I knew something wasn’t right the moment I walked through the door.
Call it Restaurant Spidey Sense. Call it something in the Food Force.
Whatever you tag it, it was telling me, “Get out!”
But like so many voices in my head, I told this one to settle down and behave.
“What’s that?” asked my dad, pointing to a picture of a meatball floating in vegetable soup.
Here’s the thing about menu pictures: Applebees, Red Lobster, places like that have professionals with stage lights, sawdust, glue and varnish to make those barbecue riblets and shrimp scampi photoshoot-ready.
There was no stage lighting here. The food in this menu looked like it had just rolled out of bed after a night it didn’t remember. If the hamburger had a face, eyeliner would have been smeared across its cheeks. The chicken wrap was wearing last night’s dress and missing a shoe. This was raw and gritty, Quentin Tarantino-level food photography.
“What about this?” said Dad, now pointing to a picture of oily mash.
“Not sure about that either, Dad,” I said, wishing we had not tried the “new place” in town for our lunch date.
Then I got a brilliant idea — we could leave! The waitress hadn’t even greeted us yet. We could go. That’s it. Just get up and head to ...
“Hello,” said the waitress.
“Do you have any recommendations?” asked Dad.
The waitress got a pained look on her face and sucked in a long, long breath of air. Time seemed to stop as my mind processed all her possible answers. She was going to tell us to get out. She was going to say, “My recommendation is, there’s a Subway down the road.”
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She still hadn’t said anything. She was now holding her breath like one of those Florida divers going down for a conch shell. Wait! She was coming back up. She would tell us ...
“It is all good,” she finally erupted. “I’d recommend the special. Want to see a picture?”
Oh, come on, not another picture!
She motioned to a TV screen across the room displaying the special: green logs in red sauce.
“Sure, I’ll have that,” said Dad, throwing in the white napkin of surrender.
The dishes arrived and unfortunately looked exactly like the picture — three zucchinis floating in canned tomato soup. White bread triangles surrounded the edges as if standing guard to make sure the zucchinis didn’t walk off in protest. We picked up our forks.
Ever have something that looked bad, but when you tasted it, it was actually really good?
This wasn’t one of those times.
“How is everything?” asked the waitress.
“Good. Good,” we said in unison.
Yeah, we are those type of people. Polite to the point of lunacy.
“The good news is,” said Dad afterward, looking for a silver lining, “a nice lunch, you will eventually forget. This lunch, we will remember forever.”
True. A zucchini with a gritty backstory is something that sticks with you.
Next time, I am getting the chicken.