As in 1100 posts! And what better way to celebrate my one thousand, one hundredth post here on WordPress than by engaging in that which I do best. That’s right, we decided to do an ordinary thing in the life of any young(ish) husband and father simply to watch insanity unravel all around me so that I could write about it and see how many of you, my lovely readers, believe that the madness actually transpired! Also, our kitchen is still under renovation. We went out to dinner tonight. I include the caveat about the kitchen because I have had friends ask me if we ever eat at home anymore. Yes, we eat in quite often when we have 1) an oven, 2) a countertop, 3) a working f-ing kitchen, and 4) you know what? Can it. You’re just jealous because these bizarre things (such as I am about to describe) never happen to you. Let me set the stage for you.
After my wife asked me for the third time where I wanted to eat tonight, for I could not think straight under the blistering Texas sun, I told her that I was going to evening mass and I would let her know when I got home. As luck would have it, there’s a Denny’s right next to the church. Denny’s, being the first thing I saw upon exiting mass, made the cut as our dining locale for the evening. After the Joe’s Coffee Shop fiasco of a few nights ago, I figured it couldn’t be too bad. Now before any social media flunky at a keyboard at corporate headquarters writes to me with a “please be kind to us in your future postings or else” letter I want to make something perfectly clear. I like Denny’s. I just don’t have that much experience with the place. Where I grew up, in the Fatherland, New Jersey, actual diners are plentiful. In fact, there are over 550 municipalities in the Garden State and just as many diners. True fact. But the last time I ate in a Denny’s was about five years ago in the tiny hamlet of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. I found it to be exactly what was promised — decent food, decent price. But tonight my wife was feeling clever and decided to make my sacred dinner into a game. “We can go to Denny’s,” she said, “as long as you order off of the 2-4-6-8 menu.” I looked at her rather puzzled. “What in the hell is that?” “Well,” she replied, “they have a menu that has items on it for $2, $4, $6, and $8.” Again I was puzzled so I asked her to clarify these instructions. “Is this a challenge?” “OK,” she said, “you can order whatever you like so long as it totals $8.” I locked eyes with my beautiful wife. “Game on, lady.”
We entered the restaurant with our game faces on. Actually, my game face was on. I was missing the eye black but that’s another story. My wife seemed to be wearing her “I can’t believe I married this guy” face. But I was a man on a mission. My mission was food and I love to eat. We were ushered past a few older couples and seated in a booth. Again, as with Joe’s, I was beginning to think the time of day we were frequenting these places might have something to do with the monastic grand silence. No matter. I didn’t care. I was prepared to see my menu, like a prize fighter eager to face an unknown opponent. I wondered to myself what kind of food they served here again. It’s been a while. We took our seats and I immediately tore open my menu. This startled our waitress. “Can I get y’all something to dr -” “NOT NOW. Where’s the odds/evens menu?” I barked. My wife clarified to the lovely server what I was looking for. She gently reached for my menu, opened it up, and pulled out a tall insert. Handing it to me, she said “This what you’re lookin’ for, hon?” I apologized for my rudeness and went about my task of matching up different combinations of appetizers, soups, dinner plates, and desserts. Math is totally not my thing but I figured I wouldn’t have too much trouble with simple even digits under 10. All the while I was glued to this single laminated sheet, I don’t know quite what my kids were doing. I think they were coloring or something. You really can’t issue a food challenge and expect me to focus on much else. I am, after all, the cornydog king of the State Fair of Texas. Mind you I came in next to last in that contest and the title is self-proclaimed, but so what? Within minutes, I had found, I believed, my perfect combination.
Our waitress came back to us. My wife had already told me she “knew what I was going to order”. But this time I had been more clever than she. A look of shock and surprise came over her face as I started to order. “I’ll have the biscuits and gravy with hash browns, the chicken quesadillas, and the fried cheese melt please.” The what now?! Let me explain. The first item was $2 and seemed like a decent breakfast choice. I specified the hash browns because it came with that or an egg. In truth, I should have taken the egg because I ordered so quickly that I mistook the term “hash browns” which I like for “corned beef hash” which I love. OK, rookie mistake. Won’t happen again. The second item was something I knew to be marketed as an appetizers but which, when served right, always eats like a small meal. Also, this came from the $2 menu. If you’re keeping track, that means I have exactly $4 left to spend. That brings us to item #3 – the fried cheese melt. I don’t know what genius thought this baby up but he should be canonized; unless he’s still living in which case he should live a long life, then, after he dies, he should be canonized. So I like a good grilled cheese and I like mozzarella sticks. Why not throw ’em all together? Exactly! This $4 beauty is a bunch of mozzarella sticks fried into the middle of a grilled cheese sandwich and served up with an order of fries. I haven’t been this excited about a sandwich since that thing from KFC where fried chicken breasts served as the bread. I was satisfied with my selections but I glanced at my wife and nodded my head to see if I had indeed come in at the right price point. I had!
The waitress, looking at me like an escaped mental patient, nervously said “Well… Someone’s hungry!” We tried to explain our game to her but she had already walked away. I spent the next ten minutes helping my son to color his kids menu. I was starting to bounce off the walls in anticipation of my bounty arriving. I glanced at my own menus still sitting on the table. It took me a while to realize that they were attempting some kind of “then and now” branding by juxtaposing a 1950’s-era image of Denny’s patrons with more contemporary images. Also while waiting I overheard a couple in the next booth. Their waiter sat them down and then gave them the bad news. “There is no more food because the jackass across from you ordered it all.” No, actually, it was something like this. “We’re out of waffles. Oh, and we’re out of ice cream.” Wouldn’t you know that the couple had come out specifically for waffles and ice cream? Sucks to be them.
Then, rounding the corner, just past the giant claw machine filled with stuffed toys, and pacing down the faux wood floor on her way to my booth was our waitress. She was carrying the meal that would make me legendary. What to some might appear as a bizarre hodgepodge of breading, cheese, and potatoes was, to me, a glorious victory. My wife laughed. My waitress delivered our food and ran. My son and daughter asked if they could “help” me finish it off. I let them have a few fries. And we all went home full that night.