High-priced dinner

Rick Ryckeley's picture

The Wife and I were invited out to dinner with friends at a fancy downtown restaurant. Now I know it will come as a shock to many of you that I have friends willing to pay for my dinner, but put your fears at rest. The friends were hers; I just tagged along as her guest.

To be honest, I’ve never been to a restaurant that had valet parking before — unless you count the Varsity. On a football weekend, the carhops point to where you need to park and they don’t charge you $15 to park your car.

The Wife called it a tip; I called it blackmail because if we didn’t pay, our car would be lost forever. My argument that I’ve been parking my own car for 35 years and don’t need a teenager to park it for me fell on deaf ears.

I didn’t even let The Boy drive my car when he was a teenager, and he was my own flesh and blood. And paying him to do so?? Utterly ridiculous. So now, just because we were eating dinner at a fancy restaurant, I’m supposed to give my keys to a teenager I don’t know and pay him, too? I put my foot down and told The Wife it would only happen over my dead body. I’m the man in the house; I’ll park my own car!

After I paid the kid $15 and he sped off in our car, I held the door for The Wife and we stepped into the restaurant. A maître d’ showed us to our seats at a table laid with fine china on a white linen tablecloth next to a waterfall.

I had never eaten dinner with the sound of water all around me — unless you count that time it rained at the Varsity. The carhops got soaked, but they got our chili dogs, onion rings and peach pies out to us, hot and greasy just like always.

The Wife ordered for me because I couldn’t read the menu. It wasn’t because it was in French; I had forgotten my glasses and couldn’t see. After ordering, the two waiters returned and buzzed around the table offering bread trays and refilling our water glasses. After something called a scone (a hard mini-biscuit) and two glass of water to wash it down, the sound of the waterfall called to me and I excused myself.

Returning to the table, the first of five courses was placed before me, something called vichyssoise. It just tasted like cold potato soup to me.

The next course was some kind of salad. This is where I committed the first of many faux pas of the evening.

In front of me sat three glasses, two knives, two spoons, and three forks. I, being the culinary Neanderthal that I am, picked the wrong fork to eat my salad, and the collective gasp around the table almost sucked all the oxygen out of the room.

After the scandal, it was more bread, more water, and another trip to the facilities to check on the man handing out hot washcloths instead of paper towels before the main course arrived.

At least I think it finally arrived. It was an hour and a half after we sat down and the food was so small that I really couldn’t see it too well without my glasses. A small amount of food stacked high in the middle of an oversized plate, no matter how lovely it looks, doesn’t fill you up.

My theory is the bigger the plate and the smaller the food, the more they can justify charging for it.

I whispered to The Wife that when the carhop brings food to you at the Varsity the tray that hangs on the window is overflowing. You can see it even without your glasses. The comment prompted a sharp elbow in the ribs.

Two hours into the meal it was time for dessert, and I felt rather confident I wouldn’t embarrass The Wife further. The only thing left in front of me was a fork, spoon and a full glass of water. Knowing my affinity for cherries, she ordered for me.

Twenty minutes later, the waiter returned, setting a flaming bowl down in front of me. The firefighter in me took over, and I immediately doused the flames with my water glass. This caused another collective gasp around the table, and we were asked to leave. OK. I was asked to leave, but The Wife had the ticket for the car.

We paid another $5 to the teenager to bring our car back who, in the time it took for us to eat dinner, had grown a full beard. Soon we were on our way south and home.

Lucky for me our route took us by the Varsity. We enjoyed two chili dogs, onion rings, chocolate shakes and peach pies — all without silverware or incident. And nothing was set on fire.

Dinner at a fancy downtown French restaurant listening to a waterfall and not knowing which fork to use: $95 each. Eating dinner in the car and enjoying a hot peach pie with The Wife at the Varsity: priceless.

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