Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Cheap Burgers and Furniture

Place: White Castle
Lunch: Six White Castles, regular Fish Nibblers, and a free Snickerdoodle cookie.

I ordered my White Castles and the Fish Nibblers, and the clerk mumbled something about a free cookie for ordering...uh...something. I'm not sure why, but I got a free cookie. As did everybody who ordered after me. I'm not sure what THEY ordered either.

So here's how I eat White Castles...I take two sandwiches, discard the top buns, and make double-patty burgers. The reason I discard the top bun is because the bottom buns are steamed on top of the meat as it cooks, so it absorbs the flavor. Removing the top bun greatly increases the overal flavor of the burger. Yes? Yes. Yes indeed. Plus you can save the top buns to feed to birds.

After lunch, I went to IKEA, the Swedish furniture kings of cheap "assemble it yourself" modern furniture made out of presswood with faux veneer wood finishes. They do furniture, kitchen cabinets, desks, media centers, and more. They have some self-branded appliances as well, which I CERTAINLY hope don't require assembly.

Anyway, this was my first time. It was neato and totally unique. The showroom is one winding designated path with occasional mapped shortcuts. People wind through the showroom carrying yellow courtesy bags ("They hold a lot", the sign says) writing item numbers down on scratch pads so they can find the stuff they want to buy in the warehouse at the end of the path. Yes, the massive warehouse is self-service.

I managed to get through there without spending any money. Mostly because I don't HAVE any...

Saturday, December 24, 2005

5 & Zero

Place: 5 & Diner
Lunch: Chicken-fried steak, 2 eggs, biscuits

Brunch, technically. Whatever.

The 5 & Diner sucks. The burgers suck. The breakfast sucks. The strawberry lemonade sucks. The chili REALLY sucks. My point is...It sucks.

One of the waitresses is quietly freaking out about some customer. She's peeking around the corner and pointing to somebody with another waitress. They're being really secretive. They're probably saying to each other "They actually seem to LIKE our food!" I sure don't.

It's Christmas Eve and the snow has mostly melted. After a month or more of a white Christmas season, the actual day is looking brown.

Traffic has been crazy for the past couple of days, and not just at the Popeye's drive-thru (which is STILL doing a ridiculous amount of business). Last-minute Christmas shoppers are cramming the stores looking for whatever it is they're looking for. I officially finished shopping on Tuesday.

But when I'm done here, I can go home and not leave the house again until after Christmas if I so choose. Just watch football and enjoy the holiday.

Probably watch lots of Christmas movies.

Or something.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Love That Chicken

Place: Popeye's Chicken & Biscuits
Lunch: Two spicy thighs, three chicken strips

Going to Popeye's just got two hours closer for local residents as our first location opened this morning. I take an early lunch on Mondays and figured I'd swing by before the lunch rush hit.

I completely underestimated the cravings of Popeye's fanatics.

I arrived before 11:00am to a packed parking lot and a drive-thru line that completely circled the building. I parked in the nearby Famous Footwear parking lot and walked over. The line inside was already the length of the building, a problem complicated by the fact that this Popeye's is in a former Bruegger's Bagels building, and Bruegger's wasn't designed for this type of foot traffic.

It's good natured mayhem all around. Some Popeye's official walked the line asking everybody to be patient and noting that it "takes two weeks" to break in the crew to where they actually know what they're doing without having to think about it. He relates the story of a recent opening in Albuquerque where for weeks people were waiting two hours at the drive-thru just to order. (He's not exaggerating...I read an article about that one.) People are all wearing Mardi Gras beads without having to flash anybody (they're free, and being handed out everywhere in the store.)

It took about 30 minutes to get to the order counter. Some people walk in and see friends in line and it's a big chatty reunion. Some people walk in, see the line, and turn around. Some suggest other lunch options while in line. "We could go to the Kentucky Fries up the street." "They already closed. Just gave up before Popeye's was even open." "Really?" "Yep!" (Nope...They're open...just remodeling. I'm hoping they convert it to a KFC-Taco Bell.)

"To stay or take out?" Fresh Young Counter Girl asks. HA! As IF there's a place to sit down. "To go," I declare.

