In 2018 the ethnic restaurant pleased the palate. “That was so good. I am telling my daughter she needs to check it out when she comes here for business next week,” one said.
In 2019, we left the same restaurant shaking our heads, “It all was so bland. It took a long time for the order to come. I don’t want to come back again.” This when we were the only customers that evening. I doubt it will be there in 2020.
Once before I had anticipated the demise of an eatery. It happened while traveling out of town. Our family custom when traveling takes us away from national franchises to try off the beaten path restaurants – new places. We have discovered some now favorite places on the route to visiting family.
And then, there are the unforgettable culinary disasters. The worst happened several years ago on our way home. Tired of hours in the car on an open road, I squirmed impatiently, ready for a break. As my husband turned toward his favorite hamburger joint. I said, “Let’s try something different. Enough already with that monotonously repetitive menu everywhere we stop.”
He veered off the highway and aimed the car up the hill to the town’s center. Saturday afternoon and the town square looked dead. Very dead.
“See anything?” he asked.
“Closed clothing shop. Closed courthouse. A couple trucks parked around the town square of darkened windows. Oh wait! There is a restaurant on the corner with the lights on.”
We parked right beside the restaurant’s door.
Inside we had our choice of all the tables in the room. We had arrived during that slow time between lunch and supper. Fine with me. I needed time away from road noise and the din of chatter.
The proprietor, manager and owner all showed up in one smiling little lady. “This is pancake day. All the pancakes you want for a couple dollars,” she smiled proudly. “We have served a lot of pancakes today,” she testified as did the sticky tables, the sticky chairs and (was it my imagination?) the sticky floor. She seemed oblivious to the stickiness.
“What can I get you?”
“Pancakes,” my husband smiled breathing deeply the aroma of syrup and pancakes.
“Vegetable soup if you have it” I said.
“Great! My cook prepared it today.” She toddled off to the kitchen.
The plate of pancakes and a pitcher of syrup appeared. A lukewarm bowl of vegetable soup was placed proudly before me. The owner took her own bowl of soup and sat across the room at another table with a look of sheer bliss. She eagerly spooned the soup.
I did not. It looked like all the leftovers and bottom of the pan of burnt vegetables from the last couple days. It appeared to have a thin layer of grease.
I took a couple of bites and placed my spoon across the bowl. I wasn’t that hungry. The little lady obviously was. She spooned her soup and smiled. She had had a good day with lots of customers.
My husband looked at me. I was not eating. “The peas are burnt,” I explained. “I will make vegetable soup when I get home.”
The next time we drove by the little town along the river, our curiosity pointed the car off the road and up the hill. We drove around the silent town square to the restaurant on the corner. It sported a firm “Closed” sign. Not even cheap pancakes can not sustain an eatery. Not when plenty of other places offer perfect vegetable soup and clean chairs even on Pancake Day.