Monday, May 27, 2013


Hillsboro, Mo.
Yeah, I know, McDonald's. Long time fans will recall that I am not a big McDonald's guy. That's putting it mildly. I will go out of my way to not eat at McD's. I will go just about anywhere to avoid them even if I'm just wanting a burger and fries. Especially if I'm wanting a burger and fries.
It's a long and at certain points, completely irrational story.
Back in the 80's I was stationed in northern Japan for three long mostly wet and cold years. Misawa was roughly on the same lattitude as Maine. It was between the ocean and the mountains, which meant the cold sloppy rains and snows just spun up and back over again. Days would go by without sunshine, it never got above eighty degrees while I was there. The divorce rate was double digit percentages higher than most other bases, cabin fever more than anything else. Full disclosure, my own first marriage broke up there within the first year. I spent the last two years in the dormitories/barracks. Fortunately as a seasoned NCO I got a room to myself. All alone, so very alone. The people looked differnt, spoke funny, and drove on the wrong side of their too-narrow roads. Walking downtown was like walking on a different planet, one that in every aspect was 10 to 20 percent smaller than in the U.S. Smaller buildings, cars, delivery trucks, roads and even people. That was part of its charm and also part of the alien-like aspect of being an American there. There was always something to remind you that you just weren't in Kansas anymore.
Occasionally someone would travel to the sprawling base down south near Tokyo, Yakota Air Base. Sometimes the traveler would collect money ahead of time, five dollars per serving, and while at Yakota, fill a cooler or two with Big Macs and bring them back.
Misawa didn't have a McDonald's downtown. There was a KFC about twenty or thirty miles away, but other than that there were no American franchises anywhere nearby.
Sure we could get burgers at the mess hall or the exchange cafeteria, but they weren't Big Macs. They lacked that 'thing' that franchise burger joints had.
In fact, those of us in the dorms could get two cheeseburgers from the mess hall a day, free, on top of the three full meals we were allowed.
But many of us paid the five bucks whenever the opportunity arose.
So my earlier memories of McDonald's were great. Big Macs tasted like America, like freedom, they tasted like home.
 After that things changed. Getting back to the states everything was readily available. I discovered the other chains and realized that their burgers actually tasted better than McD's. So I pretty much stopped going to the golden arches, preferring for many years Burger King, for the flame broiled taste.
But the kids wanted McDonald's. They always wanted McDonald's. If the kids were to choose any or every meal it would be McDonald's. So for many years, kids = McDonald's. They could get the exact same thing at every other place in town, but no, it had to be McD's.
McDonalds became for me the opposite of freedom, it became a sort of oppression, or at least an obligation.
We knew the nutrition numbers, we knew that large doses of McD's opiate-like fries were not good for us or the kids, but it was often the only thing that worked. As a reward, as a pacifier, as a bribe, the other franchises just didn't measure up.
Then there were the commercials, on TV and radio, a constant, pulsating deluge of catchy jingles and happy people. McDonald's advertising was relentless and massive. Kids being babysat by the boob tube were smacked over the head with hours of McD's ads. Kid's meals were more popular than any faddish toy on the market. Even though the toys were stamped out of cheap plastic in sweat shops and unto themselves worthless, the trinkets earned value merely for being in a happy meal.
Sure the other chains tried to copy every step, every deal, every campaign, but they were all permanently relegated to also-ran status under the wealth and weight of the McMachine.
McDonalds had struck gold and mastered it. Fast, really fast food, cheap, very cheap and in constant demand by the kids. No one has come even close to beating McD's at this game.
The food isn't really very good, the ingredients are questionable, the nutritional value kind of frightening, but fast, convenient and cheap is what America, and much of the world wanted.
The Place:
High on a hill entering Hillsboro from the north, around seven minutes from my house. You can't miss it. Angel asked me the last time I'd eaten there. "Never." I said.
"When's the last time you've been to a McDonalds anywhere?" She asked.
"A couple of months ago I stopped at one on the way into work to wait out a thunderstorm, I had coffee."
There's one on the way into work, I pass it every day, twice. For avoiding a thunderstorm it's quite convenient. I've driven that same route for seven years, that stormy day was the first time I'd ever set foot in it.
"Why don't you like. . . no, why do you hate McDonald's?"
