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Ya'll Come Back Now, Y'hear!!

By Charles Hopkins Published 05/27/2007 | Sports

Eating out for many years in many different places gives one the right to an expert opinion about eating in restaurants. These experiences will range from "the meal to forget" to "the best I ever had" and the eating establishment could be forever named anything from "the worst place in town" to, just simply, "our place."

Any one who walks into "Eaton's Eatery" would not expect too much, even if the parking lot were full. After all, food in a place called an "eatery" usually floats in grease or water, depending on how greasy the spoons are but the sign was attractive, the entry was inviting and clean looking and the landscaping beautiful. Besides, it was the only place open in a town that obviously took Mondays off. It was also obvious that the owners liked their "eatery" and, since that's at least 1/4 of the battle in finding a great place to eat, it was worth a shot. Inside, there were a few people at the register, obviously leaving and they couldn't say enough good things about their experience, which was a very good sign. There was a host ringing up their meal, which usually means be prepared to wait. Amazingly enough, there was a second host, actually a hostess who had a cheerful greeting, 2 menus and an offer for a table by the window. This place got 5 points immediately!

Being seated that fast, and at a window no less, is a big plus. Nothing gets hungry people more annoyed than having to wait while watching other hungry people eat. So, promptness got them another 5 points. Getting menus as you sit down is another plus. Nobody enjoys sitting and waiting to read about all the food you can't order because you haven't seen a menu yet. So far, Eaton's Eatery had 15 points on the plus side! The menus were professionally printed. Even the "Specials Menus" had been printed up on a computer and so were readable. The names of the special meals used regular words. The Hot Pastrami Sandwich was so named, instead of something like "Found on the Road Dead Sandwich". It was scrumptious sounding and became the food of choice for the night instantly.

The "wait staff" (don't know if that word will ever just roll off the tongue but one has to be politically correct these days) was busy but one of them, a pleasant looking, nicely dressed young man with a short haircut and no facial hair, came right up to the table, and said, "Hi. I'm Harold and I'll be serving you this evening." He didn't rattle off anything else but waited politely for a reply. It wasn't even necessary to ask him to repeat anything. After ordering some beverages, our waiter went away - never to be seen again, probably. An amazing thing happened, though. In less than 3 minutes flat, he returned with the right beverages - delicious iced cold tea and a bowl of thickly cut lemon wedges, perfect for squeezing. He took the order quickly, answering every question politely and was positive that the pastrami was fresh and very lean. "If not," he said, "I'll take it back and personally find the best pieces of pastrami in the kitchen for you!"

Now would come the long wait that one always experiences in a busy restaurant; however, it was only 6.5 minutes before Harold reappeared with some of the best looking sandwiches ever seen in any diner. They were perfectly grilled with the yellow mustard (not that dull brown stuff that stings your tongue) evident at the edges of a large pile of dark red pastrami. A slight tip of the top piece of bread revealed the leanest pastrami in 20 counties, for sure, covered with sizzling Swiss cheese and that highly favored yellow mustard. It was juicy and tasted so good, it was hard to believe this was a place called "Eaton's Eatery." Harold made several quick check-ins to be sure that everything was just right. It was! The tea was freshly brewed and ice cold. The sandwich was freshly made (by special sandwich makers we were told who only did sandwiches so they could be ready faster for those who didn't order the hot meals) and delicious! Harold offered the dessert menu, which was chock full of scrumptious things no self-respecting diet would even consider allowing but there were also some delightful sounding "lighter fare" for the more discriminating (read that boring & strict) diet. The no-sugar-added homemade apple pie was "to-die-for" - warmed up just right - and the coffee hit the spot.

Harold timed his last appearance with the check just right. No snapping fingers or pointed glances were necessary. He took a proffered credit card and returned in a minute with the papers to sign. Signing this check was a pleasure, with its amazingly reasonable price for the unbelievably amazing meal that had just been served to us. It was just as enjoyable adding a 20% tip for the best waiter in town!! There had been no waiting for a menu; the waiter was cheerful and polite. He even told a joke about people who order sandwiches for dinner but it was not even the slightest bit offensive. Leaving the restaurant, the owner's hearty and sincere perfect Southern drawl, was loud and clear: "Ya'll come back now, y'hear." "Eaton, you can count on it."