Monday, December 14, 2009

Take it Back

I like to dine out. I think that’s probably because I never went to a restaurant until I was 22 years old. I had been to a few diners in my teenage years but never to a real restaurant.

My first restaurant was Da Vinci’s Italian restaurant in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This was back in 1964 when Bill (my partner of now 45 years) was courting me. He wanted to impress me and indeed, I was impressed. Prior to this experience I had only dined at the typical Fifties chrome diner. Those chrome palaces were the Exton Diner in Exton, PA and Zynn’s Diner in Thorndale, PA. My high school friend Larry and I also used to frequent Dick Thomas’s Foot Long Hot Dog restaurant also in Exton. But I had never dined in a real, white table cloth, fancy dancy restaurant until Da Vinci’s.

My first meal was Veal Parmesan. I also had never eaten veal. My father did not believe in eating baby animals. To this day I still have not eaten lamb chops.

Well, I was blown away out how good the Veal Parmesan was. I loved the attentive waiter, the white table cloth (I never ate at a table with any kind of table cloth) and the candles on the table. I liked everything about the dining experience. The food, service and an evening out with someone I liked.

These days I’m not dining out with my love (Bill doesn’t like to eat out) but I do dine out with friends every opportunity I get (as they will quickly tell you if you ask them.)

Today I took my friend Barbara out to lunch for her birthday. I used a gift certificate I purchased at a Red Cross silent auction a couple of weeks ago. The gift certificate was for The Wharf Restaurant in Lewes. I had eaten at The Wharf earlier this summer. It was a so-so experience. The Wharf is located right on the canal in Lewes but it is somewhat of a tourist trap. Generally you’re not going to get the best food at a tourist trap restaurant. Today was no exception.

Barbara and I seated ourselves at the restaurant at about quarter after twelve. There weren’t any other customers in the restaurant. We were the first customers of the day. One would expect fast service wouldn’t one? Well, one would be wrong.

The waitress was nice enough but once we gave our order, we waited….and waited….and waited. Both Barbara and I ordered hamburgers. I specifically asked if the hamburger was char broiled. I was assured that they had the option to do that.

When we finally received our order I noted that my hamburger was served on sandwich bread. What’s that? Then I looked at the hamburger patty. Oh oh. It was the old perfectly round, gray, formerly frozen hamburger patter of undetermined origins. I took a bite. This wasn’t a char broiled hamburger. This hamburger had no taste. It was tasteless like all the mass produced, frozen hamburger patties that are delivered to our area of southern Delaware by the many Sysco tractor trailer trucks. So my request for a char broiled real hamburger was ignored. They lied.

Usually, I would not say anything and try and finish eating the hamburger but not today. Too often my friends have told me that if I didn’t like what I received tell the restaurant. I especially wanted to let this particular restaurant I wasn’t pleased because when I ate there this past summer I didn’t let them know but I did write about it in a review I posted online. The owner of the restaurant responded to my review and told me that I should try his restaurant again and if I wasn’t satisfied to let him know. That’s what I did today. I sent the hamburger back. I told the waitress it had no taste. It wasn't char broiled. The waitress apologized and took the offending hamburger (with the sandwich bread) away to the kitchen. A few minutes later I saw the cook (a big woman) come out and look over at our booth to see who the offending patron was. What's that all about?

The waitress came back and I ordered a Caesar Salad instead. My dining partner had got a Caesar Salad and she said it was good. My salad was good but the salad itself wasn’t fresh. It looked like the leaves were precut because they were brown around the edges. They probably brought one of those bags of precut Caesar Salad from the local supermarket. It definitely wasn't freshly torn Romaine. I was hungry so I ate it.

I was hungry all afternoon. I hate it when I go to a restaurant and I leave hungry. But this isn’t the first time this has happened since I’ve dined out in this area. I'm not a big eater. I'm 6'3" and weigh 160. I'm not a pig but I do need enough to satisfy my hunger.

This is something that has always puzzled me, why is it so hard for many of the restaurants in this area of southern Delaware to make a good hamburger? I only know of a few restaurants that make a decent hamburger by using fresh hamburger meat. They would be the Purple Parrot, Dos Locos, Gilligan’s and the Surfing Crab. Maybe it’s because this is a seaside resort and seafood is the preferred dish. I’m not a seafood guy. With me it’s chicken, hamburger or eggplant Parmesan. After that first veal dish, as delicious as it was, I still don’t eat baby animals.

Tomorrow is another day. Wednesday I'm going out to dinner again at another Lewes Restaurant, the Villa Sorrento. I hope my experience is better there than I had today at The Wharf. I'm ready for another good dining experience at an Italian restaurant. It has been a long time.


  1. That sucks, hamburger meat on sandwitch bread. Glenn and I ate at a sea food restaurant on the pier in Santa Barbara the weekend before Thanksgiving. We have eaten the several times before. This place, "Moby Dicks", Is not cheap, tourist trap. I ordered the "grilled garlic shrimp". I got shrimp floating in some kind of juice that must have been from the shrimp scampi pot. Have restaurants forgotten what "grilled", and "char broiled" really mean? I feel your pain. LOL

  2. Mike,
    My sentiments exactly. Too many restaurants say "grilled" or "char boiled" but in reality all they do is slap that mean on an aluminum hot surface. That's what they call "grilled." Not me. I can fry food at home. I eat out to get something that I wouldn't or couldn't cook at home.
    A friend of mine sent me an e-mail this morning stating that he doesn't understand why some restaurants in this poor economy go all out to serve well prepared food. All too often the people who work at the restaurants are just going through the motions. I think that they think we will put up with it because we'll do anything to avoid cooking and get out and socialize in a restaurant. Not me. I would rather eat at home than accept the slop that some of these restaurants serve.

  3. Ron,

    Probably hard to find restaurants that charbroil since that is cooking food over charcoal. Perhaps you could try a hamburger at Kid Sheeleens Charcoal House and Saloon. They have an open grilling area in the front of the house, not hidden away in the kitchen, where you can watch the meats being prepared and catch the flames shooting into the air, a little entertainment while you wait.


  4. Lar,

    There are several restaurants down here that char broil. I go to two of them; the Purple Parrott and the Surfing Crab. Char broiled is the only way I like hamburger. I love the flavor when the flames shoot up around and through the meat. Grilling hamburger meat on a hot surface kills the taste for me. Especially when the restaurants don't use fresh hamburger but that frozen crap that's shipped in my Sysco.



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