A Romantic Dinner for Two
June 12, 2004
It was one of those Fridays where there was nothing going on. Ho hum, another week
of work is done, but now what? All the current movies suck, I don't need to wash my
hair and all we have in the fridge are a few rotten things and some spreadable butter
substitute (without trans-fats, I might add). We also needed a night away from our
barking, leg-lifting "kids." Tap tap. Anyone up for a Thumb War?
Wait minute...I know. Let's go to The Sizzler!
I'd never been to The Sizzler before - this one or otherwise. Someone should
have warned me. After spending a rather lovely hour at Target purchasing
such necessities as the Olsen Twins "Premier Night" dolls for me, a Spider-Man pillowcase
for Dan and a baby gate to keep my bastard dog from pissing at the bottom of
stairs (it's his spot, you see), I was not in the right mental zone to take my supper
in a screaming-children-bouncing-off-the-walls-all-you-can-eat family restaurant. Dan
had to restrain me from running out. "We're going through with this. This was YOUR
idea and you WILL make it."
Our local Sizzler sits next to the Target Garden Center in Colma. Colma
is a town a few miles outside of San Francisco. It's good for three things: Home Depot,
car dealerships and cemeteries.
The ratio of corpses to living people in Colma is about 10 to 1. Quick history lesson:
Back in 1900, San Francisco passed a law prohibiting any further burials within the
City. Land was too valuable to populate it with dead people and all the bodies were
eventually uprooted and shipped to Colma. With its gently rolling hillsides and cheerful
strip malls, the little town appears tranquil and serene on the surface. Then --
CRUNCH - one of the undead bites into the juicy head of a JoAnn Fabrics
customer. Welcome to Colma - a Nice Place to Die! Where's George Romero when you
My first thought upon entering Sizzler is "oh, it's just like Ponderosa!"
To date, the Ponderosa franchise has only delighted the palates of lucky
Mid-Westerners, Texans and the people in Florida waiting to die. Like the
Waffle House and Steak N' Shake, it has not yet met its manifest destiny
by going west, young man.
As soon as one enters the inner sanctum of The Sizzler, the waitress takes
your order as you wait in line, followed by the retrieval of your tray, place setting
and choice of chilled beverage. Not having yet memorized the menu, I am immediately
put on the spot and expected to perform. Um, er, scanning menu for something not
too cream based...oh god. Judging from the interaction between the customers ahead
of me and the waitress, I suspect they are seasoned pros. The pressure is building.
Sweat begins to bead.
"We have a special," the waitress pipes up.
"The Crazy Shrimp Trio!" She beams.
Hell, if she says the shrimp is crazy, then I'll have to go with that. I've been
known to dabble on the wild side every now and again. I might as well get the
All-You-Can-Shovel-Into-Your-Hole Salad Bar. And while we're at it, throw in the
All-You-Can-Eat Sundae Bar too.
You may ask why I didn't order steak. I mean, I'm at The Sizzler for
chrissake. Don't worry: Dan is eagerly looking forward to his
Steak and All-You-Care-To-Eat Shrimp Classic Combo. I begin to see a pattern
emerging: Is everyone who comes into this restaurant starving? Portions are already
big enough to feed Gigantor - who needs this much food? My questions are
answered after checking out the other patrons and I stand corrected. You need a
lot of fuel to run a 400 pound machine. And if 18 pounds of fried shrimp is what
it takes, please don't let me stand in your way.
We are seated in a booth by the remarkably calm host who seems oblivious to the
madness. As we make ourselves comfortable on the plush vinyl, we distinctly hear
the NASCAR-clad gentleman in the in the booth behind us: "I think I chipped
my pelvis." And so the meal begins.
First things first: the Salad Bar. I weave my way past the soft serve machine (I'll
see you later) over to what more closely resembles a salad hut instead of a bar. Hmmm,
do I want fried onion rings or nacho cheese product on my salad? Chicken wings, yep,
gotta have those. Ooh oooh - ham cubes! With cottage cheese! Awesome!
In returning to the table, the TV keeps catching my attention. Who is that enormous
man with double nipple piercings and why is he attempting to lift a felled tree trunk
over his head? Now he's pulling an SUV attached to a giant chain. Apparently a
member of The Sizzler crew couldn't make it through their shift without tuning
in to the World's Strongest Man Competition.
Dan slurps at his Sprite. I watch a man heave a barbell over his head that
sports two monster truck-sized tires on each end. Our entrées arrive.
As promised, my shrimp trio is some crazy shit. That stuff in the middle is shrimp
over rice pilaf in case you were wondering. My aching stomach demands to know why
I ordered the salad hut and the entrée.
Stomach: You already had clam chowder, chicken strips, bacon bits and
peaches...on the same plate. Are you trying to kill me?
Dan's steak arrives speared with a popsicle stick marked "medium." It is a dark
brown puck stamped with what can only be factory-made grill marks. Our eyes shift
and we gape at the football-sized baked potato dripping with its softball-sized
splooge of butter. The pile of All-You-Care-To-Eat Shrimp is golden brown
and fried as advertised. I can't tear my eyes away as the butter starts to melt
into a small lake.
Me: Look out, it's time to get crazy!
Stomach: Bitch, I know how to hurt you. My boys, Interior Esophageal
Sphincter and Lower Intestine, got my back.
Dan is thrilled.
We imagine if this were our weekly ritual: every Friday at our reserved table at
The Sizzler. We'd wave to Sue and Bonnie, the gals behind the counter, before
loading up on all the fixins. We agree that it would be awesome. In the meantime,
my shrimp trio has started to look more sedated than crazy. Dan's puck is gone and
what's left of his potato is floating in a shallow pond. Neither of us can fathom
taking another bite. Thirty seconds pass.
"That's it. I'm hitting the Sundae Bar."
Dan fondly remembers his past glory as a Baskin Robbins scoop boy. During
high school, his family received several ice cream cakes a week until he was fired...or
just sort of quit going. Whenever the opportunity arises, he still strives to prove
his expertise forming the perfect soft serve cone. The Sizzler is no exception;
Dan returns to the table with a sky high swirl of chocolate and vanilla sitting in
an EAT-IT-ALL cone. I have to have one.
By the time I've finished my first cone, Dan is lapping away at his second. True
gluttony has set in and we need to get the fuck out of here. On the way out, I could
not resist taking advantage of the Sundae Bar again. It is All-You-Can-Eat,
This is the part I feel pretty poorly about: we completely forgot to leave a tip at
the table. I guess because we paid the bill before sitting down, it did not occur
to us to do so. No one leaves a tip at Burger King or Taco Bell. The
more likely excuse is that Dan is embarrassed to be seen with a girl simulating oral
sex on an ice cream cone and wants to leave as quickly as possible. Either way,
I feel pretty shitty about stiffing them on the tip -- even if it isn't on purpose.
As I systematically lick my second EAT-IT-ALL on the way home, I wonder who
took the title of "World's Strongest Man." When we left The Sizzler, the
apeman from Poland was in the lead. He completed the "Atlas Stones" event and had
pulled ahead of his competitors. I'll have return to The Sizzler as soon
as possible to find out - unless they've decided to move on to covering the
USHRA Monster Truck Jam or Wrestlemania 462. One thing is for sure:
next time I'm only getting the Sundae Bar, and if anyone tries to stop me,
I'll chip their pelvis.