Wednesday, May 30, 2012

the point of no return

I talk a lot about food on this blog.
I think because it's the driving force for all of humanity, and I like to pay homage to God's delicious creations via chefs and talented spice-users.

But what I haven't really talked about are the uh-ohs. The "oops"es, the dear GOD!s, the restaurants that you'd like to forget you ever went to. The ones that maybe make you sick all night, or even the ones where you just swirl your food around to make it look like you ate something...

Despite your great opinions of us, we've been there. Done that. There have been plenty of restaurants we haven't been particularly proud of. Ones we don't tell anyone about. Rooky mistakes.

Last night was one of them.

Now, there's a time in every eating situation where you can't leave. The Point of No Return.
That moment when you sit down, and say, "I'll have a coke."
Bam. You're tied to that table, to that check, to that waiter/waitress.

My advice to you? Take a look around. Loiter around the doorway. Take it all in. If you're paying attention, in the first five minutes, you can successfully determine whether or not you should run for your lives, or sit to dine.

Some dangerous downfalls:
(these typically do not apply to well-known and/or chain restaurants. especially with fast food, you're always eating at your own risk):

1. Just because the parking lot is full does NOT mean that the restaurant is of good quality.
2. If you are the only one of your age/gender/race, you're probably in the wrong place.
3. If the title of the restaurant has "Country" in it, you have about an 87% chance that it's for people over the age of 65.
4. Don't get fish unless it's a Seafood Restaurant. (I don't always follow this, but it's usually a good idea.)
5. If they have steak for $4, GET OUTTA THERE.
6. If the tables are dirty, the floors are dirty, and the people are dirty, chances are, the food will be dirty.
7. If a restaurant can't decide what it serves (AKA Italian, Mexican, Asian, American, Southern, etc.) then it most likely doesn't do anything very well.

Last Night:

Dusty got all of his grades back, and did amazingly well. He was extremely excited! So we went down the list of restaurants we wanted to try for a celebration dinner.

We started at the bigger places, then filtered down the line and landed on tacos, since that was the closest to the other errands we had to run.
So we headed out to La Ranchera.
I'm not going to be too harsh on this place, because we got too scared to stay longer than 5 minutes, so my first impressions are all I have.

A friend recommended this place for really good, authentic Mexican tacos. Although he had never actually been himself. (Red alert). As we pulled in, we began to collect hunches. Not many of them were good.
It was a small little building, and was definitely not in the "restaurant" category. We had already been expecting a hole-in-the-wall, so we went in despite our trepidation.
Inside was a Mexican market. Our interest was piqued, because we have often been pretty saddened by the lack of real west coast Mexican food around here.
The rows of shelves were really close together, and it was dark and really quiet. Dusty and I walked in slowly, and were stared down by the cashier. We shimmied to the back, where there was a little counter and a menu up above it. There was a little woman inside, but it was really dark, and we honestly couldn't tell whether or not anything was on. She stared at us for a while, and then disappeared.

We blinked around, and I hopped excitedly over to a nearby wall that was packed with Mexican spices. Of course, after seeing about a thousand packets of Coriander seeds, and nothing of true spice value, I pouted.
I regained some excitement when I saw a stack of tortillas!!
But they were dry, thick, and unholy.
This confirmed our worst suspicions: Virginia Mexicans are devious pretenders.
They don't know what green chiles are, what "enchilada style" means, and have probably never seen the sunny coasts of Mexico.
We got outta there pretty quickly, because...well, refer to #2 on the above list.

Dusty was so hungry at this point that we decided to go back to a restaurant we had passed earlier, that had a full parking lot and was called "Country Kitchen". Refer to #1 and #3.

As soon as we walked in, I started to giggle. We sat in a booth, and ordered the fateful beverage.
"I'll have a coke".
I continued to giggle, and Dusty just kept saying, "What, what?? This will be great. It'll be great."
The more we looked around, the more I laughed. "Happy celebration dinner, honey!" I said, with a cheesy smile and a pat on the hand.

We were pretty surrounded by the elderly. You could clearly detect that they were all regulars, who came here daily and called the waitresses by name. I actually heard a man nearby say, "Well, ya know, 30 years ago..."

The nice gents sitting next to us.

It took a while to decide, but we finally ordered.
We had asked the waiter what the most popular menu item was, and he said the meatloaf.
The menu item description was, "Meatloaf with tomato sauce." Not ketchup, not barbecue sauce, just...tomato sauce.
I decided to get the grilled salami and swiss sandwich; nice and simple. Hard to get wrong.
We then asked what a "Hot Hamburger" was. He described it as a bun, burger patty, french fries or mashed potatoes, some gravy, then another burger patty, and a bun. It sounded like a pretty interesting Southern-twist burger. So Dusty decided to try that, since neither of us had ever heard of anything like that.
What the man did not say was that it was 2 buns, 2 burger patties, and a pile of mashed potatoes all drowning in gravy together.

See that pile of ketchup on my plate? It was sour.
Now, I've never had bad ketchup before. But if ketchup can ferment the same way fruit can, lemme tell you...that ketchup had some kick.

$15 later, (they didn't take cards, which we were not aware of until we approached the cashier and she let us know. So, check it is!) we emerged from the restaurant, and I started to laugh again.
Sometimes, you just gotta experience something before moving on. Oh, and I'll ad another point to my list...

8. Don't stop somewhere just because you're hungry and don't want to wait to find something worth your while. (Go a little deeper, and that little gem can apply to all facets of life).

Lynchburg has a lot of hidden treasures, but sometimes, you throw your net out, and all you catch is an old boot.
Country Kitchen is not somewhere I'd ever go again, but it's definitely a treasure for some of the every-dayers. And I think that's sweet. So I'll leave 'em to it :)

Tonight, we'll be grilling chicken kabobs with friends, and making homemade Mango ice cream.
I think we'll stick to eating in for a while, and save the time and money!

Happy Wednesday :)

In love,


  1. Hahaha! This was great! I absolutely love your list! HAHA! I think I know where to get you guys a gift certificate for your anniversary dinner ;) ;)

  2. YOU CAN WRITESO WELL! I so enjoyed this blog - keep it up ;))) And, keep
    trying new things.
    Love, Joy

  3. So funny! I love the pictures of the food. It looked so unappetizing! So glad you got to celebrate anyway. And didn't get food poisoning:)