Tag Archives: Menu

What’s for Dinner?

Just reading the title you’ve already thought of the last few places you’ve repeatedly visited, and maybe even the conversation that preceded the chosen destination.

“Let’s go out.”

“Okay; where?”

“Oh, I dunno, you pick.”

That conversation loops around until a decision is finally made. Chances are good that there are no new restaurants in your area, and the one you pick, just like all the others, has a menu that you now know mostly by heart.

The reason, I think, that it’s so hard for people to make a restaurant decision is that they’ve phrased the question incorrectly. When choosing a place to dine out, it’s not really the restaurant you’re choosing, but rather the particular dish on that particular menu that keeps you coming back. Instead of “where”, the question should be “what”. If the answer is pizza, you already know where to go. Same for chili, spaghetti, and anything Chinese or Mexican.

Unless there are kids involved. In that case, you’ll have to go to the place that has the stuff the kids will eat, without too much whining, and you’ll find something that will simply have to do just because you’re hungry and you don’t want to think about it anymore.

Adults are not unlike the children.  We have our favorite places, too. And when you get to the particular place because of the particular something you favor, the thought always occurs to you to mix it up a little, order something different this time. But you don’t because you’ve already discovered your favorite thing there. Every time you’ve deviated from the preferred item, the new thing didn’t rise to any level of excellence at all, and the ensuing disappointment makes you wish you’d just gotten the thing you wanted in the first place, the same order you always place, that something that was immediately pictured in your head and made your mouth water when you originally picked the place you were going to go.

Eat Here Sign2

Husband is different. He likes to try new things at the same old places. He likes the adventure of it. For him it’s a culinary experience in diversity. My opinion is that I’d rather be satisfied with something I already know is going to be good than be disappointed later with something I wasn’t sure about when I ordered it.

We did recently begin an adventure in Indian food. Understandably, we only have one Indian restaurant from which to choose. At first, simply because we were totally unfamiliar with it, we both experimented with different options every time we went, sharing each other’s choices, and sampling when the restaurant offered a buffet.

It didn’t take long for me to find something I really enjoy. I’m not all that interested now in placing an entirely different order from the menu just for the sake of variety. For me, the experimenting is over. I don’t want to be disappointed. Husband still likes to mix it up. I think his goal is to have everything on the menu at least once. The bonus is that I get to taste whatever different thing he’s gotten, but so far I’m still preferring my now-standard choice.

A new restaurant in our area is under construction. We pass by it and always discuss when the other thinks it might be open. It will have a menu with which both of us are unfamiliar. Husband will have an entirely new set of options to change up and switch around. I will eventually find something on the menu that I enjoy there more than anywhere else. We will immediately add it to the places of choice when we ask “where”.

And I’ll remember that the next time the squabble starts over “where”, I should change the question to “what”.

The solution should be almost immediate.






Filed under Daily Life

Gourmet Road Trip (Part IV)

“We’ll cover you; don’t worry.”  Husband went on to explain that the portions were huge, so he and Wife would order two entrees and two sides, and by the time we split it all four ways, everyone would have enough to eat and it would all work out.

Buddy and I each started to protest and we were hushed into silence.  So we sat there while Husband placed the order.  As he was placing it, I was trying to keep up with the prices listed on the menu.  I had mentally tallied more than three hundred dollars so far.

Now, math is not my strong suit, but I don’t think I was far off.  And fifteen years ago, three hundred dollars went nearly twice as far as it does today.

Needless to say I was just stunned.  The food was good, though.  No, it was excellent.  I can’t downplay that.  It was my one and only exposure to Steak Tartar, and while I will probably never again be in a place that will list it on the menu, I can honestly say that I loved it.

Something tells me that I wouldn’t willingly spend a month’s worth of groceries, two tanks of gas, and an electric bill for it though.

In our astonished silence, Husband and Wife carried on the conversation during the whole meal.  Well, Husband mostly.  Wife giggled a lot.

And then Husband ordered desserts for everybody.  I couldn’t remember that part of the menu’s pricing.

“Husband, please…” I protested.

“I said I’d cover you; just relax and enjoy.”

When dessert had been deliciously consumed, and it came time to pay the mortgage on our meal, Wife dug down into the depths of her stained shirt, down even farther into the nether regions of her too-full bra, and paid the man with boobie money.  Wads of it.

A twenty percent tip at this point, after desserts, and figuring in our drinks (Husband wouldn’t let us get just water to cut down on the expense), would have been upwards of eighty dollars.  Maybe even more.

A singular word kept rotating around in my head.  I won’t repeat it here.

As we were leaving, something Husband had said twice started to replace the expletive in my head.  “We’ll cover you.”

What did that mean, exactly?  Did he mean he’d pick up the tab because he had invited (dragged slash kidnapped) us to this place, a place for which he did not have our prior consent?  Or did he mean he’d cover us until we could pay him back our fair share of the night’s expenses?  Was our final release from this couple going to be in the form of our own ransom?  Oh. My. God.

We made our way out to the street and Husband hailed another cab.  He told the cab we had to get back to the train before the final one left.  We had twenty minutes.  My nerves were shot.  I did not want to be stranded on the streets of DC with a twenty in my pocket and no place, or means by which, to go.

But we made it, and just in the nick of time.  Husband hurriedly fisted more quarters out of his pocket and we raced to board the final train to Baltimore, the turnstile leaving a bruise on my hip.  Somewhere along the bumpy trip I managed to discreetly ask Buddy if we were supposed to pay Husband and Wife back, asking him, too, as I’d repeatedly asked myself, just what the hell ‘we’ll cover you’ might have meant.  Buddy simply shrugged, but he looked concerned.

