“RG, are those your friends sitting on 72?” asked one of the servers.
“Yep, in from Philly for the weekend,” I said, shoving menus into the slots behind the podium. We have hired two hosts, and my multiple weekly doubles are numbered, but not quite over.
“Are you getting off early to be with them?” he asked.
“I’m outta here in five,” I told him, gathering up paperwork to complete in the office before I left.
“So, where are you taking them to eat?”
The fact that my friends had been sitting on 72 for an hour and a half eating appetizers and entrees did not, in the server’s mind, make this a silly question.
“Well, they just ate, so…”
“No, you gotta take them to this place I just tried. It’s not that far.”
This is what I love about the people I work with. It doesn’t matter what the occasion or who I’m with or who is coming to visit, to a person, everyone wants to tell me where to eat. Their reasons for their allegiance to their “gotta try” places are varied–they used to be a server at a particular place, they know the GM somewhere, they know the owner of another spot, they dated the bartender at a place where the food is so-so but the drinks are awesome, they still date the bartender and I should try the burgers because they are actually good, they are a regular at a cool place in the next beach town up the road, so ask for Mike and “he’ll hook you up.”
When I casually mentioned to one of the managers that I might have a “date”–an actual make-plans-ahead-of-time-pick-you-up-for-dinner date–his first response was not, “That’s great, RG!” Rather, it was, “And you’re eating where?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “I think he said something about a new place at the beach, but…”
“You know what?” he interrupted. “If I’m taking out a girl I am trying to impress–he’s trying to impress you, right–then I would go to…” and he mentioned a place I had no clue about.
“No, not there,” chimed in one of the servers. “RG, here’s where you go,” and he proceeded to describe a wine bar-type spot, at least I think that’s what it was.
“Yeah, well, maybe I’d go there,” said another server who had wandered over to join in the dinner talk. “But you know that place up north on Federal? I think she’d like that better. Great seafood.”
I was now rendered invisible.
“You always like that place, but for a first date don’t you think they should sit outside on the water or something? Besides, I also know exactly where the best stone crab is, and RG wants to try it again, don’t you?” asked the first server, not expecting an answer from me at all.
As I watched and listened to this exchange, I was struck by several things:
* Because restaurant people are always hungry, they constantly talk about the ultimate meals they hope to someday have or the one they had last week.
* My future dinner date had now turned into a top-this food competition among my coworkers. And I laughed at the image of my “telling” my date, “Yeah, so here’s the deal. We eat at blah blah cafe because Jeff says so. Got it?”
* I found it kind of sweet the way they had taken on the “dinner” part of my date.
Thanks to a few of their suggestions over the past few months, I have enjoyed brunch at Aruba in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea (where one friend was staying with family) and slurped “happy hour” oysters at Southport in Fort Lauderdale. I have heard mention of several places to try in Hollywood, and a few more scattered both north and south.
My coworkers don’t care how far they have to drive to eat well in their own minds; they go where the food hits their spot. And they will hound me until I try them all.
Today I took the Philly folks to Jaxson’s Ice Cream Parlor in Dania Beach to share a giant hot fudge banana split (made with our choices of house-made vanilla, chocolate and banana ice cream) en route to the airport after a sad loss by the Redskins to the Eagles that, of course, delighted my Philly pals. Yeah, I will definitely drive the distance to return there, again.
So, where am I going on my first dinner date? I think I will leave that up to the boy. But, if there’s a second date, I will certainly defer to my in-house dining critics.