In the 20 years we’ve been married my husband and I have enjoyed some unique experiences while dining out. Well, let me rephrase that, dining out with my husband can be a unique experience. It all started shortly after we were married. We took a little weekend get-away to the Mammoth Cave area and at one point during the trip we went to Bowling Green. We stopped at a Ponderosa to eat, now I know what you’re probably thinking, but keep in mind it was 20 years ago, we were young and mostly broke. And of course, Ponderosa advertised an “All You Can Eat” steak special which attracts my husband like a moth to a flame. So one steak down and another on his plate he started steak number two and after one bite his face said it all…. Something was really wrong. He started desperately searching for his napkin and I’m pretty sure he was turning green. He spit what was in his mouth into the napkin and reached for his drink that the waitress had just taken away for a refill. He sprinted to the bathroom. When he returned he stated his steak was rancid and we were leaving. I think he told the waitress something was wrong and she offered to bring him a new one but he declined. After shoving the remainder of my salad into my mouth (I skipped the all you can eat steak) and we left, the entire rancid all you can eat steak still sitting on the plate.
That was where it started. Prior to that I can’t remember any “gee you should write this down” moments in a restaurant with him.
There have been several since. Most of which have made it to this blog. Including most notably the day he took me to lunch at the sushi place. But there are a few undocumented ones as well, for instance did you know that Bob Evans doesn’t serve corn? Nope no corn on the menu at Bob Evans. He’ll tell you the story every time you pass a Bob Evans and sometimes you don’t even have to be near one for him to bring it up. Or better yet, 20 years later, we still re-live the Ponderosa story at least once a year if we pass a sign for one.
So it should’ve come as no surprise to me when for lunch on our 20th Anniversary get away weekend we had yet another of our somewhat infamous restaurant incidents. We were just a little hungry, so I suggested a small little sandwich shop since we were going to have a big dinner later that evening. The sandwich shop is in the basement of a larger restaurant…. I didn’t really think that option through very well. We were 2nd in line for a table behind “Carmel Dad” and his wife and daughter. Yes I nicknamed him almost immediately, also probably an indication that this was not going to go well. Carmel Dad was irritated and wasn’t shy about letting anyone know. I’m not sure how long he had been waiting but a quick scan of the restaurant and there were a few empty tables, and a few that needed dishes cleared away. So, I started watching the scene unfolding, there were about 4 waitresses, but not one came over to seat anyone and an older gentleman clearing tables. Then a line started to form at the cash register. One of the waitresses came over and asked if the first lady was paying by cash or card, the lady offered her bill and a credit card and the waitress announced she could do that but not cash because her dad had the register key. Before she could swipe the card, the guy clearing tables swooped in and started checking everyone out. Apparently that was dad and he had the key.
After making his way through the line of people cashing out, he looked at Carmel Dad and asked how many. “Still three.” Was Carmel Dad’s answer. So instead of taking them to one of the tables he had just cleared, the guy went to another table and cleared it, and then another. At this point I’m pretty sure I should have found a new place to eat, but neither of us were starving and it was kind of starting to become fun to watch. PS “Carmel Dad” is a totally unfair stereotypical name based on his daughters Guerin Catholic sweatshirt and his head to toe Callaway attire. He came back and sat Carmel Dad’s family and then the line picked up at the cash register again so I knew despite the now six cleaned off tables we weren’t going to sit down anytime soon. Oddly the daughter came over and asked if there was just two of us and we said yes and she took us to a table.
Things were starting to look up. The menu was mostly sandwiches and burgers, but also had breakfast served all day. We each teeter tottered between breakfast or burgers, I’m not sure why but the sandwiches didn’t sound great. We both picked cheeseburgers and potato rounds. Then my husband decided to go to the bathroom. This is when it started. When he returned he informed me that to get to the bathroom you have to go out the back door and up 9 stairs, I wasn’t tracking what his point was because I was pretty sure we had to go down 9 stairs to get to the front door when we came in. That’s when he told me if something happened, like a kitchen fire, our only means of egress was the getting up those 9 stairs, either in the front or the back.
I smiled. Maybe I sighed. Despite the flashbacks of the “gas leak” at the sushi place that were flooding my brain I managed to take a quick scan of the surroundings and lay out my plan for escape to satisfy him. More than likely I would head for the back stairs because they were closer even though they were also closer to the kitchen and the likely source of the “fire.” And to be quite honest there was only a table of older ladies and a mom with her six-year-old between me and the stairs and I was fairly certain I could beat them all to the back steps. I know that’s awful, right? I’m sure I would assist them all before making my way up the stairs. It didn’t dawn on me at the time because it was a bright sunshiny day, but I should have pointed out we were in the safest place possible for severe weather.
Did I mention that I spent the entire week before our trip in Emergency Management and Planning classes? I think I was just on emergency situation overload so mostly my plan for lunch was just … lunch and not Escape Planning 101. I diverted his attention by having him watch the owner go back and forth between clearing tables and cashing people out and decorations which were all IU. Mostly Bobby Knight, it was a Bobby Knight shrine actually. Then he got distracted by Super Loud Guy who was talking a lot and loud enough for everyone to hear.
I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining either, I was actually enjoying myself. There was a couple of times I had to stop myself from laughing because I knew if I started it would be that uncontrollable laughter with tears and shaking and snorting. Super Loud Guy was commenting about his food, Carmel Dad was still grouchy despite having his food, and our waitress kept telling everyone that her dad would check them out at the register because he had the key, which is when my emergency skills kicked in (finally) because I wanted to tell her to stop saying that because if anyone wanted to rob them they would know exactly who has the cash register key. And this is what it’s like to eat with the Baughn’s.
So with no robbery or fire on the horizon (don’t you feel sorry for our kids?) our food came and the burgers looked good, because we could see them because there was no top bun. Odd. Maybe the top bun is under the burger. Nope… no top bun there. Neither of us really said anything for about a minute as we were both thinking the same thing and searching under the potatoes for the top bun.
“So, are there no top buns?” he asked.
“Doesn’t look that way does it? Did they say they were open-faced sandwiches?”
“No. Well, great I wanted a topless burger for lunch…. Guess we’re low carbing.”
“Um… at least your cheese is normal.”
Let me tell you about the cheese. I ordered hot pepper cheese with the assumption it was just another term for pepper jack. You know the nice sliced Monterey Jack with a few red and green peppers tossed in? Nope my burger was topped with half melted shredded cheddar cheese with diced jalapeno. Which I could clearly see because it was topless. I wondered if they just ran out of buns, my husband wondered where all the bun tops were.
We ate our burgers which were good, and for me a lot more spicy than planned. I mean I can’t complain about the food, just a little shocked at their definition of hot pepper cheese and still curious about the buns. We looked around at the Bobby Knight shrine and when we were done we went to the register, to pay our waitresses dad, because he had the key to the register. And we made it up the nine stairs to street level to finish our day.
It has been an amazing and adventurous 20 years! And I’m still not looking for the exit!