"It's complicated."
We pulled in. I looked around and felt ready. Ready to take on what I knew to be eighty percent emotion and much less rationality.
We went in. I stepped up and looked overhead at the menu. No real need to, I was going to have the flagship burger, the one that tasted like freedom, America, home. A big Mac.
I looked around the plastic counter at the plastic tables and plastic booths. I felt nothing. As if ordered up by fate I noticed the overhead speakers were playing country music. Great, not helping at all.
The Food:
I had the #1, medium.
Angel ordered the #7, the ranch BLT chicken sandwich, medium.
Adam went all American as well, a #1, without onions, medium.
We were handed our cups and sent on out way. I poured some unsweetened tea with a dash of low expectations. Adam tried a little of the sweet tea, poured it out and got pop instead.
"It tastes old." he said of the tea. It turns out any time he goes to McDonald's, or other chains, he takes a sip of the tea first before committing to it.
The music started grinding on me, it was awful. My tenuous mood was souring. Adam had loaded up on Ketchup packets and napkins, plopped them down on the table.
The food arrived, by that I mean Adam went and picked it up. The boxes were bright, colorful and promising. Even the purchased products were being used as marketing tools. The photos of the meals on the boxes looked like the sandwiches on TV, thick buns, stuffed with lettuce, tomatoes and thick beef. Adam's no-onion order won his box a big label, the kind used to mark pallets at a warehouse. Marked with codes, timestamps and bold print 'No Onions' as if the order required extra-special care and unique, labor intensive assembly.
Opening the boxes revealed what we all already knew. That the burgers inside, even wrapped in a photo of a glossy thick delight, were dull, dingy, thin and limp. I've never seen meat that color anywhere else.
It's an old and all too common joke that the sandwiches on TV look nothing like those in real life. We've gotten used to that, we've accepted it, we really just don't care.
I ate my burger, ♫ two all-beef patties, special  sauce (Thousand Island dressing rip-off)  lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun ♫! And was, as I'd greatly expected, underwhelmed. The meat was limp and flat, the special sauce, uninspired. The fries were the real surprise though.
For years I've been saying on these hallowed pages that McD's fries were the world standard. I was wrong. They were too salty and not as crisp as I remembered them.  They were okay, but not meth-like addicting. I didn't even finish mine.
Adam didn't seem impressed either, he shrugged when asked. Angel said of her chicken, "I should have gone for the one without the ranch."
We ordered coffees and some cookies and left.
There was a good deal of negative bias going in to this place. I was disappointed that they didn't even come close to challenging my negative predisposition. I left feeling disappointed and cheated.
I felt let down, by America.
We together, e pluribus unum, have made this bastion of mediocrity a mighty and celebrated corporate symbol of this great nation. By allowing ourselves to be satisfied with inferior, bland and low quality products, again and again, we have, as with Walmart, championed the least common denominator. Anyone can make a better burger, anyone. I can make a better burger, as can BK, Hardee's, Wendy's Dairy Queen, Jack in the Box, Steak and Shake, as well as the Courthouse Grill in Hillsboro and even Ginny's Kitchen and Custard in Barnhart can do better. But no, we've crowned McD's as the king. Okay, maybe they're not as bad as Sonic or White Castle.
And that's why I dislike them so much. It's embarrassing that our vaunted national treasure and consistent chart topper of the fortune 500 of American companies is just so bland and unremarkable.
We all know it's not really that good, and it's certainly not good for us, but we march like dutiful soldiers to their counters and drive up windows simply because it's part of our culture, our lowered expectations, our cheap, familiar, comfort-food.
So I will continue to avoid the place. They have nothing I can't get better somewhere else almost as easily. Sure, other places try to copy Big McD, and are no better for us than this cheap, lazy food. But the leader begs to be a target of higher expectations. We expect our  President to be better than us, we expect our football players and other celebrities to behave better than us (just kidding). We should expect one of our largest and most visible exports to be better than the least of us. We demand quality and nutritional excellence from our underfunded and minimum-waged school cafeterias, yet from the plastic, golden-arched food line that feeds many of our kids a majority of the time, we gladly accept low quality, bland, and fat-filled greasy meals.
We can do better America, we can do better.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Crazy Bowls and Wraps

