Friday, January 22, 2010

Adventures While Eating Out

      Barbara and I just got back from lunch at a new restaurant with a busload of people from Luther Acres. It got me to thinking back over various adventures I have had while eating out. They were not all fun when they happened, but thinking about them now brings up a bunch of pleasant memories. I hope you will also get some enjoyment out of them.
      My earliest experience with restaurant meals occurred just before I moved back to Manheim in 1940. Until that time I was living with my grandparents while my parents were trying to find work. They had found an apartment, and not wishing to transfer me to a new school during the school year, they had me stay with them on weekends.
      Since my father had finally obtained a permanent full time job, we could afford to walk to Scheaffer's restaurant on Saturday nights for dinner. The depression was still going on, so the three of us could eat for about a dollar. The meal included meat, two vegetables, bread and butter, and dessert.
      When I started in the Manheim school system the next fall, my mother was working part time as a waitress at a local restaurant. I walked the two blocks to the restaurant for lunch, which cost about a quarter. Again, it was a full meal.
      A long time fixture on the Manheim Square, at least on Fridays and Saturdays, was Bill Shiffer's hot dog and hamburger stand. Bill had his enclosed trailer towed to the square on Friday morning, and proceeded to sell his wares through Saturday night. And they were the most delicious hot dogs and hamburgers imaginable. Costing a whole dime, they were worth every penny of it. A group of us made a habit of stopping in for a snack after the basketball games on Friday nights. Of course, the more time that goes by, the better they tasted.
      When Bill passed away, his son, Paul, continued to operate the stand as before until the early 1950s, although by that time the price had escalated to twenty cents. I do not recall anyone ever getting sick from either Bill's or Paul's products, but at that time a local doctor decided that the trailer was unsanitary, and the stand was closed down.
      After I went into the army, restaurant meals didn't happen very often, and after I got married the first time, money was not plentiful enough to enable much eating out.
      However, after Barbara and I moved to California, we managed to eat out on a fairly regular basis. One of our favorite dishes was Chateaubriand at the Steer and Stein restaurant in Fullerton. It was delicious.
      There was also a Steer and Stein in Orange, and one Saturday night we went there with friends to try it out. It was a disaster! First there was a terrible calamity: they ran out of wine! They resolved that problem by going to a nearby liquor store to replenish their supply, then the power went off and we had to eat almost in the dark.
      We also liked to frequent Walt's Wharf in Seal Beach. Of course, the main attraction there was seafood, which they cooked over large charcoal grills in a glass-enclosed room. One night the power went off there, and the exhaust fans over the grills stopped operating. We had to eat while fighting back the tears in the smoke-filled restaurant.
      One time while visiting Barbara's parents, we all decided to visit Williamsburg, Virginia. We tried to get dinner at one restaurant, but my father-in-law was wearing shorts, so they wouldn't let us in.
      Someone suggested a seafood restaurant just outside of town. It was actually an old warehouse, and the cooking was done behind a curtain strung across one end of the room. But the food was delicious. It was there that Barbara introduced me to steamed clams, and that soon became my favorite seafood. I have often been thankful that her father was not wearing long pants that night.
      At one time there was a chain of California restaurants called Reubens, and our favorite dish there was the Plank Steak for two. Again the power went off while we were there one night. (By this time we were beginning to think that our presence had an adverse effect on the power supply). We had already received our meal, and the emergency power supply was sufficient for lighting, but not for operating the cash registers. Apparently the help was not too good at addition, because we were told they didn't know how much the bill was. I told them it looked like about $30 to me, and they said that looked OK. I was honest with my estimate, but I suppose I could have shaved it considerably, and they would have accepted it.
      There was also another occasion at a different Reubens location where there was a problem with one of their circuit breakers, so that they could not make any deep fried foods. Fortunately we had not ordered French Fries, so we had no problem that time.
      Barbara's parents were visiting us when friends of ours took the four of us to a Chinese restaurant. Barbara's mother had left her open purse on the floor next to her chair. During the course of the meal, the food server accidentally dropped a tray full of food on the floor; a portion of it went right into my mother-in-law's purse. She was picking snow peas out of her purse for the remaining week she was with us.
      Some time ago Barbara had some pizza left over, and the waiter said he would box it for her to take home. We waited and waited, and finally had to remind him that we were still waiting. He apologized, and brought her a complete fresh pizza, and in addition, he poured each of us a free glass of wine. Apparently her leftover had been thrown out by mistake.
      Nowadays when we have leftovers, we ask that the "doggie" bag be brought to the table so that we may fill it ourselves. Why? Because one night Barbara got a bag full of leftovers from a meal which no one at the table had ordered.
      There is no question about it, if one eats out often enough, he will encounter his share of "incidents." With us, it seems to be power outages more than anything else. I suppose we will have more adventures in the future, at least, I hope so. Not all the spice is in the food.

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