I decided I wanted two thighs, so I ordered the 3-piece dark meat combo without the combo, which is how I've always ordered that. Fresh Young Counter Girl has no idea how to input this and grabs a manager. "You have to input them in seperately. Sir, you'll end up with a biscuit for each piece this way. Is that okay?"

Okay?!? That's a BONUS! And I had no idea you could even order that way. It's not mentioned on the menu board, and no other Popeye's has ever suggested it. I have no idea what this is going to cost.

I also order three naked chicken strips with ranch. "We're out of ranch," she says. How can they be out of ranch? They haven't even been open an hour. The manager is also surprised to hear this. "Are you sure?" he asks. Then he opens the hallowed Cabinet-of-Ranch and...well...they're FAR from out of ranch.

The total price was about what the 3-piece dinner combo cost. And I got what is effectively five pieces of chicken and two biscuits. And a drink. SCORE!

Fifteen minutes later, my number is called and I get my two boxes of chicken. I make my way through the throngs of Popeye's fanatics to the door and head for the car, and drive home.

Let's review what I actually got versus what I ordered, shall we?

I got two with the two thighs, and one in the chicken strips box. I'm confused on if that's the way it should have been or if a third biscuit should have come with the strips. The receipt indicates one biscuit with each thigh, and nothing with the strips, so that must be okay.

The chicken strips were the wrong ones. They gave me their mild strips, not the naked ones. Popeye's mild chicken strips are the most boring taste in all of fast food. On the other hand, the reciept indicates that "1 3PC STRP BOX N RANCH" costs $1.00. They either configured that wrong, or they're having a sale.

And yes...I got my Ranch.

Also, as fast as they were going through it, I would have expected the chicken to be hotter than it is. It didn't take me THAT long to drive home.

Still, it was delicious. But I think I'll wait a few weeks for the insanity to die down before going back.

So we finally got a Chick-Fil-A this year, and we finally got a Popeye's. Now all we need is a Church's and we'll be just like a civilized chicken town.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Let It Snow, Let It Snow

Place: Jimmy John's
Lunch: Gargantuan sandwich

I'm a snow fan, and we've been blessed with perfect little snow storms for the past week.

The perfect snow storm to me is three or four inches of light fluffy flakes with little to no wind. It's just enough to cover everything nicely while still light enough to make sidewalk shoveling bearable, and the driveway doesn't have to be dug up. Cars can plow everything down just fine.

Usually, we get either nothing, or we get dumped on in the half-foot or more range. But not this year.

Makes a great backdrop for the Christmas tree in the window.

I love December.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Ode to Fry Sauce

Place: Arctic Circle
Lunch: Ranch burger, fries, root beer

SEEN IN THE ARCTIC CIRCLE BATHROOM: A man helping his little boy use a urinal. Once the boy is done, his dad shows him how to flush the urinal. The little boy watches the whole process and shouts "THAT is SO AMAZING!!!!"

Santa should get him one for Christmas.

Fry Sauce is an unheard of concoction in 49 states (save for Arctic Circle locations outside Utah). But if you are going to open a burger joint in Utah, y0u had better plan on having some on hand. It's become such a part of the culture, they had a "fry sauce" pin available during the 2002 Winter Olympics.

Arctic Circle founder Don Edwards invented fry sauce in the 1950's. It apparently started out as an idea of mixing ketchup and mayo to put on a burger at the same time. At some point, he dipped a fry in it, and a legend was born. Don't believe anybody who tells you it's just thousand island dressing, because there's no relish in it.

Arctic Circle claims there's more to it than ketchup and mayo and that they have the only true secret recipe. Mine is pretty close.

Try fry sauce for yourself by mixing two parts mayo to one part ketchup and adding some lemon juice.
So for example, two tablespoons mayo, one tablespoon ketchup, and 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice. Use Kraft mayo and Hunts ketchup for best results.

Use an electric mixer to mix to a smooth and creamy texture. Don't leave any mayo lumps.

Use for dipping fries in.

You can also write Arctic Circle and inquire about purchasing jars of their trademark fry sauce, which are also available for sale at company-owned stores in 12-ounce jars for around $4 if I remember right.

