Suffice it to say I eat out often. It’s probably because my wife and I both have unconventional jobs that lead to us being out of town for long periods of time. When we’re in town, and because we’re not always sure how long we’re going to be here, we tend to buy very little food and try to catch something on the fly.

This sometimes leads to some very interesting experiences when we encounter restaurants. I’ve had three specific instances that I’m going to mention.

cheeseburger002The first happened about 16 years ago. It was a restaurant called Steak and Sundae, and my wife and I were out with another couple at dinner. This is when it was still located on James Street.

After dinner, I was looking forward to having some kind of spectacular ice cream sundae. However, when I asked them what kind of flavors they had, the waitress said “We’ve run out of ice cream.” I looked at her, then I exclaimed “How could you run out of ice cream? How can a place called Steak and Sundae not have any sundae?” I thought it was a fair question to ask, even though there was nothing she could do about it. I decided I wasn’t in the mood for dessert after that.

The next interesting event happened to be at an IHOP when my wife and I were in Virginia Beach for a family reunion. We decided to go there for breakfast along with some of my other relatives and I noticed they had grits on the menu. There’s not a lot of restaurants up north that make grits, which left me thinking that Virginia Beach is in Virginia, which is in the south, so I ordered them.

When the bowl of grits came, it had about a half inch of water sitting on top of them. I’m not sure if everyone is familiar with grits, but you’re familiar with food and there is no food I can think of that’s not called “soup” that has half an inch of water on top of it. When she came back I pointed at the grits and said “These haven’t been cooked properly.” She asked me if I wanted them to microwave it. I stared at her first, then informed her that you can’t microwave grits (which they didn’t have in 2001), and that I didn’t want them.

With those experiences in my life, you would think I would have been prepared for what happened last Saturday night.

I went out with a few friends to celebrate the birthday for one of them. We started out the night in Revolutions at DestinyNY with a little snack, then a round of bowling, which I didn’t participate in because of my bad knees. After an hour (that’s how they charge for bowling now; intriguing…), someone suggested we go to IHOP for whatever reason. I figured that would be cool because then I could have some pancakes. I hadn’t had pancakes since the IHOP closed in Camillus a couple of years ago.

We walked over to IHOP and were seated in a large booth. There were probably more people in there than I’ve ever seen before, but it wasn’t close to being packed. It took us a while before we could actually order our meals, and the person waiting on us was Terry. This is a guy by the way just so I get that out of the way up front; he’s prominent in this story.

Out of the five of us, four ordered something that came with pancakes. I specifically ordered pancakes with a slice of ham because I wasn’t overly hungry, but figured since I rarely get to an IHOP, as it’s the only place I ever eat pancakes, I would take a shot. I was feeling pretty good because when I get good pancakes I usually love them.

I should have known trouble might be coming when I got my soda and it tasted a bit off. I wasn’t quite sure why, but I hadn’t thought that much about it although I wasn’t drinking much of it.

About 15 minutes later, Terry comes back and announces that he has been told that they have run out of buttermilk pancake mix in the back and therefore there are no pancakes. He said that they would switch it over to French toast instead if we didn’t mind. The other three people decided they could make that switch; I’m not quite that accommodating.

The first thing I said was that I don’t eat French toast because the thought of dipping bread in egg and then cooking it dosn’t fit my sensibilities.

The second thing I said was “How does a place called IHOP, International House of Pancakes, which is open 24/7 in a large mall, run out of the things they’re specifically known for?” I probably said a couple of other things, but since I’m generally nice they were probably more sarcastic than anything else. However, it was nice to realize that my thought patterns are still the same 16 years later.

Instead of pancakes, I ordered the cheeseburger with onion rings that you see in the picture above, though it took me about 10 minutes to decide what I wanted since their specialty is breakfast stuff, and almost all of it comes with pancakes. I can tell you that the hamburger was pretty pedestrian, the bun was stale, and the onion rings were soft and smushy; ugh. By the way, it turns out the reason my soda didn’t taste right was because I had asked for a diet soda and they brought me regular. At least I didn’t get too far into that.

To his credit, Terry never showed a single sign of stress. Actually, he never showed any real emotion at all, though he did talk to us here and there. I would say he checked on us often, except we were there about 2 1/2 hours and based on that period of time we didn’t see him as often as I thought we had. Still, he had to put up with us, who luckily were having a pretty good time so there was never a period of anger, even when I was fussing about them having no pancakes.

When Terry finally brought our check, I said “You know I’m going to have to write a story about all this right? I’ll change your name to protect the innocent, since you personally didn’t run out of pancake mix”. He said “No, you put my name in there. It’s the truth and it might be funny seeing my name in the story”. As if he or anyone at IHOP will ever actually acknowledge this.

Sometimes I lead a strange life, but the people at the table were my witnesses to the event and they had a good laugh as I regaled them of my other two stories of food mishaps. However, I have to say my first interaction with IHOP at Destiny was a major fail. As for Terry, either his shift was up or he’d had enough because he wasn’t around when the tab was paid.

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