About A Boy; About A Girl

I had dinner with my senior citizens last week. I still do that every month in case you were wondering. Our normal pattern is while we eat, we discuss other restaurants we’d like to try on another outing, and I make a running list of places so that choosing a new one every month is easy. Jan, the woman who is me in 30 years, piped up from the end of the table. “I’d like to go to Big Bang. I heard it was fun.”

I was conveying a piece of potato to my mouth with a fork and this revelation rendered me unable to hold onto my utensils. I dropped potato and fork into my lap and then snapped my open mouth shut.

“Jan, Big Bang is a bar. A rowdy bar. Downtown. With drunk people. You want to go there?”

“Yes,” she said adamantly. “I think it would be fun.”

So I put Big Bang on the list. I once spent a lovely evening there watching my friend Miguel kill it on the dance floor to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” Seriously, he knew every move and did them all for the whole song. I’ve never particularly seen him as a ladies man but it seems that the ladies really like a man who can dance every move of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” Miguel got a lot of numbers that night. I guess I’ll be teaching our two single men at the senior center how to dance now. Turn them into lady magnets. I’m pretty sure that’s why they come to these dinners, to find themselves a lady friend.

Speaking of single men, we had a new attendee at the dinner this month. Jack was the lone male that signed up to ride the supper van full of women. He was the last to arrive at the center and as he walked up the stairs to the front door, all the single ladies pressed their faces to the glass to watch him. I don’t know if that is a common occurrence for him or what, but once he realized he had an audience he threw both arms out to the side and puffed his chest out as if to say, “Drink it in broads! I have arrived.”

I fought my way through the crowd to introduce myself and explained that he was the single exception to our hen party. “How many women are on the bus,” he asked, looking around with some glee.

“Thirteen,” I replied and then he did a fist pump victory motion whilst exclaiming, “YES!” My kinda dude.

Remember ages ago when I told you about Jim and Jane, the couple who found each other late in life? Jim is the sort who swaggers into a restaurant with his tabbed-waist pants and his pinky ring, kind of smoothing his mane of white hair in a fluid motion. Jack is nothing like that.   Jack had on his rock star jeans with the designs on the pockets, his Daniel Cremiux shirt and his hipster glasses. He’d shaved his head into a shiny Bruce Willis dome and he expertly rolled his pant legs up into a look so trendy it hurts. He told us later that he’s 90 and a World War II vet. Went to a middle school last week to talk about his experience as a soldier and the kids ate it up. I think he did, too. I know I ate it up. Man, I hope he comes back. He was a treat. I’m anxious to see which lady friend he settles on, or perhaps more accurately, how many lady friends he settles on.

We also had another new person this month, Heather. I’d heard she was coming long before I ever got to the center, because Heather is what you’d call a “handful.” The schedulers wanted me to be aware from the get go that she would be there as she is legally blind, speaks extra loudly to make up for her lack of vision, and doesn’t get along with Jan at all. I mean at all.

Heather has had a pretty rough life but she’s not one to shy away from talking about it. Five bypass surgeries, sixteen eye surgeries, something in her kidney area and all the complications from a severe case of diabetes. She will tell you all about it and even show you her scars, but the whole time she’s talking she’s got the most upbeat attitude.

“I just figure that you only get one life,” she pontificates, “and you might as well like it. I take the bus anywhere I need to go and I get along. No need to complain.” She’s right but she’s also annoying in that no one around her is allowed to have a regret or a complaint or a question that might imply even a borderline problem.

For example, at the dinner one of our ladies, Beth, asked if her steak could be put on the grill for another few minutes as it was cold and little too raw for her liking. The waitress happily obliged but Beth was given such a tongue lashing from Heather over not being grateful that Margaret, another lady whose steak wasn’t done, ate her cold, raw meat in silence so as not to draw attention to herself for her own verbal tongue lashing. I don’t want any meek mice at our dinners so I had a talk with Heather afterwards who then hugged me and told me I was fantastic. Even put her head on my shoulder to rest on the ride home.