Arctic Circle Restaurants
PO Box 339
Midvale, UT 84070

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Sorry, This Seat is Reserved

Place: Iceberg Drive-Inn
Lunch: Iceburger (no tomato), onion rings, red raspberry milk shake

The Iceburger is the very definition of decadant. I'm just saying.

I got to experience "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" in IMAX. WOW. I couldn't believe how steady and clear the picture was on that huge screen. Pretty amazing.

The theatre in question is trying out "reserved seating". I find this to be kind of silly for a movie theatre. When you go to the box office, you pick your seats from a computer map. (If you buy online or from an automated ticket kiosk, it picks your seats for you. You don't get a choice.) I had no problem doing this because I've been in this auditorium before when it was "large format", so I knew where my favorite seat would be. But it was clear when the show started that I was in the minority. I tend to like an "in your face" presentation, so I choose seats closer to the screen than most.
This show was far from a sellout, and people near me were getting up once the movie started and moving to other seats.

A man and his two teenagers were sitting next to us. His daughter says "Dad, why did you pick these seats?"

"So we could see the show."

"Well my friends and I sat up there (upper tier) last time and it was PERFECT!"

"Fine. We can move."

"No we can't. Those seats cost more."

"No they don't."

"Yes they do, Dad."

"I don't think so."

"Well you're wrong."

So they stayed.

She was wrong, by the way.

Plus, ushers have to walk most people to their seats because people are apparently too stupid to read the aisle and seat numbers for themselves. Most of them saw the map when they bought the tickets, so they should know where to go. Late comers who show up after the movie has started are the worst because the ushers have to use a flashlight and they have to climb over those of us who showed up on time instead of just picking some available aisle seats.

I guess the benefit here is that large families can be assured they all sit together. The weekend shows tend to sell out, so that makes some sense. But weekday matinees with less than a third of the house sold...Why bother?

Friday, November 25, 2005

Topeka Workrate Report

Place: Fatburger (in Aurora CO, not Topeka)
Lunch: Fatburger with egg (no tomato, no relish), chili dog, chocolate shake

If my experience this morning says anything, Topeka is nothing but a bunch of lazy people who just don't care.

First, breakfast at Steak n Shake. I order chili. "We don't have any because we opened at six (because of Thanksgiving) and it's not ready yet." Then she just stares at me like it's my fault for ordering it.

Second, Conoco. I pull in to fill up, and nine of the twelve pumps have baggies over them. So I go to one of the three that do (supposedly) work, go through the process to get the pump going, and it won't go. So I go inside and ask the cashier what's going on. He goes out and fiddles with it, and he can't get it going either. "You can try three or five, those are the only other ones that work." I try one of the two. Same deal. I leave.

So I go up the road looking for another gas station. A few blocks away, a second Conoco. It ALSO has bags over at some of the pumps. I don't even bother.

Up the road some more. No more gas stations. Turn around and hit the other main drag. Eventually find a BP. Pull in. "This gas pump does not generate receipts." Uh, yeah. I start pumping gas. The pump works for about three seconds, then the automatic shutoff happens as if the tank is full. I push it again. It does it again. Eventually, I get ten bucks of gas in and give up. I'm REALLY frustrated and want out of this town as quickly as possible. The cashier gives me a receipt. Out I went.

The rest of the day went well. Picked up a winter supply of pecan log rolls at Stuckey's, made it to Denver fairly quickly, and successfully navigated a shopping development and got into Fatburger on Black Friday. Fatburger aint cheap, but it sure is good.

And it's a beautiful day.

Thursday, November 24, 2005


Place: Waffle House
Lunch: Bert’s chili, bacon, two eggs, toast, no grits

Technically, it's breakfast. But I won't eat again until Thanksgiving dinner, so I'm counting it.

Poor Misha isn't here to enjoy it. Misha (blog link to the right) says she loves Waffle House, but claims nobody ever wants to go with her when she's near one. She says we need to go sometime, and I've offered to take her, but she never seems to want to. It kind of reminds me of a girl I once knew who was always bugging me to ask her out so she could say no.