12604 Lamplighter Square
St. Louis, Mo. 63128

 "CBW is a locally owned restaurant that emphasizes balanced, sensible eating. CBW strives to give customers an alternative to other fast food restaurants that serve highly processed foods. CBW offers a wide variety of healthy options as well as full-flavored options made with fresh products." 
(from the website)

I'd heard of Crazy Bowls and Wraps (CBW) but had never been to one. A few weeks back they catered an in-house meeting at work, the leftovers were taken to our break room. I was hungry that particular day and saw a small chunky-chicken filled wrap, it looked pretty good.
It was different in that the inside of the wrap was lined with a bed of rice. The chicken was smokey the lettuce and tomatoes were fresh. I'd not seen an American style wrap with rice in it before. It turned out to be quite good indeed. On the way home I exited 270 at 21 (Tesson Ferry) as always and was stopped at a stoplight in front of St. Anthony's Hospital. On the other side of the road was the Lamplighter Square shopping center, and a newly opened CBW.
I mentioned it to the family when I got home, we made a date. We didn't go that weekend, or the next. If you recall Angel was away for those two. So we waited for this one.
The Place:
 It takes up the corner of one of the shopping center buildings. I call it a shopping center though at least half of the center is occupied by medical support businesses, a therapy center, a clinic, and a few others. There's also a Pad Thai place opening up soon, according to the signs.
Inside the place was sunny and bright. White and orange were the primary colors. the ceiling was high and open. Large shiny signs and food portraits lined the walls. Overhead some decent quality speakers were playing an urban radio station too loudly. I'm not a loud music fan, and not really a fan of urban music, but at least it wasn't country.
We looked at the pictures and the overhead menu. They offered several standard bowls and wraps, they also let you build your own. I figured it was safer to choose one of the standards.
The Food:
I chose a sweet and sour bowl, regular sized, with brown rice. Angel ordered the same but a large bowl with white rice. Adam tagged the Buffalo Chicken Griller, a wrap, heated on the grill. Both he and Angel added large drinks, I took a regular. We paid up and filled our cups. They offered ice tea and pop at the fountain, Angel noticed it and thought it odd that a place that boasted about its fresh, healthy meals would serve primarily soda pop. (I found out later that they make smoothies, lots of them. I've never been a big fan, so I'm glad they had tea.) We found a table and settled in, a shaker of poppy seeds took the place of every other restaurants salt an pepper.
The wait wasn't too long, it only seemed that way because of the too-loud music. A couple of people came in a picked up some takeout, a couple of athletic looking young ladies ordered and sat and chatted. A young, long haired, bespectacled  man opened up his laptop and chowed down on his bowl of healthier choices.
Ours arrived. Real plastic, non-disposable bowls and real silverware.(Not really, the silverware was actually made of stainless steel, non disposable as well, a green statement of some kind I imagine.) Orange bowls, mine around cereal bowl sized, Angel's was more of a serving bowl. Angel's business keeps her upright and moving around all day, every day. She needs more food than I do.
The food was absolutely beautiful. The sweet/sour chicken was glazed to a high shine.The red peppers also bright and glossy, the pale rice was like a canvas for the bright, crisp colors. The chicken tasted every bit as good as it looked. "Better than most Chinese restaurants." She declared. I couldn't disagree. Under the sweet glaze there was still a crunch, then moist, perfectly tender chicken.
Adam dived into his wrap after a close visual inspection. His wrap came with tortilla chips, apparently the only kind of chips offered."Really good." He said as he dived in again. After he was done he said that the spice came on a little strong near the end, but that didn't stop him form eating the whole thing.
I couldn't finish all mine, the rice was good but there was just too much for me. I wasn't even able to eat all the chicken chunks, I let Adam have the last couple. He seemed to like them as much as we did.
At the end of the serving line was a condiment table. There were salsas and sauces. I noticed some hummus. I've always wanted to try hummus but I was never bold enough to order anything that included it in fear that I might hate it. I half-filled one of the little serving cups and took it to the table. Angel and I both tried it by itself. It took a bit to get past the grainy texture and analyze the taste, what little it had. It wasn't as strong as I expected it to be, it had almost no flavor at all. The texture itself was a little off putting. I was glad I tried it, but could not think of any dish or meal that it would actually improve. It wasn't nasty, it was just not great.
Not bad, not bad at all. CBW has locations in and around greater St. Louis, and three in Southern California.  For those of you in Maryland, Kentucky, etc. You'll just have to come and visit to try it out.
I wouldn't call it 'health food, but it was certainly healthier than any fast food joint regardless of how many salads they claim to sell (I'm guessing none). It's good to have options like this around. I hope it catches on and stays successful. Lord knows the current  living generations of Americans spend a lot of money on 'convenient' food, at the high cost of an ever-increasingly obese nation. I'm just saying it's good to have choices like this, quick, convenient, tasty, without all the excess frying oil.
The price wasn't too bad, the bill came to nearly twenty eight dollars, less than ten bucks per person, comparable to a full super-sized combo dinner at you know where.
I now know I wouldn't turn down a lunch trip to CBW, they've got pretty good stuff. 

