Playita Mexicana: Dad’s Birthday Dinner

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“Bienvenidos!” painted over an arched doorway and murals of presumably Mexican beaches adorned the walls, an effort to transport us from Memphis to Mexico in the blink of an eye, by walking through a single door into Playita Mexicana, my favorite Mexican restaurant in town. We were there for celebratory purposes, my wife, my dad, and myself, enjoying a meal together for my dad’s birthday. For those of you who have never eaten at Playita Mexicana before, you need to quit reading this stupid blog and go over there right now, trust me. So what if you don’t live in Memphis? It will be well worth how ever far you have to drive to eat this food. It doesn’t matter how many times I eat here, I never walk in knowing what I’m going to get because there’s just so many good things to choose from, and last night was no exception, having to send the waiter away more than once while we tried to decide what to order, while munching on chips and cheese dip, the one constant on every visit.
 
My dad and I both ordered chimichangas, ground beef for him and grilled chicken for me, and my wife got a steak quesadilla. As always the food came out pretty quickly, well my dad and wife’s did, while mine came out a few minutes later because apparently they had to catch, kill, and pluck the chicken before throwing it onto the grill. My chimichanga arrived, and the first thing that came to mind was a bean bag chair because of how enormous it was, not only in length and width, but in height, it was just monstrous, and without a  doubt the biggest chimichanga I’d ever seen. A mistake I always, ALWAYS make at Mexican restaurants is eating too much of the chips and salsa/cheese dip before the actual entrée arrives, so by the time it does, I’m not that hungry anymore. It’s not like this sneaks up on me out of nowhere, I know it’s going to happen as I dip chip after chip into the queso and strategically move it towards my mouth so as not to let little white drips of melted cheese fall onto my shirt, but yet I continue to do it anyway. It’s good, yes, but moreover than that it’s just there, in front of me looking completely irresistible, so all thoughts of ruining my appetite are pushed to the side, telling myself that maybe just the once I can eat unlimited chips and cheese dip without it having any impact on my appetite whatsoever, like maybe there exists a day in the universe where the laws of hunger don’t apply, like a supernatural cheat day, and I just so happened to walk into a Mexican restaurant on that very day, the lucky man that I am. I tell you this, expose my utter lack of self control because it happened again, and by the time the biggest chimichanga I’d ever seen was placed on the table before me, I wasn’t exactly full, but I wasn’t really hungry anymore either.
 
The plate before me was completely filled, the massive chimichanga taking up about half of the large plate, with rice and beans on the other half. In the middle of the plate sat a small bed of lettuce with diced tomatoes, and sour cream, things that would normally be put on the chimichanga or eaten alongside it, but the thought of adding more ingredients to it, daunting as it already was, was completely unthinkable and unappealing given the fact that I wasn’t even hungry anymore. Despite the fact that I was having major doubts about whether I would be able to eat the meal before me, it did look absolutely delicious, topped with a red sauce, melted cheese, and queso. I took a bite, and it tasted even better than it looked, the chicken so juicy and flavorful and the melted cheese and the sauce marrying together perfectly to make it the perfect bite. It was the first time that I’d ever tried the grilled chicken before here, and after having had it yesterday, it’s going to be incredibly difficult for me to get any other kind of meat going forward because it was just that good. The beans which I’ve previously praised before weren’t as good last night. Melting cheese on top of something is a reliable way to improve just about anything, which is normally the case with the refried beans here, but they tasted overcooked and had a bit of a strange aftertaste last night that no amount of cheese could cover up.
 
I ladled some of the queso onto the rice, taking the cue from my dad who had gotten the idea from my cousin Bailey who has been eating her rice like that for many years, but I really didn’t eat that much of the rice because of how full I was and wanted to fit as much of that glorious chimichanga into my stomach before I could eat no more and didn’t really want to take up any of that crucial real estate with rice. I finished a little more than half  before I just couldn’t eat anymore, except for the chips and cheese dip that I continued munching on until it was finally time to leave for no other reason than that they were still there in front of me and no matter how full I am, it always seems like I can eat one more chip, because who can’t eat one chip, and that mentality repeats itself over and over again until absolute misery takes over. The meal was really good, and now that I’ve had about sixteen hours to digest it, the other half of that chimichanga is starting to sound pretty good right about now, and although the meal was great, the real highlight was just getting to see my dad on his birthday for the second year in a row, something I don’t remember happening any year before then, so hopefully this new tradition will stick and be observed for many years to come.