Meanwhile at the Waffle House, a server who reminds me of Flo from "Alice" is wondering aloud why water is flowing from the coffee machine to the floor. "Somebody tried to make coffee without a filter," she says. My server Suzy takes credit for the problem. Everybody thinks this is funny. Basically because it is. Even Suzy does. She is, by her own admission, very sleepy. Waffle House pays poorly, but the staff sure has fun.

I have a lovely drive ahead of me through the backwoods of Missouri to a Thanksgiving family reunion. This group doesn't get together often. It's been fifteen years since the last time.

Should be a hoot.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Sometimes I Wonder

Place: Jason's Deli
Lunch: Beefeater po-boy, Texas chili

It's too early to feel this worn out. I spent the morning fixing the fan switch in my car. This required removing part of the dash. Lots of screws. And I ended up with two spare screws. I have no idea where they would have gone, and nothing's rattling...

A young skinny couple is in line in front of me. She's a blonde who looks fairly athletic and light in the head. He's tall and scruffy. They hug at least three times. When not hugging, he is scratching a small section of her back. They're wearing sweats. And she says...

"That was actually kind of fun! It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. And I didn't get THAT muddy."

Yeah. Paint your own picture.

Say! They're building a Qdoba across the street! 'Bout time we got one.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Day After

Place: Home
Lunch: Campbell’s Select Chicken Tortilla soup, cold pizza

Our first snowfall of the season arrived Tuesday, 15-Nov-2005. An inch or two landed and froze atop a sheet of ice from the rain that preceded it. Clear skies, heavy winds, and a temperature of 21 make today bitterly cold. But the shiny crunchy snow is beautiful, creating a peaceful white landscape that reminds me of my North Dakota days. I’d recommend polarized sunglasses if you plan to do any amount of driving.

Good soup day. Yet the cold pizza beckoned too.

Cold pizza is like that.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Fate and Fortunes

Place: PF Chang's
Lunch: Double pan-fried noodles with beef, Dan Dan noodles, chicken lettuce wraps

PF Chang's chicken lettuce wraps are wonderful. If you've never been...go.

The fortune in my cookie said "You will soon find someone sympathetic to your cause". HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA! HA HA HA (cough) HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!

Still, I'm taking it to work and posting it on my monitor, or somewhere prominent.

The lucky numbers included with the fortune were 4, 14, 17, 38, 44, and the powerball 16. Feel free to play them.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Suitcases and Burritos

PLACE: Pancheros
LUNCH: Pork burrito with black beans and hot sauce

It's a lovely day. Sunny and at least 70 degrees. Far too hot for November. It's supposed to be cold. I'm driving around with the sunroof open.

As I watch people wander into the restaurant at a rate of about one man for every six women, a large woman wearing an oversized yellow sweater and white pants enters. She is carrying a suitcase. A suitcase that is in a clear plastic bag.

She enters, moves to the left of the door, and stares at the menu board from afar.

It's not that big a menu board, really.

She eventually puts the suitcase down, and continues to read the not so big menu board.

The help doesn't seem to notice.

About the time I'm done with my burrito, a woman walks in and sees her. "Hiiiiiii!" they gleefully say in unison. Then the first woman presents the suitcase to the other woman, who cracks up laughing. "I didn't have time to wrap it," she says.

The suitcase takes up residence in a booth and the girls order lunch.

I move on to the shiny new Cold Stone Creamery next door for a cake batter ice cream with cookie dough mix-in.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Quote of the Day

PLACE: KFC/Taco Bell
LUNCH: Extra-Crispy Leg & Thigh, Biscuit, Nachos Supreme, no tomato

Actual sentence I used in an e-mail response to a billing problem at the office today...

"I suspect that when the bills run for this cycle, our server will melt into a gigantic rubber ball which will roll out of the server center and consume half of the east coast."

Halloween is the official "first day of my favorite time of the year". It's colder, football and hockey are in high gear, and the holidays are around the corner. Holiday lights and Christmas cheer.

This euphoria runs through New Years Day.

Happy Halloween.

Monday, October 24, 2005

The Ship Still Sinks

Place: Taco Time
Lunch: Crispy taco, nachos, crispy chicken burrito

The world's biggest being re-released on DVD this week.

