Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Death by Restaurant


Occasionally the wife and I like to go out for dinner. Last night was one of those occasions, as we declared it our “Day of Reaction”. We stopped at “Mikes” a Greek/Italian place. There are two locations, we had eaten at the original one a long time ago and found the food and service to be good. I would say in opening the new place no pains were taken to carry over any of the ambiance of the other location or the quality of the food. We ate at the new Mike’s last night and it positively sucked. The Souvlaki had no flavor whatsoever, the Orzo pasta was over cooked, slimy, and had some herbs, possibly found in a ditch, mixed in giving it that piquant “This should be in the garbage” taste. We did get the price of our meals knocked down a bit because my wife couldn’t finish the plate of Gyro meat on a bed of what must have been the Greek version of dog chow, and an interesting combination of green beans in a bland tomato sauce. I have had green beans prepared in many different ways, but this was a first – and a last.

We had Popeye’s arch nemesis the Sea Hag for a waitress, the only blessing was she wasn’t around very often so we didn’t have to look at her and try to eat. The service was non-existent and we had to force someone to take the money for the check. That is the last time we will darken Mike’s doorway.

This leaves us with a problem. When we first moved out to lovely El Mirage there wasn’t doodly squat out here and we were hoping to get some decent restaurants nearby. Later we found out that there were a couple excellent restaurants, one in El Mirage itself – we never looked in the town because the place is a festering boil on the ass of the earth and I felt there was absolutely nothing in that town I wanted to put in my mouth. I was wrong, The Rio is a hidden gem. The other place is actually in Sun City, Portofino’s, a small Italian place (no green beans in tomato sauce here). We weren’t destined to discover those places ‘til farther down the road.

The first restaurant to be built was Applebee’s or as I like to call it, Crapplebees. The only reason I can see that anyone eats there is the great senior discount - I don't qualify...yet. The place is always wall to wall gray-hairs, refugees from Sun City. I had the Riblets dinner, consisting of some small chunks of bone with a little fat stuck to them and some soggy steak fries.

Soon other restaurants sprang up and hope bloomed in our hearts anew. Red Lobster was one of the first. Nothing to write home about and the service is hit or miss. The joint brings low-grade seafood right off the back of a truck from which it fell right to your table. Actually, for seafood in the desert at a reasonable price it isn’t too bad, it you don’t get the special needs server. Next was an Olive Garden.

The first Olive Garden I went to in California was great. The next one, in Texas, was the pits – this was years later so maybe they decided to lowball the food. The Bottomless bowl of pasta was a sure bet, for the restaurant. They knew after tasting the first bowl there was no way you’d ask for a second. The only redeeming virtue was they had a huge jug o’ wine on the table and the waiter neglected to keep track of the amount we drank (it was a lot). The wine was good. The Olive Garden here serves the same crappy, loose interpretation of what Italian food might be if the Italians suddenly had all their brains knocked out. It was nice that my plate of Ravioli looked like the Italian flag the way the sauce was ladled over the pasta, but the dish was all show and no go, the sauces (all three) being insipid at best.

Our choices of restaurants were quickly becoming very limited. Not all was lost though. The Chen Wok opened, excellent Wor Wonton soup, and though the Kung Pao sauce is a little too sweet for my taste it isn’t bad. There’s BoBo’s Chinese, the sauces are right on, the food is good, service superlative but the egg roll is more like a cabbage roll and the soup is a bit heavy on the green stuff as well – none of the cabbage was wasted. I can live with that minor technicality. The saving graces are Portofino’s and The Rio. In fact, we are doing Gringo De Mayo there Friday, so I have that going for me, which is nice.

Bottom line, I almost prefer to eat at home where I control what goes into the food – maybe a little husky fur, but no lugies from disgruntled employees or MSG. I love to cook anyway so no worries. It is just a shame that there are places that can serve up a plate of steaming meadow muffins on a bed of what once may have been some sort of vegetable and charge you $20 a plate. The server is no where to be found, shows up twenty minutes after you have been sitting there (the medication gives me a lot more patience then I used to have), takes your order and disappears for about half an hour, then expects a big tip for ignoring us all night. Only slightly more irritating is the waiter or waitress that won’t leave you along, invariably showing up to ask how everything is after you have just shoveled a large fork full of flaming hot food into your mouth. Guess the server figures it is safe to ask because you can’t complain and be polite (no see food) at the same time. Anyway, as we always said when heading to the field kitchen, “time to hit the choke and puke stand”. Bon appetit!

8 Comments:

At 6:18 PM, Blogger jin said...

>>>>>>"Bottom line, I almost prefer to eat at home where I control what goes into the food – maybe a little husky fur, but no lugies from disgruntled employees or MSG."

I am laughing SO hard at that!!! I also agree 100%!!! Only difference is at my place you get golden retriever fur & some left behind from an Australian shephard who's since passed on. (At my house, NOT my pastry shoppe!!! LOL, just had to clarify!!!)

I won't eat at our local chinese reastuarants. I am not that brave. But, a friend recently ate at one, took a trip to the loo mid-meal & nearly stumbled over a 50# bag of MSG! 50 pounds! I do believe that could kill a person! *shudders*

 
At 6:33 PM, Blogger KyuBall said...

Olive Garden. Definately a hit or miss establishment. The last time I was there with the family, it was because we had gift certificates. The waitress was amazing, I had never gotten this much attention...ever.

Then after our meal, the manager came by and chatted us up. I'm thinking, "Where did we go, 'cause this ain't no Olive Garden." Then he handed me a national survey card.

I swear, it was like a movie montage: I replayed the entire night in my head and no one else around us was visited that many times OR had the manager stop by for a visit.

I enjoyed my ass kissing...but, it didn't inspire me to return anytime soon.

 
At 7:26 PM, Blogger The Phosgene Kid said...

Jin: I haven't had much trouble at any of the Oriental restaurants. After having eaten at the sidewalk food standsin Korea and survived, I am pretty bold.

MSG isn't necessarily a bad thing, it does bring out flavor in the vegetables. It is mainly a problem for those who might be allergic. I don't use it at home, though.

Kyuball: You hit the Olive Garden during restaurant Sweeps Week!! You should have seen if you could talk the manger out of some free food - the dog has to eat too!!

 
At 12:17 AM, Anonymous WaiterBell said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 9:52 PM, Blogger Sarah Letnes said...

What do you expect on The Day Without an Immigrant? Their good cook and all of the dishwashers and bus boys were probably downtown protesting in the hopes that they can continue working for slave wages without health benefits.

 
At 11:17 AM, Blogger The Phosgene Kid said...

SL: You are probably right. Like the cook at BoBo's Chinese he doesn't look presbyterian to me!!

 
At 10:13 AM, Blogger Tea and Books, etc said...

Sorry to hear your choices are so limited for the times you and the missus want to go out for chow.

Noo Yawk has no end of restaurants, cafes, diners, etc, and a good many of them are 24/7... or as near as to make no difference. Service, as you've noted, can be nonexistent to excellent, and it's not always because of the restaurant tier, either. I've also experienced a "Mikes" like you, where the original place was groovy but the knockoffs, um, excuse me, the new branches suck. Blech.

Wishing you lots of luck with better out-of-home eatings, but not to the extent your area becomes overrun. :-)

 
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