If the cab fare were included in the night’s expenses, we had spent well more than four hundred dollars.  Buddy might have had an easier time coming up with a hundred or so dollars.  He and his partner lived alone with relatively few expenses.  I was a single mom of two, counting on the per diem for the trip to pay for reasonably priced meals, and then gas to get home.

The expletive in my head returned.

We found the car just where we’d left it in the Baltimore parking lot, gratefully unscathed, and began the long journey back to the hotel, a drive made seemingly longer by all the ill will I was silently hurling over the head-rest behind Husband.  I had decided that if he didn’t mention remuneration then I wouldn’t give it.  This was unfair, after all.  I did not agree to spend that kind of money and I justified my anger with the knowledge that he should have, at the very least, given us the option of not going.  Not a Burger King or a McDonald’s indeed!  How dare he, right?

But what would I do if upon our return to the hotel he did request reimbursement for our portion of events?  Pay him?  Probably.  But it would be a long time before I recovered from it financially, and it would most definitely put an end to our friendship.  Of that I was certain.  I knew I would never be able to trust him or Wife ever again.

And so it happened.  As we were unfolding from the backseat of the car in the hotel’s parking lot at nearly two in the morning, Husband informed us kindly that we could pay him back later if we didn’t have it on us now, and that he hoped we’d had a good time.

Buddy offered to pay mine for me and I wouldn’t allow it.  I paid it.  It hurt, and it hurt for a long while, but I paid it just the same.  I chalked it up to a lesson learned, taught by a former friend, that I should never go anyplace in the blind, regardless of how well I thought I knew someone.  I learned to ask a ton of questions and to never assume.  I learned to make sure I knew the arrangements beforehand.

The only assumption I make now, where dining is concerned at least, is that if I make the invitation, I pick up the tab.  End of story.

Buddy and I remained friends, though, until the natural lapses in gatherings grew longer and farther between that we finally just fell out of touch.  He got a job in another town and our lives simply stopped intersecting after a while.

But I know he still thinks of the time we were kidnapped by friends and then had to pay our own ransom.  I just know it.  Because much like the overpriced Steak Tartar on the menu that night, it really was a raw deal.


Filed under Daily Life

Gourmet Road Trip (Part III)


Husband was pointing out some of the favorite spots he and Wife like to spontaneously visit.  We didn’t enter any of the establishments, merely walked by them and listened while Husband told us what fabulous thing was inside.

Finally he stepped into a doorway and announced what we’d spent that last three or four hours waiting to hear, “Ahhh…here we are.”

It didn’t look like a restaurant at all from the outside.  There was a guard at the door, a hefty individual, that I was sure would not let us in.  Two of us were tired and cranky, and none of us were dressed very well.

Reluctantly, the large dude held the door for us.  We ambled down a rather long corridor before we reached the hostess.  I could see her try to hide her disappointment in us, but the questioning eyebrow could not help itself.  She, like me, wondered why we had been allowed inside.

As we were shown to our table, I saw that everyone seated was in high-class business suits.  The chatter in this very full dining facility was kept to a respectful minimum.  There was faint music in the background’s background.

My sneakers, jeans and I did not belong here.

I hadn’t paid attention to the details before so I stole a glance around at my companions.  Buddy with his khaki shorts that hosted numerous pockets and a less than crisp shirt.  Husband with his work coveralls that were still greasy from his last mechanical function.  Wife with her stained t-shirt sporting a remnant of her last meal.  She and I both needed to comb our hair.

It was the kind of place where one must hold one’s pinky out whenever one sips from a too-small cup that has a very dainty loop on its side that must be properly pinched between thumb and forefinger.

We were so far removed from “..not a Burger King or McDonald’s…” that we might as well have been on another planet.

As we approached the table, two waiters with practiced blank faces appeared out of nowhere to guide expensive and well-polished chairs under Wife and me.  Before I had a chance to quietly berate Husband for this embarrassment, a waitress arrived with menus.  I put my tongue in check, not wanting to do this in front of the wait staff.  Besides, it was so eerily quiet in the place, even though it was crowded with well-to-do people, that all I would’ve been able to muster was a whisper anyway.  Husband deserved so very much more.

I opened the menu.  I was thinking that maybe my twenty would get me a small house salad with a glass of water and I wouldn’t have to beg off completely.  What I wanted to do was leave – immediately.  I couldn’t.  My only options were to stay seated or stand outside on the sidewalk and await their departure.  I stayed seated.

I mentally scrolled down past the sixty-dollar entrees and thirty-dollar side dishes to the salad options.  Turns out my twenty would barely get me the glass of water.

Unless I wanted a lemon.

I began to frantically search the menu for something, anything, that I could order with some dignity.  There was nothing.  I took a deep breath, hid my face with the menu, and leaned over to Buddy.  His ear met me half-way.

“When we left the hotel, I put a twenty in my pocket.  It’s all I have on me.”

We both rose back upright and continued gracefully looking at our menus.  Meanwhile, Husband and Wife were planning out all the things they were going to order.  I grew tired trying to calculate what that expense would be.

I sensed Buddy starting to lean in my direction.  My ear met him half way.

“Me too.”

So there we sat, forty dollars between us, in a place where to even share one entrée we were falling miserably short.  I had no idea what to do.  Fess up?  Walk out and wait?  Order nothing and pout?  I had no clue.  How should one behave in such an extraordinary circumstance, one in which not many like me might ever find themselves?

Finally, Buddy spoke up, giving me hope that I would not have to act after all.  Maybe he knew just what to do in this situation as he had in so many others.

He had to get Husband’s attention from the menu in which he was highly engrossed, and about which he was incredibly excited.

“Um…Kat and I don’t know how to tell you this, and we appreciate that you brought us to such a nice place and all…”

Buddy was always very diplomatic.

“…but we just can’t pay for this.”




Filed under Daily Life