The new version succeeds the lackluster release Paramount tossed on a deservedly suspicious public several years ago. It featured the movie, the trailer, and a non-anamorphic transfer (translation for most of's not enhanced for wide screen televisions. Meaning bad things for those of you with wide screen televisions.)

The new version is a 3-disc set with a new anamorphic transfer from a high definition master (though no actual HD release is planned for quite awhile), a DTS-ES 6.1 soundtrack, and loads of extras. Director and cast member commentary, deleted scenes, an alternate ending, lots of featurettes, and even Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On" music video, are included.

And everybody's still complaining.


The movie itself is spread over two discs.

Yep...You can't watch the movie all at once by popping the DVD into your player and sitting down. You will have to get up and change discs at some point.

I'll be buying it anyway, and watching it immediately.

Stupid movie.

Should be around $20 at the usual discount outlets starting Tuesday.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The Work and the Milkshake

Place: Steak n Shake
Lunch: Frisco melt, bowl of Chili, Caramel Apple Milkshake

"Work and the Glory - American Zion", the second in the "Work and the Glory" movies, opens this weekend NATIONWIDE! Even HERE, which is shocking. Larry Miller knows how to get the job done, he does.

Speaking of work, getting this shake up the straw takes some effort. They put caramel in the bottom so that you get both the apple shake flavor with caramel mixed in. I suggest making sure the straw only goes about halfway down the glass. But it's worth the effort. It's a WONDEFUL concoction. It's one of Steak n Shake's "Haloween" special flavors, so grab one before they're gone.

Then drive the back roads and enjoy the fall colors.

If you have fall colors to enjoy, that is.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Steak Dancing

PLACE: Maid-Rite
LUNCH: Maid-Rite with ketchup and mustard, baked beans, ice water

Work just didn't stop today. One thing after another. It finally occured to me I should have some lunch at close to 3pm. You, the reader, are thinking "What's the point? You're off in two hours and it's pizza night." You OBVIOUSLY don't think like my stomach does. And how do YOU know it's pizza night? You're creepy.

I do Maid-Rite about once a year. I get that craving, I go, I have one, I wonder why, I'm done for another year.

Across the road from the Maid-Rite is our brand new Texas Roadhouse. So new that it's opening for the first time in about an hour. There are many cars in the parking lot...far more than can possibly belong to the staff, right?

So I kind of peek out that way to see what's going on.

And there I see it.

A couple dozen Texas Roadhouse servers in black T-shirts and jeans.

Line dancing.

In the parking lot.

Line dancing.

Line dancing is one of the most disturbing visuals one can experience. It's a formation of middle-aged country music fans wearing perfectly pressed jeans doing simple dance moves in sequence to dorbos and whiny twangy guitars.

It's no less disturbing when done by twenty-something year-old food servers.

Line dancing.


Thursday, October 13, 2005

Grand Opening

Place: Chick-Fil-A
Lunch: Original Chick-Fil-A sandwich, Chicken soup, Lemonade

It's grand opening day at Chick-Fil-A (and for this blog, actually). There's a lady handing out free little cows (the "EAT MOR CHIKIN" cows) but doesn't offer one to me.

That's kind of rude.

The women in my office have been buzzing about us getting a local Chick-Fil-A for weeks. Women really seem to love this stuff. Don't ask me why. It's a good sandwich, in fact today's sandwich is easily the best Chick-Fil-A I've ever had, but there's nothing terribly special about it. It's breaded chicken breast deep fried and placed on a plain bun with two slices of pickes. Previous ones have left me with that "gut bomb" feeling in my stomach.

They do have wonderful lemonade.

The trick to having a good sandwich is to get one hot and fresh. I've had Chick-Fil-A at four different locations. The three before today took my order, took my money, and handed me a tray with the sandwich immediately without ever leaving the counter position. This location actually left the order position and returned with a sandwich. So I suppose if I want a fresh Chick-Fil-A, the trick is to hang back and watch orders being taken until they're clearly having to run for sandwiches.

Seems like far too much effort.

It's so nice to have "Hockey Night in Canada" back on the air. They debuted with the Canadiens and Leafs last weekend. This weekend it's...the Leafs and Canadiens.