Sunday, July 15, 2012

Hooters


11835 Lackland Rd.
St. Louis (Maryland Heights) Mo.
www.hooters.com



This was a last minute get-together. Alex, the intern, polled the group and Keith, Doug and I agreed to tag along with him to this bastion of  almost pathetic male chauvinism. I’d been to a Hooters before, the one in downtown St. Louis. I’ve never been to the one in Springfield, Mo, the place where my lovely and precious daughter used to work.
Yeah, I’m so proud.
Actually I am. She knew what it was about, she knew exactly why she was there and why the customers were drawn to the place. She was more than adequately qualified, and she racked up huge, some would say enormous, tips.
That's tips, people, TIPS!
Let’s be realistic, let’s be honest. Patrons are not drawn to this place because of the fine cuisine.*

The Place:
Located at an intersection near my office complex, it is built large and rather rustic. Inside it is dark, but not too dark. Small spotlights line the exposed heavy wood rafters.
The whole place, ceiling to wall to floor all the way to include the booths and tables are heavy wood.. Along with the small spotlights are strings of faux Christmas lights, reminiscent of the big bulbed strings that were common back in the sixties, the ones that burned down a lot of houses. These were actually bigger, more plastic looking, probably not even dangerous.
We were seated at a high table in the back next to a shaded window. Alex and I were in the lead, Doug and Keith lagged a little. Alex and I sat against the window looking out onto the floor. I took this position for the same reason I always do, to get a full view of the goings-on for this report. Just ask my family, I always choose a seat with a view.
This arrangement meant that Keith and Doug’s view was of the shaded window, and if they squinted between the mesh, they could almost see out to the parking lot.
There were a dozen or so flat TV’s mounted and muted around the place, sports, since Hooters claims to be a sports bar. Nobody was watching them.
Scanning around I made an observation. The place, almost completely packed, was filled almost exclusively by men, middle aged men at that. There were a few women customers, though all of them with larger groups of men. I struggled to maintain my shock at this.
There were a few kids too, mostly accompanied by fatherly types. I found this interesting if not a little creepy. There’s lots of eateries around that are dying to fatten up our kids that use toys and cartoons to draw them in. I’m not exactly sure what the kid-draw was here.
We where handed menus and asked about drinks. Alex and I ordered tea, unsweetened, Doug ordered a soda, I don’t recall what Keith ordered.
Our waitress, whose name I will not mention, was wearing the same outfit as all the other waitresses, tight black micro-shorts and an equally taut black titular (bearing the title of the establishment) tank top. Hers didn’t fit too well, there were tanned and perky curvy parts leaking out from all the edges of the garments. I tried not to stare, but couldn’t actually come up with a rational reason not to.
I glanced over the menu as well, typical sports bar fare. Burgers, wings, sandwiches. No BLT though.
The Food:
I decided to order the same thing I used to order at the downtown location, the fish and chips. I wasn’t in the mood for a heavy, very heavy half-pound burger, I had work to do later and needed to stay non-comatose.
The waitress brought our drinks and placed them incorrectly around the table. We had to swap them with each other to get it right.This didn't seem to concern her much, she might just be new at this gig. She was, coincidentally, quite young and attractive, reminding me a bit of Debi Mazar (Space Truckers, Entourage) long, straight raven hair, bright blue/green eyes, lip and eye accentuating makeup. She didn’t chat a lot, but she did seem attentive to our orders. Doug chose the spicy chicken strips, Keith, a smothered chicken sandwich, and young Alex opted for the buffalo chicken sandwich. He also ordered a side of curly fries.
The sandwiches were priced at seven to ten dollars, and did not come with fries, they came with either baked beans or slaw. Alex’s fries order added nearly three dollars to his tab.
While we waited, Alex and I scanned the floor, there were a dozen or more of the youthful, curvy ladies in the too-taut uniforms bustling about.
Alex talked more than the rest of us, he’s better at it than we are. He’s young and doesn’t really have that many more stories to share, he just has more willingness to share them. He spoke a bit about his brother/uncle/cousin, I don’t recall which, as I wasn’t paying as close attention as I appeared to be, a terribly bad habit of mine. Anyway this relative of his works in refineries around the world, tough, manly, dangerous work. Recently he was in Zanzibar. “It’s and Island off Tanzania I think.” He said. Keith shrugged his shoulders, either he didn’t know if it was or not or he wasn’t paying that much attention either.
“Zanzibar?” I inserted. “That’s where Freddie Mercury was born!”
“Really?” Keith asked.
“Who?” naively added Alex.”
“Lead singer for ‘Queen’”  Keith informed him. Alex didn’t really respond.
It would be rude of me to have all this vital and important knowledge bottled up in my brain and not share it with others from time to time. It’s really not very often that the opportunity arises on some of this stuff I carry around.
The food arrived, except for Alex’s, we politely waited until his finally came. This was okay since I could hear the sizzle of my fish and feel the intense heat of the dish rising off of it. The thing about breaded fried fish is that it’s like the Hot-Pocket of seafood. It holds that heat for quite a while. A smart person such as myself will crack open a couple of filets and let them cool a bit before committing one's tender, sensitive but ruggedly handsome mouth to them.
I had to peel open the container of tarter sauce anyhow.
His sandwich finally arrived, and a few seconds later Doug’s paltry and otherwise barren plateful of spicy wings disappeared. I didn’t even see him pick one up, I did hear a sort of liquidy buzzing noise though, like a hundred thousand beetles dismantling a field mouse. Doug eats fast, I think I’ve mentioned that before.
I was immediately unimpressed. The curly fries, the ‘chips’ on my plate were not at all crisp, and seasoned only with salt. The four fish filets, though still moist on the inside, were a bit greasy. The slaw was completely bland, no color, no zing, just cabbage with a little generic mayo.
I was unimpressed, but not disappointed. I’ll explain later.
The waitress stopped by once or twice. “How does everything look?” She asked. I’m sure she was talking about the food, not her cleavage, but the honest answering of that question was a bit awkward. At least it was for the other guys, I was on the job, a true professional, undistracted by the, by the, umm… where was I?
This might surprise you but the food, by consensus was overall, unremarkable and in some cases disappointing. Nobody in the group said anything close to “This is the best darned thing I’ve ever eaten!”
Mostly it was a tentative “Good” from Alex, who later added that he’d been gypped on the sauce, not nearly the vampire-killing garlic coating that had been advertised.
“Not as good as expected” and “Not as good as Train Wreck.” Keith piped in. I knew what he meant. Train Wreck is a place about five minutes away in Westport Plaza that makes a hell of a good burger, for about the same inflated price.
Doug’s “It was okay, not too dry, but I’ll wait for about a half hour to see how it settles to be sure.” Doug not only eats fast, he also likes to talk about his digestive system. It’s kind of charming.
Summary:
I said earlier that I wasn’t impressed, but I also wasn’t disappointed. This is simply a result of my low expectations for the food at this place. I’ve never found anything at Hooters worth getting worked up about, at least on the plates. It’s too pricy, my modest meal put me out nearly fifteen bucks, the other guys' maybe a little less since Doug and Keith opted out of ordering the fries that Hooters is unjustifiably so proud of.
None of the food was awful, I’ve had awful meals before. But the food here is just not really all that good. As I said, just across Page Avenue from this place is the Train Wreck, using the same ingredients, for the same price range, and their sandwiches are quite memorable. Hooters just doesn’t seem to even try. Of  course, as even as my son Adam knew and pointed out, “Nobody goes to Hooters for the food.”

