhaps I should have expected—was a soulless development on the land that was once Big Bear Farms. Streets of McMansions served by main drags lined with absurd strip malls full of the same chain-everything. I thought that we might be in trouble.

After doing more driving around than interested me, we located a restaurant—an Applebee's. I thought that perhaps I could handle that. I hadn't been there in years but twelve years or so back I used to go there with some frequency and remembered the place with some fondness.

Lee and I were the only ones dressed for business. The rest of the lot were sticking closely to their Casual Suburban uniforms. Young quasi-professional guys who think that they're too hip to dress like adults. (Besides, it hides the fact that they don't know how to wear a necktie.) Soccer moms who think that those cosmetic implants make them “hot.” (I know that it would be a lot harder but you really would be much better off if you'd take the time to fill your head instead of paying someone to fill your bust.) Whatever.

We were seated at a booth, handed menus, and left to our own devices to come up with selections. They had Pepsi™ products (or maybe Coke™ products, I can't remember) but we both ordered dihydrogen monoxide on the rocks—though of course we took care to place the order in a less interesting form.

Our server asked if we were ready to place our orders. Indeed we were.

“What would you like?”

“Angus Burger, please.”

“How would you like it?”

“Medium, please.”

“We can do medium well or well.”

“You're joking.”

“No. Crazy, I know.”

I spent a minute looking over other options on the menu, concluding that it just wasn't going to get any better than this. “How about the medium side of medium well and I won't tell anyone that I rode the rest home?”

Our server gave a polite smile but didn't give any indication of amusement before shuffling off. My ever-alert companion wondered aloud whether litigation had somehow driven them to institute an absurd policy. It's cheaper to give customers something that they don't want than to deal with the one idiot who will call up and complain that his tummy hurt a week after having that hamburger done medium.

I suggested that disclaimers seemed to do the trick at other places. Lee suggested an alternate hypothesis focusing on the quality of the beef. Perhaps they dare not bring it out in any other form!

It's supposed to be Angus! Certified Angus Beef® is supposed to be premium! Extra-tasty! How in the world can it be “An American classic served up tall and juicy” if it spent so much time on the grill that it winds up with consistency somewhere between shoe leather and charcoal? Maybe this is all part of some sort of a ploy. They name all of the cows “Angus.”

“How would the marketing people spin this?” wondered Lee. “Overcooked just like your grandma used to do it?”

After a curiously short period of time, our plates arrived, delivered by someone other than the server, who then auctioned them off. “Burger! Who wants the burger! Burger going once! Going twice!”

This is probably the experience that I should expect from a place that attempts to lure customers with the ungrammatical tagline, “Eatin' Good in the Neighborhood.” On the other hand, maybe their lawyers coached them on that matter, too, since “eating well” would be an outright falsehood.

Being somewhat amused by my reaction to this whole business, Lee mentioned it to someone who owns a deli near the office. This led to the most likely explanation of all: they cook the stuff well enough to freeze it so that they can just throw the frozen or perhaps thawed pre-cooked hamburger patties into a microwave oven. Suddenly, I quit wondering how they managed to overcook my hamburger so quickly. Lee's amusement over the incident died down when he realized that he wasn't feeling so well afterward. Inspired by the fact that we were leaving a conference full of attorneys, he wondered whether there might be some sort of recourse available to us.

What sort of allegation might we make, asked I.

“Crimes against gastronomy,” he replied.

He's probably right. The mango milkshake I ordered afterward wasn't bad, though.

Created by cmcurtin
Last modified 2007-10-07 08:53 PM
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