Dinner sometimes more than a meal

By Jim Lee

Once in a while, my wife Saundra and I decide to go out to dinner, usually on a Friday evening.
As far as the food itself is concerned, I’m happy with a cheeseburger (chicken fried steak if I’m in a mood for something extravagant). Going out on the town isn’t just a matter of the food, though. We like to select a place a cut or two above truckstop chic.
Sometimes dinner should be an occasion, not just a meal. This means a place with cloth napkins and bottles with corks. So I changed my socks, and off we went.
The last time we had dinner in this place we swore we would never return because the service resembled the Motor Vehicle Division with only one eye-exam machine working, and the atmosphere was even worse. They had a country “music” band loud enough to rival a sonic boom in a phone booth — plus a few off-key voice-twangers that could scare flies off of a Texas moon pie.
I won’t mention the restaurant’s name or the town it’s in, but I will mention we hoped for a better experience this time.
When I have to pay a tab that big, I expect something pleasant in return. I do not expect to max out nine credit cards for the privilege of a thundering headache and a doggie bag.
I realize that when there are few places from which to choose, most with a waiting list longer than the local phone book, these establishments can do some price gouging, but the joint should outclass Billy Bob’s Grease Shack in Ratdip, Ala.
We decided to give it one more chance anyway. It was nearly empty, so we didn’t have to wait for a table. I cringed when I heard the place would have a band starting at 6 p.m.
A band is OK for a bar atmosphere that starts at a later hour, but not during normal dinner time. A tone-deaf country combo whining about lost love in a West Virginia hog pen doesn’t really fit in with an upscale restaurant environment.
And it’s nice to be able to have a dinner conversation without shouting and wincing. I heard a guy testing a microphone as we sat down. Not a good sign. Oh well, maybe it would be better this time.
Sure enough, the music started up. No half-baked country band this time, though. It was just a man and a woman. And they did a wonderful job. They did folk and pop and oldies like Buddy Holly numbers and some Mississippi Delta blues reminiscent of artists like the late John Lee Hooker.
When I mentioned to them that the music seemed too loud for the room since I heard a number of customers complain about it, they said their amplifiers were turned down as low as they would go. It was the room, not the musicians. Hopefully, management will eventually catch on and have an acoustical engineer do something, or at least schedule live music a bit later, after normal dinner time.
But the food and service were very good, and the people were friendly. We had a good time after all. I guess prejudging doesn’t always work out, and bad experiences don’t always repeat themselves. Once the word gets around, I expect a growing get-seated list — and it will be worth the wait.

Jim Lee is news director for KENW-FM radio. He also is an English instructor. He can be contacted at 359-2204. His e-mail:
dr_james_lee@hotmail.com