Crazy Bowls and Wraps on Urbanspoon

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Two Girls, Four Wheels
On Facebook

Food truck season is here!
The office building where I work is also occupied by three or four other companies. A management recruiter, a medical billing company and a hospitality company, (I think they manage hotels). This means that our building holds hundreds of bored and mostly hunched over cubicle workers. Often at lunch time on nice days many of the workers escape for a spell and venture out into what is known as 'outdoors'. In other words it is a food truck's dream come true. Which begs the question, do food trucks actually dream? I'm no mechanic or metaphysicist but I think that it is more likely that they don't.
There had been little printed signs up in the hallways for several days. Coming soon, one we hadn't been visited by before.
2Girls 4Wheels. The sign promised St. Louis style food. If you don't know what that is, well shame on you. It means exactly:
1. Meat
2. Potatoes
3. Fried ravioli
4. Gooey Butter cake.
5. Square, thin crust pizza with Provel cheese.
It turns out they didn't offer #5, which was fine with me.  They didn't offer #3, the locally ubiquitous appetizer, fried ravioli either. I think I know why, my theory has to do with mobile kitchens on pitted and frequently stop and go trafficked city streets and a huge sloshing vat of 360 degree cooking oil. They don't offer French fries either. I bet I'm right about this.
For meat they offered midwestern favorites, pulled pork, St. Louis style cheese steaks (with provel), chili and Budweiser braised brats. For sides they listed baked beans, 'parmesian brussel sprouts' and Billy Goat Chips.
The chips are a locally made brand, an offshoot product of a thriving downtown restaurant.
As I stepped up to the truck, the only customer there at the early time, I locked into my head what I would order. The truck was not huge as food trucks go, nor terribly new. I got the feeling that this operation was still new, still working their way up the food truck hierarchy.
"Pulled pork and the Billy Goat Chips." I called.
One of the 2Girls wrote down the order and called it back to the other of the 2Girls. The speaker mounted to the exterior of the truck was blasting Simon and Garfunkel. Odd, I thought, I like S&G as much as the next middle aged white guy, I'd just never heard it 'blasted', nor thought it ever needed to be. "Bridge over Troubled Waters" just doesn't improve that much with higher volume.
I told the 2Girls that I had a question about the chips. I was sure it was one that they'd never heard before. They answered before I asked though, like they had heard it before, "Yes they're made from real Billy Goat." They laughed, I wasn't amused that my joke had been predicted. Never one to get cut off at the comic knees like that I spat out: "Organic and free ranged Billy Goat?" 
They handed me a tiny brown paper bag with the Billy Goat logo on it. Just to make sure I checked the ingredients. They had lied, billy goat was NOT on the list, just potatoes. I didn't let them see how disappointed I was though.
I was starting to be concerned for them though, after a few minutes I was still the only one at the truck. They asked me if any signs got posted ahead of their visit, I assured them that there were plenty.
I was concerned because I like small businesses to succeed. I felt an unrealistic and irrational  sense of responsibility being their only customer at the moment, I mentally urged others to show up. Yeah, that was my contribution, I thought positive thoughts.
Soon enough they handed me the foil-topped paper bowl and I went on my merry way. Fortunately they had parked near my favorite lunch spot, my car. I had my own drink, a bottle of water, a roll of paper towels in the passenger seat, and my book.
I couldn't read while I ate the sandwich, it was bulging with meat and slaw and was definitely a two-handed meal. So I turned up the radio to 107.3 and rocked to the real classics as I chomped into the big sandwich. It was thick and meaty, and topped with a pretty good slaw. The pork was moist and smokey without being sickly sweet. The kaiser roll was soft, but dense enough to keep it all together.
The chips were pretty good, but hardly gourmet. Nothing fancy at all. I had bibbed up with a paper towel hanging from my top shirt button, but didn't ever drip any on myself. Mostly because I kept the back side of the sandwich in the paper bowl, using it like a wrapper. Stuff fell out for sure, but only into the bowl.
There was much more there than I usually have for lunch so I didn't quite finish it. I had plenty though and was quite pleased with the flavors and textures.
Like I said, nothing fancy, nothing exotic, but that's to be expected from a joint that boasts St. Louis style food. It's the midwest, the extreme left edge of the rust belt, a city that served as the gateway to the rugged western frontier. It's not about frilly pastries delicate spices and sliver-thin seafood. It's a meat and potatoes city.
The price wasn't too bad, I paid eight and a half bucks for the sandwich and chips. I've paid more for less. The 2Girls were friendly and efficient and after I left, quite busy. There was a twenty person line standing there as I walked back through the lot. Apparently my positive thinking had paid off for the 2Girls.
I like food trucks, I like the very notion of food trucks. It's a great way to start up in the retail food business. All you need is a couple of solid, portable recipes with limited ingredients and variations, a truck, an attractive paint scheme and a working knowledge of the city. It's a great small business. For a cubicle-bound patron they provide a pleasant relief from the local joints. It's like importing a new restaurant for a day.
Today's trucks are a long step up from the old roach coaches that once hustled bad hotdogs and greasy nachos. This truck is not gourmet, it's not snooty, and there's no 'chef' on board, but it serves up some pretty good food.
Kudos 2Girls!

