A Restaurant for You!
“So what’s it called?” I asked.
“No no, it’s Your Restaurant,”
This was about to turn into an Abbot & Costello skit.
“Where is this place?” I asked, strumming my fingers on the steering wheel.
“It’s in Oak Cliff on Fort Worth Avenue. The closest major street is...Sylvan,” said Emma as she eyed the map.
“That’s north of I-30. I think that’s the Design District.”
“No, the design district doesn’t go west of the Trinity,” said Emma, still fiddling with the map.
“Here it is,” I said and I turned left into a parking lot. The lot was somewhat slanted on a hill, and was crumbling from disrepair. Maybe the owners were going for that “neglected gravel pit” look. It’s a good thing our SUV had all-wheel drive. The paint from the parking space dividers had worn away years ago so I gave it my best guess.
We got out and headed toward our lunch destination. All the surrounding buildings were either boarded up or burnt down. For a fancy restaurant it was really out of place here, but it did look like they were trying to fit in with the landscape. The exterior of the restaurant had white walls, nondescript. It was a single story building all alone on this desolate street. It looked like a large broken-down adobe house.
“So what kind of place is this?” I asked.
“I heard they customize the menu for you.”
“Okay, but what kind of restaurant is it?” I asked again.
“I think it’s New American,” she said.
“So it’s weird and overpriced,” I sneered.
“Frank, please. I’m sure you’ll find something you like.”
We opened the front door and stepped in. The place was a lot bigger on the inside than on the outside, and a whole lot nicer. The decor was a mix of modern contemporary and traditional. Beams of recycled wood stretched across the ceiling with a speckled blue rug rested underfoot. The restaurant was divided into many medium-sized rooms keeping the sound to a minimum. Each room had large warped glass windows to let the light in while allowing some privacy, which is fine for me, since I liked my dining experience quietly private.
“Welcome. Table for two?” a waiter in a white suit and black tie greeted us.
“Could we get a half-booth half-table please?” Emma asked the waiter. She prefers this setup, because normal restaurant chairs aren’t comfortable for her hips and the full booths don’t have enough room. The waiter took us over to a small table towards the back next to a large window. The chair I sat in had armrests, however the cushion seemed to perfectly conform to the shape of my butt. Emma seemed pleased as well with her seating arrangement. From where I sat I had a full landscape view through the window of a deep grassy valley. The other end of this restaurant must’ve been on the edge of a cliff which is strange, because despite the name there weren’t any cliffs in Oak Cliff...or whatever neighborhood this was in.
“What would you like to drink?” asked the waiter.
Emma perked up. “Hot tea if you have oolong or jasmine, otherwise coffee, half-decaf half-regular and make a fresh pot; I don’t want stale coffee. I also need three small cups: one with cream, one with two-percent, and one with skim milk. I also want an extra plate for my stirring spoon and tea bag, and could you leave the pot so I can steep it myself?”
She had this down to a science. So far no restaurant has been able to completely satisfy her...
“We have both oolong and jasmine tea; I’ll bring you both. I’ll also get you teapot, your extra plate; along with your small cups of cream, two-percent, and skim milk,” the waiter said, then turned to me. “And what would you like, sir?”
“Dr. Pepper...with ice, please.”
The waiter left to get our drinks while we perused the menus.
Bacon cheeseburger, lamb chops, shrimp linguine with lemon butter, sesame pork, chicken fried steak with cream gravy... these were all several of my favorite foods. As far as I know my menu had been customized just for me, however I don’t recall ever telling anyone here what I liked. Maybe Emma told them when she made the reservation.
“Here is your oolong and jasmine tea, ma’am; along with your teapot, extra plate, your cream, two-percent, and skim,” said the waiter as he meticulously arranged all of Emma’s drink options to exact specifications on the table. “And your Dr. Pepper with ice, sir. Do either of you have any questions about the menu?”
“These are good choices,” I said, waving my hand over the menu, “but do you have beef wellington?”
“Yes, sir. It’s on the menu right here,” said the waiter as he pointed to a place on the menu that previously was blank.
“What about deep-fried chicken livers in a light peppercorn sauce?”
“Yes, they’re right here,” said the waiter, pointing to another previously blank space on the menu.
This was getting weird. I decided to throw him a curveball.
“How about boiled human kidneys sauteed in baby blood?” I asked.
The waiter smirked. “Sir, cannibalism may be customary in the savage lands of Austin, but here in Dallas it is most certainly frowned upon,” he said, calling my bluff.
“Uhh...I’ll just have the chicken fried steak with a side of rice...and a caesar salad,” I sheepishly said.
“Very good, sir, and what would the lady prefer?”
“Deconstructed chicken florentine sandwich with each item on a separate plate, and please be generous with the parmesan shavings.”
