Three words: Family Style Dining.
One of my friends decided to initiate a couple of us into this restaurant culture this past weekend. Being a Southerner, I’m accustomed to the meat-and-three concept, but this turned out to be a whole new level of food insanity.
Upon arrival at our food oasis, we put our name on the wait list and went to shop. We wandered through an array of Southern kitchen merchandise, around a large fountain, past a moonshine store (from which wafted a dizzying odor of pure sour “I’m made to get you in trouble”), and right into a store befitting a comic con. We were just perusing the selection of Harry Potter, Marvel, and DC bobbleheads when the text came that our table was ready. Re-entering the food oasis, we were immediately directed to the escalator.
I love riding escalators, but I require the concentration of a neurosurgeon to get on or off safely. (If anyone had been watching me, they would have seen me staring hard at the moving steps waiting for just the right moment to place my uncoordinated foot, which is attached to an even more uncoordinated body, onto just the right step.) Mission accomplished! I was following my friends up the moving staircase to dining heaven where I promptly had to concentrate again so that I wouldn’t be launched off the escalator onto the floor or into the wall.
Arriving at the host counter, we were greeted with proper Southern hospitality, and we stepped off to the side to wait and watch while tables were cleared and families came and went from the dining area. Those arriving were eager and chomping at the bit. Those leaving less so. After a few minutes, we were led to our booth which was wonderfully situated. The restaurant is actually on the second floor of the building, and the outer wall is almost entirely glass. Our booth was right next to the glass so we had a fantastic view of the fountain, the stores (including the aforementioned moonshine facility), a Ferris wheel, and the people. First, however, we had to get down to serious business – the food.
It’s a simple enough concept. You have a single page menu from which to make your selections. Once ordered you sit back and enjoy the bread and the view. It took a few minutes to make our selections. We settled on fried chicken, fried boneless pork chops, and meatloaf covered in cheese sauce. For our sides, we selected green beans, macaroni and cheese, creamed potatoes, and creamed corn. I decided to try the peach tea while one of my friends gave the flavored lemonades a whirl. Then the bread arrived – a mile-high cheesy garlic biscuit and a cornbread hoe cake saturated in butter. (I really wanted to lick the bread plate when I was done, but I settled for pressing my finger onto the crumbs and licking them off that way. Manners disappear when the food is that good.)
Then (drum roll, please) the meal arrived. Serving dishes and bowls of meatloaf, pork chops, fried chicken, potatoes, beans, corn, and macaroni and cheese were all placed before us. I don’t know if my mouth was hanging open, but my eyes were definitely as big as saucers. Here began the family dining shuffle similar to Thanksgiving. Do you want meatloaf? Have you had the beans? Would you like some corn? The dishes and bowls went round and round as we filled our plates.
I don’t know where my manners went, but it’s safe to say that gluttony beat them down into a little dark corner of my soul. I attacked the food on my plate like I hadn’t eaten in weeks. I don’t know how my friends ate, but I’m fairly certain that I just went to a happy place in my head and pretended that no one could see me. Meatloaf and pork chops had never made me so happy, and I would gladly have eaten the potatoes and macaroni and cheese straight from the bowl – without sharing.
Then partway through my second plate, my body began to protest. “Are you sure about this?” It seemed to ask me. “Maybe you should slow down.” It suggested. Being a bit older and a touch wiser than I used to be, I agreed and pushed my plate back and put my fork down for a moment. I sat there thinking that a break was a good idea, but all I could do was stare at the meatloaf and macaroni and cheese. I wanted more so I cut the break short and continued eating. All the while, my jeans protested against my ever expanding belly trying to politely, but insistently, explain that they weren’t made to stretch that far. My stomach clearly wasn’t made for it either because I actually became queasy when my dessert was placed before me. I stared at it trying to figure out how many bites I could swallow, and I finally settled for scraping the top portion off to be eaten while leaving the crust.
Only after the bill was paid and we were leaving the restaurant did a truth come home to me. My friend had tried to tell me, but I hadn’t truly understood her. That place had escalators because there was no way under heaven a person could walk down steps after that experience. Yes, boarding and exiting the escalator still required my utmost concentration, but at least I didn’t have to worry about missing a step on the way down and taking out the beach themed display before tumbling through the front window. (For the record, I wish they would move the moonshine place as it is an assault upon your already overwhelmed senses when you have a full stomach you are trying to keep at peace.)
Until next time, keep it awkward.