Thursday, July 15, 2010

The other half...

Sometimes, it's nice to see how the other half lives. You know - the half of society that actually smells the cork when the waiter pulls it out and likes their wine poured by someone else. The half that wears a suit to dinner and seems a bit overly educated. The half that can actually pronounce the things listed on the menu at the restaurant we visited last night...

Call me uncivilized. Call me simple. Call me uncultured. But, to be honest, I don't get out of the house much. And when I do, it's to go to Target or Publix or to baseball practice. We go to dinner usually once a month... with the kids... and it's usually Mexican because it's cheap and everyone likes it. We haven't had a baby sitter all year for a multitude of reasons. And we certainly can't afford to pay someone and pay for dinner on the same night. So we go without date night. But last night, we finally had the opportunity to go out to eat - just the two of us. And we wanted to make it count being uncertain when we'd actually be able to go out to dinner again.

There's a place near Five Points in Birmingham called Oceans that Scott had been to on a business dinner a while back. The menu is mainly seafood, but the place was really cool and he thought we might enjoy going. Last night was the perfect opportunity, so I checked out the menu to make sure it would suit my non-seafood-eating appetite. We headed North on I-65 for the big city...

We arrived in front of the restaurant and pulled up to the valet area. When I first moved to Birmingham, I thought it quite cultured the whole valet thing. Now I realize it's simply because of the difficulty in finding parking between the busy streets and hills. We walked into the obviously sparse restaurant and approached the greeting station. A waiter greeted us and asked if we had reservations...... that's funny; the website didn't mention that reservations were necessary. We answered that we did not, and he said he would have to check with his Floor Manager. She returned to inform us that the floor was fully committed, but that the bar was available and offered a full service menu. Or perhaps we'd like to try their sister restaurant next door.

Why yes... I think we will try the other. If I'm gonna pay more than $45 for a meal, by goodness, I'm gonna be sittin' at a table.

So we trotted next door feeling, perhaps, slightly dejected. I was blown away with the seriousness of the conversation... how the floor was fully committed. I've never heard someone talk about tables in a restaurant in those terms. I felt like I would have been asked to sign a contract to have a meal or tied up in a straight jacket if I dared to sit down on the committed floor. Anyway - we felt the option would be available. From the website, it appeared to be a slightly more casual place but with similar food.

We were greeted by a young woman who was incredibly rude and grumpy. In fact, once we were seated, I couldn't help but giggle out loud and pronounce her rudeness. But, as I told Scott, I might be a little grumpy too if I stuck out like she did in that place. All the waiters wore black pants and crisp white shirts (to match the napkins, I suppose), and there she stood in a little short, plaid patchwork skirt and a Granny Smith apple colored polo shirt. She might as well have worn a neon sign around her neck.

The waiter poured us water (purified, holy, mountain spring water, I'm sure) from an old-school milk bottle. He gave us the menu, and I looked over it picking up on key words I could comprehend. Rib eye. DING!DING!DING! Never mind what kind of froofy sauce or whatnot it had over it... it sounded fantastic. Then I needed to find the restroom. It was carefully disguised behind a curtain of hanging silver beads. Yes - strands of silver beads hung in the form of a curtain. I had to swim my way through to find two unisex one-seaters with heavy pocket doors that latched into place once tightly shut. The light turned on automatically when the door was in place. Incredibly modern. Incredibly not my style. Incredibly hysterical... I laughed the whole time I was in there and the whole way back to my seat.

The food was fantastic, but the people watching was the best. There was the business dinner between a man and a woman next to us. There was the large ladies only party in the booth in the corner, laughter and wine and martinis flowing over the edge of the table they graced. There were the older attorneys that seated themselves just over my shoulder and to the right. I assume they were attorneys... they just sort of looked the part. The final crew to sit down before we left contained one man we deemed to be the most like us - jeans, polo shirt, no belt. Maybe a little too not-put-together but at least a little more laid back.

Whatever the atmosphere, the food was fantastic, and I really wanted to do desert. But when the waiter brought out the desert menu, everything had something I didn't recognize or some kind of candied fruit. I just wanted something deeply fudgey chocolate without any froofs or what not.

It's nice to visit these places once a year or so, but they aren't places I could see myself fitting in on a regular basis. I don't like the uptight feeling of people who truly enjoy being served. I don't need a linen table cloth or extra forks or spoons. Just give me a little American restaurant with a simple menu and plain old beer. But sometimes it is nice to see how the other half lives all the time...

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