__________________

* The ladies here are all adults, they choose to work there, they all get it. I refuse to believe that there is any actual manipulation of them going on. If anything, those being 'used' are the men, the customers. Pandering to the lowest, most basic, almost reptilian brain function of a male creature to yank money out of his pocket is a proven and successful business model. To deny the attraction of a red blooded male towards a youthful, healthy, nicely proportioned woman is to ignorantly deny reality and millions of years of evolution. (or thousands of years of divine creation, I'll not bait that particular discussion here)
I like looking at pretty women just like I looking at expensive, flashy sports and luxury cars. Because I admire the art, the craftsmanship, the care, the beauty and the sleek lines in no way means I want to be responsible for one. They're finicky, expensive, break down at the drop of a hat, cost a fortune to keep in shape, and complain, complain, complain. . .   Young women are nice to look at, but they are also filled with a mountain of volatile and emotional 'challenges'.  
The guys I was with on this trip, except maybe for Alex, are mature and responsible husbands and fathers. I've seen them smile with pride and joy when they talk to or about their wives and kids. Sure they, like me, will take notice, admire the curves and lines, crack wise perhaps, but it is beyond my comprehension that they would ever take it any further than that. These guys don't want any part of the high priced and constant maintenance involved, they are quite content, happy in fact, with the aging, faded, rust-cratered, frequently-overheating yet comfortable and practical mini vans they have at home.
Hold it, we are still talking about cars right? 


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