About 3 months ago, 2 women and I decided to have lunch at the bar-b-que restaurant in town (featuring prime Angus beef, doncha know) that had been reopened for 6 weeks or so after having been closed for a while.
Walking into the restaurant, one faces a long counter and behind it sees the kitchen, which is separated from the restaurant by a mid-chest-high partition and a door. So, one can see the people working busily in there even if one can’t actually seeing what they are doing.
Keep in mind, this is the beginning of what passes as the lunch rush hour in our little down.
We are seated at a table at the front of the restaurant, with a full view of the door and the counter and the kitchen. We are handed menus, we think a while about it, and then we all order bar-b-que sandwiches, with various sides -- coleslaw, baked beans.
Keep in mind that the meat we ordered had gone through the bar-b-que process. The meat was to be placed on buns. No “short order” cooking was required. About 10 minutes after we placed our orders, I happened to glance over at the counter--and the kitchen--and noticed the kitchen was empty. All the busy people who had been there when we walked in were suddenly gone.
I just about got a crick in my neck watching the empty kitchen. One of the women mentioned to the host that it was taking “an awful long time….”
“Oh,” he said, “it will be ready soon.”
“Soon” stretched to a 30-minute wait before someone finally brought our sandwiches. We were not happy. The sandwiches were OK, but not that great. I doubt that I will ever go back to that restaurant.
Fast forward to Tuesday noon. Richard and I have entered a small restaurant in a touristy town 170 miles away where two other couples are sitting at small tables, waiting to be served. Against the wall, closest to the kitchen area, is a table where the waiter has laid out a game of solitaire. Other personal items and cigarettes sit on the table. A woman is in the small kitchen area, working behind a waist-high partition with wire racks and shelves serving as the walls.
This restaurant has been recommended to us by someone who says it is very unique and very good. We can see at once that it is unique, and we are prepared to believe it is very good.
We are given menus and we place our orders. We are given a basket of chips and some green salsa. We wait a while. The cook is cooking, the waiter resumes his solitaire game.
The salsa we have been given to eat with our chips is amazingly good. I mention to Richard how good I think the salsa is. Apparently we are not the only ones to think so. A woman comes in and buys some salsa, which they are happy to sell her. The waiter puts some into a couple of small jars with lids and off she goes.
The waiter says he is happy to hear I like the salsa. He made it fresh this morning.
Then there is a flurry of activity, and plates are carried to the tables of the other two couples. They begin to eat.
Oh good, I am thinking, it won’t be long now.
Then, much to our astonishment, the woman who is cooking comes out of the kitchen area, and she and the waiter whisper to each other, open the door, and leave the restaurant. The six of us are left sitting alone in the restaurant.
They are eating.
We are eating chips, but they are rapidly disappearing. We sit and wait for the waiter and the cook to come back. We wait and wait. Eventually we conclude they have gone outside to smoke cigarettes. I have forgotten how long it takes to smoke a cigarette. I don’t remember it took as long as they are taking.
I ask Richard if he wants to leave some money on the table and walk out. He says, “Yeah, if it takes too much longer….”
Eventually they do come back in and she begins preparing our food. The other two couples both finish their food and leave. We are left alone in the restaurant, and then, finally, our food comes.
Have I died and gone to Mexican food heaven? Maybe. It was very unusual, and amazingly good. If we ever went back to that town, I would go back to that restaurant.