* Please forgive the lousy pictures, I forgot to take my Nikon with me and had to use my sucky cellular telephone. It takes pictures about about as well as my toaster plays DVD's.

2 Girls 4 Wheels on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 13, 2013


343 North Creek Drive
Festus, Mo
On Facebook

Boy's night out!
Angel was attending a dog training seminar, or so she said, on Saturday and Sunday. It would keep her from going out with us.
Last week I'd been alone, this week I was alone plus one. Adam was taking care of dog duties while she was away, he was working much harder than I did the week before since we had a few client dogs in. Rotations were nearly constant.
I decided to reward his efforts and hard work by letting him choose where to go. "Anywhere at all, even if you think or know that I won't like it."
This did not have the desired effect, he stressed about it.
I didn't.  I sucked in my personal preferences, likes and dislikes and prepared myself for what I assumed would be Taco Bell.
Angel and Adam go there sometimes when I'm at work. They know I can't stand it. That was okay, I told him, I would be objective while I gagged and spat afterwards, if that is where he wanted to go.
He surprised me. I arose from a well deserved afternoon nap and asked him to declare.
"Taytro's" he said.  I don't know why it surprised me but it did. In fact it sounded pretty good.
The Place:
They opened a year or two or three ago and we've been a handful of times. They do New Orleans primarily, gumbo, jambalaya, po' boys. They throw down a pretty good steak as well.
It's on the hill above the intersection of A and 61/67, in a newer, small strip mall. It has a well stocked bar and a small section in the back corner for the frequent live music. It's popularity has grown quite well since opening, it was busy when we got there.
As the day was gorgeous, there were people sitting out on the patio (sidewalk) at umbrella topped tables sipping buckets of beer.
One table held five or six skirted young women dressed to the nines in light, short spring dresses for partying and or dancing. There were no men with them, they were ripe for the picking. Lucky for them Adam and I are both terribly shy or we'd have been all over that action. We'd show them a party like they had never seen, if only we weren't so bashful, and faithful.
We went straight in, passing them by, flirtatiously staring at our own feet all the way in. They were lucky.
Inside, the tables were nearly filled as well. Busy, bustling.
We were shown a middle table and were seated and handed the simple two sided menu. I asked for tea, Adam asked for Coke/Pepsi. Overhead a raspy old timer was belting out some soulful delta blues.
The Food:
It didn't take me long to choose, any chance for a good po' boy and I'm in. I had my first two or three po' boys in New Orleans a decade or so back. I'm pretty sure I know a good one when I come across it. Simplicity is the key. There's nothing fancy about a po' boy, at all. Shredded lettuce, optional cheese and tomato, then shrimp or fish on a good roll. Taytro's tops theirs with a spicy mayo of their own design. It's not overpowering. I asked for fries with that.
Adam ordered the pulled pork and house-made chips. An excellent choice as well.
We sat and sipped, watched the people come and go, and really put ourselves out there on the edge by deliberately not making eye contact with the ladies outside. This always drives the babes crazy. To be completely ignored is the ultimate mating call. We were at the top of our game, they didn't stand a chance. One of the gals even walked by our table to get to the bar. In a bold and disarmingly charming way Adam and I stared at the overhead TV.
She left the bar went back to her friends and though I couldn't hear what she was saying I assume she was talking about those two fetching men inside that had laid on all the right moves. It was enough to scare them away. They all piled into a SUV and drove away. I smiled and nodded, proud and confident after yet another conquest.
The food came after a while, piping hot. The shrimp was fat and lightly spicy, the fries seasoned just right. Adam shared a pull off his pork, it was smoky and not too sweet.
I cut my sandwich in half, I was going to box it up and save it for Sunday lunch. Adam finished his completely and without complaint. "Pretty good" he summarized.
Overhead the TV's were playing a gal's softball game. We made fun of it as a fake sport, soft ball, girls, not like a real sport at all. We were guys, out for the evening, watching sports. We laughed at the underhand pitches, which privately impressed me. We both knew that if somehow confronted with a fist fight between us and any two of those soft-ballers, we'd loose, quickly. Neither of us should make fun of any athlete at any level, of any gender. We're wired for cerebral, not physical challenges, on a real physical obstacle course we'd be best suited to be minor obstacles rather than capable challengers.
Taytro's is a winner by any measure. It's a bustling, busy place with great food and a professional and friendly staff. I'm willing to go there just about any time, I know I'll get good food. The price isn't bad either, our bill came to nineteen and a half bucks, which paid for enough food to easily fill us up. Even the tea was fresh and bright.
Taytro's has picked up quite a following and its popularity is well deserved. They are certainly a step or twelve  above the fast food places. They don't offer a thousand choices but they know what they are good at  and deliver it time after time.
Adam and I headed back home, we didn't talk much, we didn't have to, we're dudes.

Taytro's Bar and Bistro on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 6, 2013

