Since January I've been spending about half
of my time south of the Mason Dixon line.
If nothing else said experience reinforced
that my everyday existence is out of touch
with the rest of America. Obviously living
in Manhattan distorts one's perception. But
after diving down into middle America's
milieu I've confirmed that our life in rural
Montana is equally out of sync. Whats more
than obvious is that most of my fellow U.S.
citizens are fairly happy with things the way
they are. And post yet another immersion
into their above ground pool, I must agree.
Off the menu
I'm if nothing else a food snob. For most of my
adult existence I've dined on the finest cuisine
available. Wherever I choose to sup - be it at
home or about town I inevitably get a fairly
decent meal. However I must admit that once
one ventures out into the heartland, fine fare
is few and far between. Back in Montana if I
couldn't get a decent meal out, I enjoyed a fine
repast at home. Sadly when on the road said
option is not on the menu. Thus when out or
about I do my best to find the best within the
limited sphere of influence of the provincial
cities that I now frequent. Often to no avail.
Highs and lows
Obviously there are charming spots all across
America. In addition I've found that talented
mixologists tend bar in even the most isolated
of locations. However enjoying a decent meal
in the hither lands could possibly be one of the
biggest challenges I've faced. On the surface
the menus seem fairly appetizing. However
overly ambitious concoctions, limited fresh
resources, and inconsistent kitchen output is
a guarantee that local fare is fair at best. Once
in awhile I'm surprised by a fabulous meal but
inevitably upon a return engagement whatever
prior high is usurped by new unsurpassed lows.
Down & out
That's why I dined en masse last night. Rather
than consume over priced mediocrity, I opted
to venture out onto the edge of town. There
lies a chain gang of nationally known brands
who consistently deliver exactly what they
promise. Soon I was ensconced at the bar of
"Cheddars" a chain similar to Chili's, TGIF, or
Applebees. From the start it was a refreshing
experience. Post ordering a glass of Cabernet
(of which I've no idea from when or whence
it came) the barkeep asked me to see my I.D.
Immediately I burst out laughing given I'm
obviously old enough to truly need a drink!
Remarkably my eight dollar glass of vino was
quite good. As proven by no residual effects
the morning after. Immediately post ordering
my meal - a substantial house salad arrived.
A bed of chopped iceberg and cherry tomatoes
was covered in ranch dressing, shredded yellow
cheese, croutons, and chopped egg. God was
that good! After devouring all of my plebeian
roughage the main event was served with up a
smile. My eleven ounce sirloin was cooked to
perfection as was the "loaded" baked potato
that accompanied it. No wonder "Cheddars"
is as packed as the nearby "Cracker Barrel"!
Blue plate special
To be utterly candid, there was absolutely
nothing wrong with my repast. While prior
to serving it may have been vacuum packed
and shipped straight from a factory, all was
beyond my expectations. Especially the bill.
Post two glasses of vino, a steak and all the
fixin's - my tally was less than the price of
one cocktail at the King Cole Room back
home. Hence I exited my journey to the far
side with a dramatically altered perspective.
Mass branding may be mundane but it's a
guarantee of satisfaction. "Under promise,
over deliver" may be the recipe for success!
My only disappointment was my fellow diners.
Slovenly is the only way to describe their attire.
Yet the fact that I was surprised is questionable.
While navigating through big box retail prior
to dinner, at least five folks commented about
"how dressed up" I was. Obviously few must
encounter a gentleman in jeans and sport coat.
Yet adrift in a tsunami of "casual" I certainly
stood out. Thus while enjoying my time on the
other side, this stranger in plebeian paradise is
eady to return to civilization. And fortunately,
I've booked a seat up front in MY comfort zone.
Only to return to "Cheddars" in a week or so...