Recently The Man and I had the chance to spend the day together about an hour from home. Someone recommended we try out a greasy spoon style cafe in the area that has been around for generations. There wasn't much in the way of food close by, so thought we'd give it a try. We figured it had to be good right? It had been in business for more than our lifetime, it was recommended to us by locals, and when I looked up the address it had really high online ratings/recommendations. Should be a home run, right?
I had dreamy ideas that we might find some amazing hole in the wall spot that would put the cherry on top of our nice day together. When we walked in, the place was packed. Yet another good sign. There was a lovely plaque on the wall telling about the first owner, her hopes and dreams for this homecooking style establishment.
It looked a little rickety, but that could all be chalked up to more charm, right? The wait staff was something straight out of a movie, ladies ranging in age from about 30 to maybe early 80s whizzing around the tables filling up water glasses, taking orders and serving large platters of food. Everyone seated at tables seemed happy and like they were enjoying their food.
So we sat down, perused the many pages of "homecooked" menu items and settled on a biscuits & gravy breakfast platter for The Man and a club sandwich with fries for me. While we sipped the water we enjoyed business cards placed under the glass on the table. Our favorite was for cattle insemination services from a local bull. Brought back memories of the weird things I saw vets do on our farm growing up. Not something you want to think about while sitting waiting for a meal. Haha.
The service was quick, within minutes we had two large plates before us. One look at the man's plate and I knew we'd made an expensive and unsettling mistake with our choice of establishments. The plate was swimming with biscuit gravy and it was covering everything. Wow. I tried not to look at his food and picked up the salt and pepper and began to "dress" my french fries.
I popped one in my mouth, glad I'd ordered something simple that didn't look revolting. I was quickly sadly dismayed to find out that this place can't even make a good french fry. How do you ruin french fries?! Can you say rancid oil in the fat fryer. I felt sick. Just how long had the oil been in the fat fryer?! Ewwwwww.
The Man gulped down what he could of his pancakes. I seriously tried not to look at his plate or respond much to his quiet complaining. I didn't want to put any fuel of the fire of his dismay. I choked down three triangles of my club sandwich. I was disappointed at just how bad this place was, how much we were spending for food we didn't even want to eat and thinking we could have gone to Subway up the street for half the price.
Even more I was stunned at how many people kept pouring into the cafe in droves, large groups of families and friends. Were these people all aliens who had never eaten real human food before? Were The Man and I the aliens who seemed out of touch with everything happening around us? Was I in some sort of planetary time warp? What was going on here.
How in the world had this place stayed in business a day, let alone decades?! Why were people still coming here? How did the people who worked here not see that the food was horrible? How do get a job as a food service handler without knowing that oil needs to be changed regularly in the fat fryer? That sausage patties should be able to be cut with a knife and be cooked within at least a day or so of serving them? That thick sliced ham should not be hard as a brick? Seriously it seemed only The Man and I saw this place for the horror that it was. Everyone else appeared to not only be enjoying eating there that day but it was clear most of them had eaten there many, many times before!
I offered my fourth triangle to The Man as a peace offering/apology for his bad meal. Clearly the club sandwich, a little too drenched with mayo, was the absolute best thing happening on our table as sad as it was.
On the wall, was a long list of "delicious, homemade" desserts. For a moment we considered getting dessert as a way of salvaging the experience, but thought better of it when we realized how much more disgusted we would be if we spent another ten dollars and the desserts were horrible. We quickly paid the bill, feeling still hungry, sick to our stomachs and thinking we might never want to eat again. Still even talking about it makes me feel queasy. The Man and I decided that this was by far the worst eating out experience either of us had ever had -- and that's saying something since we've both lived and traveled all over the world and been in some pretty sketchy eating places.
I'm going to try to chalk it up to the spirit of adventure. We went, we tried. It was an experience we won't soon forget or try to replicate! This experience definitely made me gun shy of trying anything like this place again, but I hope I will still have the courage to try an eating adventure now and again. Sometimes being brave and going for the risk doesn't pay off at all, but it's still fun to live on the edge now and then. A least you have a good story to tell afterwards.
Do you have a restaurant/cafe horror story that still haunts you? How bad was it?