The waiter obliged and quickly left to get our order.
“Isn’t it kinda strange that everything I asked for just happened to be on the menu?” I asked Emma.
“Well of course,” she said. “They customize the menu for you. Isn’t that great?”
“Right, but I mean even the stuff that wasn’t on the menu,” I said. “When I asked the waiter it just happened to be on the menu.”
“But it was on the menu.”
“Yes, but not before I asked the waiter about it.”
“Okay, now you’re just being weird.”
“This whole place is weird!” I quietly shouted.
I would’ve argued further, but the waiter arrived with our food; he slapped down my platter-sized helping of chicken fried steak and rice, with a small caesar salad as a side dish. I didn’t ask him to make the salad a side dish, but I had meant to so I’m glad he did it. He set down what seemed like a dozen small plates of the various parts of chicken florentine in front of Emma, and she seemed pleased. It had only been a few minutes since we ordered.
“Was this made for someone else?” I asked the waiter.
“No, sir. Prepared fresh for you!” he smiled.
Maybe this restaurant was in some sort of time warp.
The rest of the meal was satisfactory silent as Emma and I focused solely on shoving food into our greedy mouths. Everything was hot, fresh, and delicious. My chicken fried steak was deliciously filling and not overly greasy like some other restaurants serve. There was just the right breading-to-meat ratio with not the slightest hint of gristle present. The rice and caesar salad were good too, but paled in comparison to the chicken fried steak. That fine since everything pales in comparison to a good chicken fried steak.
I wiped my mouth clean and got up to visit the restroom. I wandered around the back of the restaurant for a minute before a passing waiter directed me to the long hallway leading to the restrooms. The walls were decked out with a large gathering of what looked like family photos. I didn’t know of any other restaurants that plastered their walls with....
“What the hell?” I muttered to myself. These family photos were of MY FAMILY! They had my baby pictures, my childhood, graduation, and even my wedding pictures. I would say that this was getting weird, but we were already past that point already. I decided to just go to the restroom and get out of there as soon as possible. The restrooms were the single-room variety for those of us that like our privacy. I opened the door and...
“WHAT THE HELL?!” I shouted. The restroom was MY RESTROOM! Every last detail down to the apple spice potpourri bowl on the toilet was replicated. The contact lens solution I left out on the counter this morning was there. My electric shaver was plugged in under the plug-in air freshener.
Suddenly I didn’t feel like going to the restroom anymore.
I rushed back to my table and stared Emma in the face.
“WHAT’S GOING ON?!” I yelled.
“What’re you talking about?” Emma stared back.
“I just went to the bathroom and it’s MY BATHROOM!”
“Frank, calm down. There’s no need to make a scene.”
“I can’t calm down! I mean when I opened the door it looked exactly like my bathroom! And the pictures next to the bathroom are my family pictures! Is this some sort of joke?!” I blurted out. I felt like I was losing my mind.
“I believe I can explain,” our benevolent waiter politely interrupted. “In an effort to create the most perfect dining experience we have customized the entire restaurant to a more pleasing environment for you. We were able to construct a personality and taste profile to please both of you.
“Okay, so what about the pictures and the bathroom?” I asked.
“We had hoped that more familiar surroundings would help ease along your defecation. We apologize for this awkwardness, sir. We would be overjoyed if you stayed for dessert. We have your favorites: banana pudding, chess pie, and a fudge brownie sundae.”
“No thank you,” I said pulling out my wallet. “I just want to pay the check and leave. This place has left a sour taste in my mouth!”
“Please, sir, it would be in your best interest if you stayed for dessert.”
“How much do I owe ya?!” I growled.
“Please stay, sir.”
“HOW MUCH?! WILL EIGHTY DOLLARS COVER IT?!” I growled louder.
“Please put your wallet away, sir.”
I had enough of this. “Come on, Emma! We’re going!”
“Can I get a take-out box for this?” Emma asked.
“Leave it, Emma! LET’S GO!”
Emma rolled her eyes. “Frank, calm down,” she said. I decided that I had to get out of this restaurant one way or another and stormed over towards the front. Something was terribly wrong, because it was pitch black outside. I couldn’t see the road, nor any cars outside. We couldn’t have been in the restaurant that long.
I checked my watch.
What was going on here?
I grabbed the handle, but the door didn’t budge. I cupped my hands around my eyes and pressed my face to the glass, and all I could see was what looked like outer space.
Oh this is just great!
I turned around to see our smiling waiter in his white suit and black tie. Except he looked different now. His skin was red and scaly with four yellow cat eyes. His mouth protruded from his face with a razor-toothed maw, and four horns curved back behind his head.
The waiter grinned. “Sir, please return to your table and enjoy your dessert.”