Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Homogenized Eats

In our travels while on vacation two weeks ago, I tried to avoid the chain restaurants. It wasn't easy. Though for me it was more fun try to a po' boy sandwich in Savannah or a crab chowder in Hilton Head, once I hit the expressway, it was back to the usual burger joints, pizza places and sandwich shops. Homogenized eats, I say.

I miss seeing the regional menus you might find at a mom and pop diner. Not to mention the cultural or historical ambience of eating in a restaurant that's been a local icon for a half century or more. I found out recently that The Embers in Mt. Pleasant closed after 50 years in business. When at Central Michigan University, our dormitory held a dinner there in honor of the seniors, including myself. "Thanks for the memories," it now says on their sign. Ditto here. Places like this seem to be disappearing fast.

If you stick with the usual fare in Michigan, you might miss the fried chicken at Zehnder's in Frankenmuth, or the unusual deli offerings right here at Zingerman's in Ann Arbor. I've had both. In our travels roundabout the U.S., we've sampled Chicago hot dogs, New England clam chowder in Boston, deep fried pork chops at a buffet in the south and homemade Pennsylvania Dutch scrapple in Lancaster. Mmmmmmmmm, good.

You experience the unusual too. At one out-the-way diner I tracked down, the woman running the place was short of staff, so a fellow diner, a local I presume, helped wait on us. Then there's one of my all-time favorite places--Polly's Pancake Parlor in Sugar Hill, New Hampshire. Featured in numerous articles on regional cuisine, it's a place I've been to twice. It's memorable for a toy horse on the grounds outside, with whom children for decades are obligated to have their pictures taken. That's trot-trot the horse in the picture here.

I got a chuckle out of something that happened at a restaurant down in North Carolina on our return trip home. I had been trying to find a good "southern fried chicken" place but settled for a Bojangles instead. This is a chain fried chicken restaurant, but one I've never visited before. After Wendy and I ordered a lunch, we noticed that the total price was rung up, followed by then a smaller amount which we paid.

We both figured it had to do something with a combo meal discount, but when Wendy checked the receipt at the table, a smile crossed her face. "They gave you a senior citizen discount," she said. What? This would be a first. The first time I had been given a senior discount without my asking for one, or without them asking my age.

Then my wife looked at the receipt further and the smile disappeared. They had given her one too. Her first senior discount. And she didn't even have to ask. NOW, it wasn't funny. Wendy flagged down an employee cleaning tables to ask what the age was for getting such a discount. But the worker didn't speak English. So we let it drop.

Maybe I should start singing her the song, "Silver Threads Among The Gold." Aaaaaa, better not. Our sofa's not that comfortable for sleeping.


Blogger poopie said...

OMG..what a hoot! Until I get MY first one, that is :)

3:13 PM  
Anonymous Kristy said...

"The worker didn't speak English. So we let it drop."

Sure. I'd pretend to not speak English either, if it avoided a conversation with an offended female customer. Good strategy!

5:58 PM  
Blogger Matty said...

Oh Boy..hope you told Wendy that the cashier had to be blind to think that!
Now I have to go and google 'deep-fried pork chops'...it sounds great!

6:30 PM  
Blogger Carine said...

Sounds like you and Wendy had some "tasty" experiences! As for the "deep-fried pork chops", well, I'm known for eating healthy, so that's one dish, I take a pass on.

8:17 AM  
Anonymous Deb said...

We're fairly lucky here. A lot of our restaurants are still family owned, but the chains are constantly trying to eliminate them.

10:52 AM  
Blogger Lucy Stern said...

My daughter has a book, that she bought, that lists all the wonderful places to eat all over the country...She was talking about it just yesterday. I like eating at the mom and pop places too, but they close down because of competition from the big chains...

I was offened the first time someone gave me a senior citizen discount, but now I am just grateful for the discount.

12:52 AM  
Blogger Dust-bunny said...

You really don't look old enough to automatically get a senior discount, Dave. The cashier was probably in her teens...they think people in their 30's are ancient!

5:02 AM  
Blogger Peter said...

"Wooden splinters in the cracked skull" could make a good follow up tune Dave... be careful.

5:05 AM  
Blogger Lucy Stern said...

Well Dave, I went back and looked at that picture of you and I did see some grey hair. Have you ever heard of "Hair care for men"? Don't worry about it and just enjoy life as it comes......

9:39 AM  
Blogger Big Dave T said...

(DB) Awwww, thanks. But the lighting in the cellar doesn't really show ALL the grey.

(LUCY) I tried one of those manly coloring formulas on my mop once. The color turned out much lighter than I thought it would. When I arrived at work the next day my boss said, "What happened? Did you lose a bet?"

11:34 AM  
Blogger Nankin said...

I used to travel alot for work and was thankful for the chain restraunts when we could find them. At least they were safe if not memorable.

12:24 PM  
Blogger Trucker Bob said...

Cholesterol be damned, pass the deep-fried pork chops!

Don't know why I'm surprised at the non-English speaking worker.

Did you do anything else on this trip besides eat? KIDDING!

4:31 AM  
Anonymous Terri said...

Too funny....but that WAS rather presumptuous of them.
On the other end of the spectrum....Ray and I were at the Hotel in Newark and we got "carded"....lol I couldn't believe it! I HAD to ask the girl WHY. I said, "obviously, we both LOOK over 21" to which she replied, "company policy." Darn...thought for a moment we had her fooled.

2:57 PM  
Blogger Kacey said...

Oh Lordy, my kids are going to be getting Senior discounts pretty soon --- then I will feel old!
Did you ever think how hard it must be to have a Mom and Pop place? The hours and work have to be terrible, just to eke out a living. Must be the reason the chains have taken over the country.

4:32 PM  
Blogger Babette said...


6:58 AM  
Blogger Lucy Stern said...

Dave - my husband tried the hair color "once" too and he says he will never do it again....Actually, I love him just the way he is, he's all mine.

11:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


10:58 PM  

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