Huddle House

13002 Highway 21
DeSoto, Mo.

All alone.
Angel and Adam were in Springfield for the weekend tending to some familial obligations.Her entire clan, parents, aunts and her other two adult kids live there with their families. I allow her to take these trips occasionally.
But this left me with a quandary, what's for dinner?
I can cook, and I often do. I'm no chef but i can get it done quite well. I needed to get away though, out of the house for a spell. I've been taking care of six dogs while they've been gone, six dogs that don't always get along. They have to be sorted and fed and let out and back in on a pretty tight rotating schedule. I love my five dogs and even the little bat-eared dynamo of a foster, Rudy. They can be  a lot of work though, especially when it is wet and muddy out.
So I decided to step out for Saturday dinner, just like we do every weekend.
I didn't want a burger, no reason really, I just didn't want a burger. So I made up my mind.
The Place:
I know we were just there a few weeks ago, I usually don't review the same place in such a tight turnaround unless something serious has changed. I went prepared but didn't expect to be reviewing it. If I'd kept with my standard order for places like this I probably wouldn't have felt obligated. It's hard for these places to do a bad job on sausage, bacon, eggs, waffles and hash browns.
The place was busy, not full, still clean and aromatic. I was greeted by the staff and told to find a seat anywhere. I squeezed into a lonely-guy spot near the register and kitchen entrance. I sorted through the stack of large, brightly colored menu cards. The young lady came by and I asked for coffee. I had planned that step ahead of time.
She brought it back and I gave my order, I don't know why I strayed, but it didn't look like that big of a leap. I then sipped on my excellent coffee and cracked open my book.
When I dine alone, like for lunch and dinner Sunday through Friday, I read a book. I can  go through a novel and a half per week this way. I order used books four or five at a time to feed this particular appetite.
What I wanted
The Food:
I'd ordered a Sausage Scramble. Notice the picture of it on their menu. Looks pretty good eh? I thought so. Scrambled eggs with crumbled sausage topped with gravy, with a side of toast is how the menu described it. So I ordered it. I read my book, sipped my coffee, tuned out the rest of the universe for a few minutes. Until my plates arrived.
What I saw made me immediately change my plans about not reviewing the meal. Houston, we have a problem.
I just about barfed, which is my natural reaction when I see barf, and this plate looked exactly like barf, dog barf to be specific. It happens a lot, a dog eats his kibble too fast, goes outside and runs around then heaves and heaves and hacks up his lunch, which if he's  a good dog, he will lap the puke right back up. It's disgusting to be sure, but not for a dog. Dogs are born without a human-level dignity gene. Food is food, plating and eye appeal doesn't account for much. Dog barf has a specific look. The kibble is still clearly identifiable since it has only had a little time to start breaking down in the stomach acids and bile. However it is certainly not as appetizing as the original kibble meal. And it always has a particular odor that lets you know that this is indeed naturally, organically recycled kibble.
What I got
