Monday, March 05, 2007

Why We Don’t Go Anywhere Nice

It takes very little arm twisting for me to go out to dinner. Basically, I like it very much when people bring me things on plates that I can eat and afterwards nobody expects me to do the dishes or puzzle how to get out a tarter sauce stain from the carpet. But then again, I often wonder why there are so many restaurants when everyone has a kitchen at home; it’s like owning a car but calling a cab when you want to go somewhere. Perhaps it’s the atmosphere that is so alluring, which is why, I guess, Friday’s tries to wow you with all of that faux-antique crap hanging everywhere. Whatever takes your mind off of the cooking.

For me, going out to eat is always rather a let down. Frequently, I’m dumbfounded by the service, disappointed by the food and alarmed by the check, but the chance to look at and interact with other adults is too tempting to pass up, especially when I spend the majority of my time in my office attempting to focus on work… or when I’m cleaning up food far-flung by Matthew or toys well traveled about the house by Natalie. In my defense, I try to avoid those two last activities which is probably why the county board of health and safety will soon pay us a visit and put us all out on the streets. Like they’re that much cleaner.

For whatever reason, Kara had a gift certificate to Macaroni Grill, the much more mature big sister to Chili’s, which, incidentally, is right next door. There are cloth napkins on the tables and an expectation of good manners in the air. They bring you warm bread without having to order or pay for it and all the servers wear brightly colored ties. There, you keep your elbows off the table, spoon your soup thitherwardly and maintain the belching outbursts to a fancy but fully loaded exhale. And that “no shoes, no shirt, no dice” sign? Well, unlike Chili’s, they mean it.

For whatever other reason, we had to use the gift certificate in February, and in true form that represents all that is good and holy about this blog, we waited until the 28th to redeem our free 35-dollars worth of Macaroni Grill’s best.

The hostesses collected at the front desk were bubbly and cheery, per usual, and after they set us at ease with their witty banter about Baby Sarah being the “fifth” one in our party, the two girls passed us and our menus off to Alex, a seemingly disgruntled host who was either quitting that night because he truly hated his job and every stinking person who appeared in the doorway of the place or he had just received a bad review by his manager and was intent on getting through the night without physically harming anyone but was having trouble holding back his rage.

Few words were spoken as he showed us to our table, not more than five feet from the hostess stand, the first table next to the door. Fresh from my victory at Ariel’s wallet-reaming Grotto experience, I wasn’t about to sit near the front door or to the immediate back of the hostess stand. I just didn’t want to listen to the inane ramblings of a gaggle of hostesses (please take no offense if you are a hostess and the conversations with your fellow coworkers are professional and intelligent… but you can take offense if they aren’t) and I certainly didn’t want to feel a blast of cold air every time the front door opened so another group of gawkers could come in and judge me by what dish I ordered. I’m not a bland person, I happen to like Fettuccini Alfredo thank you very much.

Plus, I knew what he was doing. We have kids, a baby and a boisterous toddler, so I saw what was happening: Keep the families as far away as possible from the rest of the regular people because nobody likes to sit next to a family full of food-chucking kids. I can’t blame them, as the last thing I’d like to see while I’m eating three dollars worth of a $14 plate of pasta is a kid mired in tomato sauce up to his elbows (which are on the table, naturally). However, this is my family and we’ll sit wherever we damn well want and if you don’t like it, too bad.

So, Harry Hate-My-Job Host shows us to the first table and give it an unenthusiastic wave with the menus as if to present it, then stands there, blank, waiting for us to gather up the troops for the great five-foot march to the booth. “I don’t want to sit here,” I announced loudly, loud enough for him to hear at least. “Let’s sit over there.” I pointed across the room randomly, in no particular direction, thinking that any other table would be better. Harry hesitated, as if the Queen was going to arrive later and she always likes to sit at the table he thinks I pointed to so she can enjoy the fake jacaranda plants because it reminds her of Scotland.

He compromised with me and placed us at the next table down, and I gave in because I’m all about accumulating small victories in order to win the battle. Plus, it was a booth… but it was up on a riser, off the ground about a foot or so, and unless they had especially tall high chairs for Matty, he was going to be resting his chin on the side of the table while he ate. Instead, they offered a booster seat for him so he could sit next to Kara at the table. We plopped him into it and since it didn’t have any straps, he started to slide down like an over-served drunk at the bar.

“I guess I’ll have to hold him,” Kara said, wrapping her right arm around him so he wouldn’t fall under the table to who knew what kind of fate. I guess Kara thought she could eat left handed, while balancing a baby, and getting food for him, all the while enjoying herself. To give Kara a great deal of credit, she’s done more under worse conditions, but we were out to eat, paying good money for a delightful experience and the booth with the impromptu booster seat wasn’t cutting the mustard.

I announced to our server, Aimee—the only reason I remember is because she wrote it in big letters with two crayons on the paper tablecloth—that we were moving across the aisle to a table nearer to the ground.

Once there, basically both kids felt it was a wonderful time to get loud. Natalie proclaimed each action she made, as if she was narrating her life, in a voice about 20 decibels above normal conversation. Matthew, by this time, was quite hungry and he was letting on to that fact by yelping like a wounded seal, all the while folding back the afore mentioned paper table cloth. When we ordered drinks, much appreciated wine, I asked for some tape to keep the paper table cloth down so his food wasn’t hurled across the table every time he flipped up the sides. To my astonishment, she brought some and I secured the paper, which lasted only a few moments until he tore through it quite easily.

It was a hectic outing, and I wasn’t expecting it, especially since both of the kids are always so well behaved. They acted as if they anticipated clowns would come by their table to entertain them and the excitement they felt was too great to contain. One bright side to the whole thing is, after we had finished destroying the table, littering the floor with scraps of food, requiring that the high chair Matthew was sitting in be sandblasted and re-lacquer and fielded a few curious stares from other patrons, Kara gathered up the circus and went outside to play by the fountain while I waited for the check… anyway, the bright side is that Aimee brought two cups of ice cream covered in chocolate for Matty and Gnatty. Teehee, I ate them both.

Thanks to the wine, the $35 gift card was easily decimated and we ended up paying nearly double that. Next time we’ll consider packing the muzzles and a Hannibal Lecter contraption. But a night out is a night out.

No comments:


web site tracking
Sierra Trading Post