Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Rich’s Frozen Custard & Diner


144 7th St
Hillsboro, MO 63050

My choice, we should have gone sooner being as it is one of the few eateries in Hillsboro. For most of that time I wasn’t aware of it at all, then, seeing the bold signage, assumed it was an ice cream joint. I only recently discovered that it was more. Much like Ginny’s from a few weeks ago, it serves frozen treats AND it makes burgers and sandwiches. 
It was a surprise to note that it was located on 7th street, I wasn’t aware that Hillsboro had that many streets, I’m still not convinced. I could see it from highway 21 though, so it didn’t really matter which street it was actually on.
The Place:
We think it used to be a hardware store. The building has two levels, the lower of which houses an auto parts place. We entered the upper level, and found ourselves in a bright, clean, high ceilinged dining area. There was much more room than the dozen or so tables took up, and with the high ceiling made it feel a little odd, like those enormous handicap-accessible stalls in public restrooms. It was very echo-y. On the walls were canvases with patterned paintings, a style with which I wasn’t familiar. The walls were painted, a blue and orange sherbet theme. The tile floor was white and the place lit up pretty bright.

The tables and chairs were mostly wood, in two or more styles and shades. There was one larger table surrounded by low-end metal chairs.
All the extra space in the room took away any notion of coziness, it felt more like a church basement than an eatery.
A large menu hung on the wall, two actually. One listed the frozen treats, the other, the meal offerings.  Behind the counter stood various ice cream machines and dispensers, out of sight was the grill. We read over the offerings and stepped up to order.  I called mine out first as Angel, ahead of me at the counter, had stalled out and was apparently changing her mind.
The Food:
I asked for the bacon-cheddar double burger, with fries and tea. Behind the lady at the counter was a tall dispenser bearing the name ‘Luzianne’. I was optimistic about this place already. Angel finally sorted herself out and asked for the special, a cod sandwich with fries and a Diet Coke. Adam chose the crispy chicken sandwich, fries, and a Coke. Our drinks were served in Styrofoam cups, I took this to mean that Rich’s was not a friend of the planet.
We took seats among the half dozen or so other patrons. Angel and Adam pulled out their cell phones. Angel was banking or checking emails and Adam was playing some sort of game. I took out my phone and slid my finger across the screen a few times, Adam told me to stop it.
You see I don’t have a touch screen on my phone, or any entertainment apps, or a data plan, it’s a telephone. I can and do take lousy pictures with it, but I’m not interested or heavily invested in mobile technology. I don’t even like talking on a phone.
The wait for the food was a bit longer than seemed necessary, though I didn’t actually time it. The tea was quite good though.
They finally brought it out, everything served in plastic baskets. The fries were crinkle-style, more points for that. There was no lettuce, tomato or onion on my burger, just the meat and melted cheese. I couldn’t recall if LTO were even an option. Standard mustard and ketchup bottles were already on the table. I shook up the mustard to avoid the musquirt. (That clear-ish liquid that comes out ahead of the mustard from a squeeze bottle. ‘Musquirt’ is an official sniglet.)  I did the same with the ketchup, even though there is no name for that.
The burger was rough edged, like at Ginny’s, indicative of having once been in a ball then flattened on the grill with a spatula. Angel’s cod turned out to be a standard-issue fish patty, square and slightly smaller than the bun. She assembled everything and finally bit in, I was getting anxious to deliver the comedy I’d been working on.
She seemed satisfied, so I asked her how it was. “Pretty good.” She said. I was ready, I made sure Adam was listening as well. In family comedy, timing is everything.

“So, can I have a taste of your cod-piece?” I delivered in a professional deadpan. Adam choked a snicker, she just looked at me like she does when she thinks I’ve said something hilarious and clever, though it’s the same look she gives me when I gravely disappoint her.
The fries were good, the burger was too, but a little on the dry side. A tomato slice would have made it better.
The buns became a matter of discussion. They were more dense and heavier than store-bought generic buns, I didn’t mind it at all but Angel wasn’t real happy about it. Part of the problem being that the bun was bigger than the fish. She even went so far as to blaspheme: “I prefer McDonalds’ fish sandwich.”
As for Adam’s Chicken: “It was good.”  I didn’t have a crowbar handy to pry out more detail, so that’s all he offered about the meal.
It didn’t take long to eat everything, at least for Angel and Adam. They were not encumbered with the task of taking notes, pictures and creating top-notch comedy on the fly. The meals were not heavy, so I knew they would be getting ice cream.
At least Angel did, Adam wasn’t in the mood.
She ordered a 'JL Werner'. Vanilla Ice cream, a banana, chocolate syrup and whipped cream. I asked her to find out who ‘J.L. Werner' was.  She was reluctant at first, she doesn’t like striking up casual conversations with strangers any more than I do. I heard her ask though, hard to miss since the acoustics of the place are like those of an empty gymnasium. The lady behind the counter said she had no idea. Poor staff training. For all I know, J.L. Werner is a serial thug of some kind. I wouldn’t want to eat something named after a creep or felon.
She ate her treat out of the Styrofoam, earth-hating bowl, and seemed to enjoy it, even though the inevitable desperate chill set in about halfway through.  Angel's a bit of a reptile when it comes to body temperature regulation..

Summary:
Well, it was okay. It certainly wasn’t bad. It was however, a bit lacking. The ambiance was off, as I’ve mentioned. That big, wide, near-empty space made it a bit uninviting and public. The food was okay, but lacked zing. The buns were perhaps a bit too heavy, at least for the small fish portion, and the burger was on the dry side. The bill came to twenty five and change  and a couple bucks more for the ice cream, comparable to Ginny’s.
A couple of things will make me go back though. Primarily location, location, location. That and fact that Rich’s offers free Wi-Fi. That means if on a Saturday I need to download something large, I can just pop in there, eat me a burger and have some tea without having to go to Festus, or the McDonalds in Hillsboro.  At home, our internet comes from outer space via satellite technology and is limited to a puny amount of megabytes per day with a significant penalty for going over that limit. So occasionally, for software updates and actual interesting media downloads, I usually take my netbook to a library. Libraries don’t serve burgers, even slightly dry ones, or Luzianne tea.
I like everything at Ginny’s better, but it’s about fifteen more miles or so up the road, and I’m not even sure Ginny has Wi-Fi.

Afterward we drove over to the NEW Dollar General location. The biggest department store in Hillsboro just got bigger. We stopped in an bought some snacks and a small Christmas tree. One of those new-fangled ones that already has lights on it. Angel wouldn't let me buy a karaoke machine though.

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