Monday, April 14, 2014

Denny's

6441 South Lindbergh
St. Louis, Mo.
On the Web
On Facebook

Oddly enough, we hadn't been to Denny's in three years. This surprised me a little when I looked it up. It seemed more familiar. But some places are like that. Denny's has been around since 1953, originally as Danny's Donuts, changing its name to Denny's in 1959.Their 'Grand Slam' breakfast has been on the menu since 1977. Not many non-fast food franchises carry a menu item that long.
Maybe that's why it seems familiar, they've changed a little over time, but they are also still very much the same.
Of course they offer much, much more than their famous breakfasts, but I usually associate it with bacon, eggs, sausage, etc. I looked on the menu and found a 'Fish and Chips' plate, but I knew better. It might actually be good, but why risk it?
Angel had picked it because she was jonesing for French Toast and hash browns. Adam and I did not argue.
The Place:
At a very busy section of south Lindbergh, just across from a huge mall. Lots of shoppers whizzing by. This section of road is near the I-270 and I-255 junctions and thus, is twisted, wide, busy and a bit confusing. Angel was second guessing her exit immediately. Not that there's a wrong way to turn, you're never very far off, but with so many major routes intersecting, one could easily find themselves in an infinite loop.
I would have just gone up Highway 21/Tesson Ferry, then south on Lindbergh, I'm a right-angle kind of guy. Angel wanted to trim the corners. She was never lost, but did end up in the wrong lanes a couple of times.
It's a typical Interstate-like Denny's, the tall, familiar sign makes it easy to spot. Inside it is subdued, darker carpets and walls. Lots of tables and booths, the kitchen line open to public viewing. We were seated in a booth near the food line.
Sheree greeted us and asked about drinks and handed out the menus. Since I'd read my earlier review of the place, I ordered coffee rather than tea.
Angel ordered something called Caramel Coffee, which sounded sickening to me. Adam asked for an iced coffee, also awful sounding.
The Food:
The menus are very large, very colorful and have pictures of just about everything. This makes the menus unwieldy, but it is iconic. You get these massive billboard menus at Denny's, its always been that way.
I considered several things but always came back to the breakfast page. The aroma of the place is of smoky breakfast meats and syrup. I don't care for the syrup stench, you can tell this by the fact that I just referred to it as a stench. It's a long story, one you can find here, under the section 'I Digress'.
Sheree came back and set three glasses on the table. "Don't get excited, it's just the water." She said. I took that as a cue. "Oh boy, the water's here, the water's here!" I shouted.
Sheree gave me a matronly glare. So did Angel.
I had sized up Sheree immediately. She's been serving tables a long, long time, I could tell just by seeing her fly from table to table, multi-tasking with a seasoned pro's efficiency and demeanor. I knew she'd been fielding smart-ass attitude for her entire career. I also knew she could handle it. These were our roles. The seasoned waitress versus the snarky, less-funny-than-he-thinks, middle aged guy. It's a play as old as diners themselves.
She took off again, promising to return.
Caramel Coffee
She was very busy. Several times I heard the younger, less experienced crew members call her name for advice or guidance. I knew we were in good hands.
She came back with our drinks and flipped open her order pad.
Angel started with Chicken Fired Steak, 2 eggs, hash browns and plain white toast.