I am so lucky. I love these people. I sure do meet all kinds.

Because I’ve been remiss in writing about this lately, below are some of the places we’ve been for dinner and my review of them:

Butchertown Hall, Germantown area – a Texo-German place which means lots of meat. Yes, go. It’s painfully trendy, just annoyingly so, and it’s easy to get scared by the reviews on Yelp. It seems that the staff finds it excruciating to wait on you, the customer, and they run out of brisket later in the day. However, we had a delightful experience. It’s almost as if the wait staff got skewered by somebody higher up over the Yelp reviews and straightened out their act. We had Andrew as a server, and let me tell you, he hustled the whole night. He patiently answered every question we had about the menu, made thoughtful suggestions and kept the food and water coming. You’ll enjoy this place if you can get a table. Well worth it. The food was delicious, and I highly recommend the brussels sprouts. Mmmmm

Woody’s Steak House, Madison – old school steak house. When I say old school, I’m talking 1980’s wood paneling with heavy maroon trim, mood lighting in the form of wall sconces made to look like gas lanterns, and baked potatoes the size of your head. If you want atmosphere, this is not your place. If you want a side of beef, it is.

Cajun Steamer, Franklin – a total dive bar. It looks like nothing special inside or out. It’s in a strip mall for Pete’s sake. But when you go, order the tuna dip. That face you are making right now? Yeah, I made it, too, but then I tried the tuna dip and it changed my life. At the very least it changed my thinking about tuna dip. Trust me on this one.

Mere Bulles, Brentwood – a Nashville institution. When it was downtown it featured a painting of Madre on her horse, Louie. That painting is long gone now, sadly. But go there. The food is outstanding and the service, too.

Blue Moon Waterfront Grill, East Nashville-ish (I’m good with directions) – a marina bar and grill. It was pretty good. Go when it’s not so hot, though. And if you really want a marina bar and grill but you only get one shot at it, go to the one in Lakewood. It’s better.

Okay, that’s it. If any of you want to meet us at the next location, let me know. I’ll include you in our reservations. Single men more than welcome. You can have your pick of the ladies. They’ll treat you real nice.

What’s Wrong With An Old-Fashioned Hamburger?

Anyone want to guess what this is?

Butter

If you guessed butter, you’d be partially correct. The official name for this is “pork fat butter with a hint of honey,” and you can get it at Husk, a trendy new farm-to-table restaurant in Nashville. I took my dinner group of senior citizens there recently, and I have to tell you that “pork fat butter with a hint of honey” is wasted on them. It’s wasted on me, too. Perhaps my palate is not discerning enough or perhaps it just tasted a whole lot like regular butter, but I’d prefer to spend my $40 fancy dinner budget at a restaurant with exotic cheesecakes instead of at a restaurant with snooty butter.

I’ve noticed an alarming trend with higher end, uber-hip, painfully trendy restaurants lately. The number of descriptives found on the menu directly correlates with the price of the dinner. “Hand-torn lettuce” will add an extra two dollars to that regular old chicken sandwich you just ordered, and “house-made ranch” will cost an extra dollar seventy-five no matter if it’s poured over the crappy old iceberg or over the “embered artichoke hearts,” of which you get one and that one will cost you three dollars. In addition, farm-to-table concepts offer wildly expensive menu items even though the restaurant saves money on shipping and refrigeration by growing half the menu in the back yard. Not only are the storage costs reduced because everything you need to prepare all side items is found in the garden, but you no longer need handlers and middlemen as the staff can just pick a few tomatoes for the grass-fed, organically-milked, humanely killed bison burger that was manually processed and skillfully yet tenderly patted into a “ground meat round” for your consumption.

Also, the fact that all these restaurants have now begun to refer to the head guy as “Chef” is a tad disconcerting. “Chef has requested no substitutions as the menu he created is of a specific design and intent. Removing the basil harms the integrity of Chef’s dish. Chef is certain you understand.”

