Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Restaurant Not Taken

I was confronted by a young reader of my blog who demanded to know why I hadn’t blogged in a while, and when my next blog entry was going to come.  I didn’t want to bore him with excuses about buying a house, moving and all of that fun stuff that tends to suck up your time like a hoover.  I told him that there was a blog post in the works, which seemed to appease him.  

My wife Courtney’s birthday is coming up, which also means that the yearly struggle of trying to impress and surprise her slides onto my shoulders as well.  Last year was a semi-success in that I surprised her, but failed to impress her.

Courtney wanted to go out for dinner on the night of her birthday and she wanted me to pick out the restaurant.  I was happy with that arrangement, and began ambitiously searching online for restaurants.
Perhaps I should preface this story by telling you that my wife only likes one restaurant, and only one thing on their menu.  I, on the other hand, love trying different restaurants and different menu options.

I certainly didn’t want to go to that restaurant – we had been there so many times; they were about to rename Courtney’s favourite dish after her.  I wanted to find a restaurant that was ethnically authentic, had an original menu, a memorable interior, and a warm atmosphere.  

After a lot of searching and reading various reviews, I settled on a real beauty.  It was a European themed restaurant in the heart of downtown Hamilton.  It is from this point that our experiences began to go their separate ways.

The drive to the restaurant


Ah, I love downtown Hamilton!  So much character!  There is so many interesting people and cozy little shops.  Oh, I can see the European restaurant up ahead.  I’ll just park beside this group of nice young people.


I do not like downtown Hamilton!  I wonder where Greg is taking me.  I wish he would keep his eyes on the road instead of looking at all of these dumpy shops.
What is he doing now?  Why is he parking beside that street gang?!

Inside the restaurant


Wow – this place is oozing charm and character!  Look at their coo-coo clock collection – beautiful.  Everything feels so European too – from the unfriendly service, the outrageous prices, to the lederhosen – I feel like I am back across the pond.


Where am I, and why is that guy wearing those funny shorts?  Who does he think he is – Heidi’s grandfather?  If I hear one more coo-coo bird, I’m outta here.  I am not sure what Greg was thinking, but I guess I trust his judgement.  
Oh no, the guy with the weird shorts and accordion is leading us to the table underneath the deer heads.  How am I supposed to eat when Bambi and his extended family are staring down at me?  I better steer clear of venison…

At the table


These menus are great – the owner of this restaurant must have brought them with him when his family immigrated after the war.  Too bad they scribbled out all of the old prices and sharpied in the new prices.
There is so much to choose from!  Snitzel, croquet, frikendel, and venison – just for starters.  Hmmm… Venison is oddly appealing for some reason.  This menu is an embarrassment of riches.


Are these menus handwritten?  Look at all of the food stuck to the pages – what is this scratch and sniff or something?  I can’t read a single thing in these menus either.  Why did I let Greg choose the restaurant?  Leave it to him to find a place like this.  He’s taking a long time with his menu too – at least I’m not the only one who can’t read this decrepit thing.

The Order

“Ya, vhat vill you hebben?”

“I will have the snitzel!”

“Ya, goed choice!”

“I will have the uh, the um, the… the fish dish.”

“Ya, de fish are fresh from de Hamilton harbour!”

Greg & Courtney

“Ya, I make a yoke!”

Great service here.  Charming servers and funny too!

If those deer heads looming over our table did not kill my appetite, surely the thought of eating a fish from the harbour did the job.

As you can see, Courtney and I were not on the same plane.  I felt like I was in the heart of the Bavarian black forest, and Courtney felt like bolting.  In hindsight, it wasn’t the best place to bring Courtney – I should have stuck with our usual digs.  The coo-coo clocks, deer heads, and lederhosen should have tipped me off when I was looking up the restaurant online previous to our visit.

Then again, it was a very memorable birthday dinner – one of which we still laugh about today.  If we had gone to the same old place with the predictable menu options, would we have remembered that evening?  Not likely.

Now that her birthday is approaching, I am in the same bind again.  Should I go for the safe, predictable choice this year, or be creative and choose the restaurant on the path less traveled?  I think I’ll take my cue from Robert Frost.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

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