Fortunately my sausage scramble did not have this odor problem, but the sight of it did trigger a momentary instinctive gag reflex. I let it settle for a moment, tried to wrap my head around what I was looking at. Before I dug in, the lady brought my toast, which looked a whole lot like biscuits covered in even more gravy. The lady asked me something, I was still sorting out my thoughts though. I snapped a picture of the plates, perhaps to use as evidence later. I relented, I manned up and pushed my fork cautiously into the mixture, tasted it shyly. It tasted quite good. It conflicted with what my brain was telling me it should taste like, that acrid, vile goop found in puke.
I closed my eyes for the next couple of bites, this helped a lot. The hash browns were quite good and crispy, I was grateful for the texture contrast.
Sure enough the toast was indeed a biscuit coated in gravy. I forked it and it turned to mush. By the time I tasted it the gravy had already cooled too much and now I had a plate of soggy bread covered in paste.
I could have called someone over and changed my order, but as you, my faithful fans know all so well, that ain't my style. I review what I am served.
I pretty much finished the barf special, but only because of the hash browns adding some texture and the book taking my eyes off of it.. I know what happened to make the plate unappetizing. I'll cover that in the summary.
I liked the coffee, it was delightfully fresh and dark. I knew it would go well with a small dessert. So I splurged and asked for strawberry cheesecake. Strawberries is in my book the third best way to top cheesecake after blueberries and my all-time rare favorite topping, banana pudding. It was cold and dense and delicious. I spent an entire chapter slowly savoring every sweet bite.
The bill came to a few pennies under twelve dollars. Three and a half dollars of that was the cheesecake, not too bad. The service was good considering my coffee cup was never less than half full. The food came quickly and the lady seemed nice and friendly. But lets get to the nut of it. First the toast. It wasn't toast it was tepid, mushy, pasty gravy over an open faced soggy biscuit.
Then there was the dog-barf special.  I notice that the picture I took of my plate makes the eggs brighter and more yellow than the dim and gray day natural light at the table did. At the table it looked duller, gray-ish, brown-ish. I think what happened was this. They crumbled and cooked the sausage, scrambled the eggs, then stirred in the gravy. It was that last step that was the major mistake The picture on the menu clearly showed and even I believe described it as 'topped' with gravy. By mixing it all together the dish lost all visual appeal. Actually that's putting it mildly. It looked absolutely disgusting. Mixing the gravy in had the same effect as mixing too many colors of paint rather than letting them individually shine. It also mushed together the texture into a unified sticky, gooey blob. Yes when I eat breakfast I put all the individual items together on one fork, but at least I control the mixture and can look at it without gagging.
I do not know if it is their standard operating procedure to make a scramble this way, I can only hope that it is not. I don't know if I adequately described how awful the first eyeful of that dish was. This is truly sad since the taste of the sausage and the eggs and the gravy was quite good, if not maybe a little salty. In the future I will be curious to see if people at other tables order this plate and will make note of their reactions. Maybe it won't bother them at all, maybe they don't have a houseful of dogs.
Next time I'll stick with a non-scramble.