Now I’m not one to throw ketchup on a steak, of course, but if Joe wants Heinz 57 on his fried catfish, Joe should be allowed to have Heinz 57 on his fried catfish, especially if he’s going to pay $34 of his hard-earned retirement money for that catfish. Wait, his “corporate-saved post-career lifestyle funds.” Also, I’m going to need all of you to start referring to me as “Executive Assistant.”

“Executive Assistant, would you like to go to dinner?” Yes, like that.

Isn't it gorgeous?  It was . . . . okay . . . . Totally had a fancy name, though.

Isn’t it gorgeous? It was . . . . okay . . . . Totally had a fancy name, though.

And speaking of Joe, bless his heart, I’ve got a story to tell. Joe has been coming to these dinners for the last four years. He signs up every month and will go anywhere we choose. He brings his budgeted $28 every time, so when we go somewhere fancy, I have to call and let him know to bring more money. This upsets him. When Joe gets upset, he goes on a rant, and I’ve learned that the only thing I can do is let that rant run its course. Two months ago Joe was upset with Kroger and for the entire three hours we were together, our conversation went something like this.

“Jimmie, where do you shop for groceries?”

“Well, several places actually. I like Trader Joe’s, Publix and Kroger. I probably do most of my shopping at Kroger, though. Why, Joe? Where do you shop?”

“Never at Kroger! I hate Kroger! I’d be so embarrassed if my friends ever saw me set foot in Kroger. Kroger is embarrassing. They are terrible. I don’t want to give them a dime. It’s awful. Do you agree it’s awful? Publix is so much better. I think one of my friends saw me going in to Kroger the other day and I can’t even talk to him, I’m so embarrassed. Jimmie, it’s just terrible.”

(Note the distinct lack of explanation for Kroger’s inadequacy as a grocery store.)

I was surprised. Just the month before Joe was telling us how Kroger had their ice cream on sale and how he bought so much that he wasn’t even going to splurge on dessert that night. He was going home after the dinner to eat a big bowl of ice cream, it was so good.

Another thing about Joe’s rants is just when you think he has wound down and found something else to occupy his attention, his food, for example, he’ll pick back up where he left off between bites.

“Jimmie, I just can’t believe how embarrassing Kroger is. I cannot be seen in there. My life’s value will decrease if I go in there. I’d be mortified.” And then he will resume eating. This discourse continues until he exits the van for the night and clambers into his own vehicle for his quarter of a mile journey home.

This past month, his rant was about shingles, how you must receive a shot to get rid of them but the shot doesn’t work. If any of you want to know about shingles shots, let me know. I’m well versed in that subject. I’m certain next month will be a series of gripes about our expensive dinners of late. I can feel that one coming.

Actually, this month I took the group to the Omni Hut. I’ve written about it before. It’s a great little place. There are no surprises with the menu – it’s been the same for 54 years. The staff has been there for 54 years also, as has the décor. The cost has probably gone up due to inflation but again, no one is caught off guard. Omni Hut is a Fifty Forward favorite and for once, I got a group photo. Well, I sort of got a group shot. You can see the top four inches of my head in the back, towards the middle. Aren’t we the cutest group?

Mood lighting at Omni Hut

Mood lighting at Omni Hut

Below is the list of places we’ve recently eaten and my opinion of whether or not you should try them yourself.

Omni Hut – Of course you should go there. As long as you like teriyaki and pineapple, it’s fabulous.

Husk – Do not bother. The concept is outstanding. The execution is not. I did try curds and whey there. It was far better than I expected but nothing I’d ever need to have again.

Urban Grub – Go, absolutely. Just don’t listen to Chef when he tells you that half-cooking the salmon is the best way to prepare it.

Ted’s Montana Grill – Add this to your yes list. Get the cranberry chicken. Whimper.

I’ve got our restaurants planned for the next month or so, but anyone got other suggestions? Most of us are totally game.

Now this was delicious.  Pavlova, one of Woney's favorites.

Now this was delicious. Pavlova, one of Woney’s favorites.

All my best advice . . .

Love,
Executive Assistant