I struggled because I  couldn't find the combination I was wanting. "Can I get French toast with a Grand Slam?" I asked. Sheree wrinkled her face. "There's a French toast menu that you can add sides to." She said. I flipped to the full page 'Build your own French Toast' plate page. I let out a frustrated sigh. "That's really complicated. How about I tell you what I really want and you can tell me what it is that I want to order."
She frowned a little, in that matronly way.
"Two eggs, bacon, hash browns and French toast." I told her.
"I can do that." she said confidently. She scribbled something down.
Adam asked for a 'Grand Slamwich', breakfast on bread, with some hash browns.
Iced Coffee
As she was folding her book, Angel spoke up. "Oh, and we'd like some of the Pancake Poppers too!"
"The Pancake Puppies?" Sheree replied. "Yeah, that's it."
These are what they sound like, golf ball sized and shaped pancakes, deep fried. Like pancake Hush puppies, thus, 'Pancake Puppies.'
The place was quite busy, I knew it would be several minutes before the food arrived. I spent the time productively though, using the free WiFi to download another version of Angry Birds on my tablet. Angel and Adam goofed off with their devices too. We had to, otherwise conversation might have taken place. Nothing good ever comes from casual conversation amongst family members.
In the meantime, someone refilled my coffee, Sheree, maybe, I wasn't really paying attention.
The food did arrive and it looked great, even better than the pictures.
Mine arrived on three plates, which I quickly reduced  to two by scraping the hash browns onto the egg and bacon plate. I was a little concerned about the French toast, I'd neglected to tell Sheree to hold the powdered sugar. There wasn't a whole lot, but as I've said a thousand times before on these hallowed pages, I've weakened my tolerance of sugar over the past couple of years. I can usually handle it as a fractional part of something, like in baked beans, barbecue sauce, sesame chicken, but as a frivolous condiment, not so much. I flipped the Texas-style toast over and tapped most of it off. The resulting pile made up about a teaspoon and there was still a little left on the bread, but it was better than nothing.
Staring at the little pile of powder,  I formed a rock-solid comedic idea. Using my butter knife, I scooted the powder into a straight line, unwrapped my straw, but before I could even get the straw to my nose, Adam figured it out. "Stop it, just don't." He chided. He doesn't appreciate true comic genius.
Grand Slamwich
His Slamwich looked huge. Huge and delicious! Two eggs, and a generous variety of breakfast meat on toasted and buttered potato bread. Yeah, a 1320 calorie sandwich. Add the hash browns and you have 1500+ luscious, delicious calories.
No one ever said this stuff was 'health food'.
Angel's CF Steak came with her requested add-on, extra gravy. To Angel, gravy is it's own elite food group. She doesn't have it very often, honestly, but when she does, she likes a lot of it.
CF Steak, extra gravy.
She also likes her eggs scrambled. I do sometimes, but not when I go to a place with a mastery of egg-making. I prefer mine over-medium. Places like Denny's, Huddle House, Waffle House, and IHOP pride themselves on their egg-making. I rarely get a bad egg at any of these.
She glopped her gravy onto her plate, swirling everything into it. The toast, she said, was a bit too dry, but everything else was great. White toast, dry? (insert 'DUH!' here')
Pancake Poppers, er, Puppies.
Something was missing though. "Where's the pancake poppers?" She asked us. Sure enough they hadn't been delivered. Sheree came by after a few minutes and we mentioned it. She sighed and frowned. "I'll check." She said and dashed off as if on a Holy mission. I had the feeling someone was about to face-plant the grill. She came back and apologized, then a few minutes later brought out the plate, they were fresh out of the fryer. She also delivered two ramekins of syrup and sat one down right in front of me.
She apparently hadn't seen the memo. Seeing my eyes bug out, Angel snatched up the little bowl and stuck it on the far side of the table, saving the entire joint the ravages of a violent and noisy panic fit.
You think I'm exaggerating. I'm not (much). The smell of syrup touches off the exact same gag reflex in me as a rotting, split-open skunk on a hot day.  I'm told this is not a common reaction, though I do not understand that. I suppose It's a good thing I'm not Canadian.
Summary:
The food was mostly very, very good. There was Angel's dry toast, and Adam said his sandwich was great, but a bit too big. The biggest, and only real 'fail'' was the Pancake Puppies. I recognized it immediately. I only had one, but could tell there was something not quite right. It tasted, familiar, not pancake familiar but something else. Then it occurred to me what my mind was telling me I was eating.  "Funnel Cake!" I shouted quietly and without passion. "That's it exactly." Adam replied.
Not that there's anything wrong with funnel cake, as long as you're at a county fair where you expect to go home with a queasy, greasy feeling in your gullet. This happens when you inexplicably yet consciously order something you know has been cooked in thrice burnt, five day old oil by vagabonds, hobos, thieves and one-armed scalawags.  Angel agreed. The taste was exactly that of deep fried sugar in old grease.
Everything else though, was exceptional. My toast was grilled well and soft  in the middle. It still managed to sop up its share of egg yolk. The hash browns, we all agreed, were the crispiest we've ever had, perfect. And the service? Sheree was a real peach. Professional, efficient and solid. Sure the Puppies were late, but they weren't really very good, I'm not sure any of that was on Sheree though. She took very good care of us and didn't react rudely or violently at my poking at her. She had a good sense of humor and plenty of patience. She should of course, be granted an immediate and generous raise, as well as a good parking spot.
The tab came in at around thirty three bucks, not bad for a delicious, sating meal.
On the way home we were discussing the meal.
"I wish the Pancake Poppers had been better." Angel told us.
"Puppies, Pancake Puppies." Adam corrected her.
"I don't know why I can't remember that." She replied.
"Let's see, you are a dog trainer, boarder and rescuer. Yet somehow, the word 'puppies' eludes you." I commented.
"That is weird." Adam added.
"It has to be Freudian, or maybe even Pavlovian." I summarized.






Denny's on Urbanspoon