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An Embarrassing Lunch at Huey’s

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Never in my life have I ever had my debit card declined at a restaurant, but there’s a first time for everything unfortunately, and Saturday it happened to me. I was out to lunch with my dad and his mom. We had been at the hospital that morning, visiting with my uncle Brett who had been in there since Monday due to an ulcer that had been building up unbeknownst to anyone and finally had to be operated on in emergency surgery. It was good to see him, and although he was still in a little bit of pain, he was doing and feeling a lot better, and only had a couple more days left in the hospital to make sure he didn’t get an infection. We were there for an hour or two, and by the time we left it was nearly one, so naturally we started talking about getting something for lunch. The only thing I could think of in the area was Huey’s, so that’s where we decided to go.
 
It was crowded when we arrived, a fact that always brings me comfort in Huey’s, and is the only restaurant I can think of that has that affect on me. Normally crowded restaurants mean a long wait, either for a table, your food, or both, but here it just seems right that it be crowded. Despite the fact that the restaurant seemed packed to the brim when we walked in, we were immediately ushered to a booth, somewhere amongst the many voices of the cheerful lunch goers surrounding us.  I looked briefly over the menu, which always seems to be a waste of time since every single time I eat at Huey’s, I get a burger, but I like to browse nonetheless, and float some ideas through my mind, putting them in a head-to-head matchup with the burger to see if anything can beat it out. This time I thought about nachos, or just getting a basket of the new tater tots with bacon and cheese, which sounded delicious, but the more I thought about it, the less it sounded like a fulfilling meal and more like an appetizer. The nachos sounded good, the perfect football food, which was fitting since TV’s lining the walls were showing all the college games that were currently going on, but I saw somebody else’s plate of nachos, and decided against it. There is a huge difference in nachos that have shredded cheese and those that have cheese sauce, and as a person who prefers the latter, I decided against the grated cheese version offered up by Huey’s, and went with the always reliable burger.
 
There is a vast selection of burgers to choose from depending on your preferences and mood, and after glancing at the numerous options, I decided on the Bluff City Burger, which is one of my favorite burgers in the city for which it is named. A thick patty topped with bacon, barbecue sauce, fried onion straws, lettuce, and pickles, the Bluff City burger is a in a word, fantastic. My biggest hang up on Huey’s in the past has been the side dishes, because I don’t like their steak fries which in my opinion are too big and devoid of flavor, and I don’t like their onion rings, which are literally the biggest onion rings I’ve ever seen, and the fried batter on the onion doesn’t stay attached very well so inevitably you end up munching on a big chunk of hot onion, but now Huey’s has stepped their game up with the new addition of tater tots. I got them as a side, and this was the first time I’ve ever eaten at Huey’s and thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of the meal, so it’s definitely going to have a place on my short list of favorite restaurants to go-to because everything from the burger to the tots was perfect. PERFECT. The only bad part about the meal had nothing to do with the food or the restaurant itself, but with me, or rather my debit card, which was declined when attempting to pay for my food.
 
I had enough money in my account, so I couldn’t understand what could have possibly gone wrong. The waitress had the good grace not to announce to the table that my card was declined, and instead told me that the machine couldn’t read my card, but we all knew what was going on. Thankfully my dad stepped in and handed back his card, saying that he would pay and we could settle up later, or else I wouldn’t have had any idea how I would come up with the money because the only card I had on me was the one that wasn’t going through and I had absolutely no cash on me. I pulled up my banking app at the table, just to make sure that money hadn’t been taken out of my account without my knowledge, and, as expected, my account still had the balance that it should have. The problem ended up being that my card was locked, something my wife did as a precaution last weekend after our other account was used fraudulently to make unauthorized purchases, and my wife just forgot to unlock it again. I was embarrassed that for the first time my card was declined at a restaurant, and that it happened in front of my dad and Mimi, but at least there was a logical and reasonable explanation for why it happened so I guess that was kind of  a relief. Despite that one misstep, everything about the meal was great, and I would one hundred percent recommend you checking out Huey’s ASAP to get a fantastic burger and to try their new tater tots, just make sure before you go that your debit card hasn’t been locked by your wife or you might end up having to wash dishes at the restaurant, or possibly getting your dad to bail you out.

The Problem With Vacations

Vacations are great, and one of my favorite things in life, but with only two weeks allotted for vacation time each year, tough decisions have to be made, and I for one, am tired of it. Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for the time that I do get, and appreciate the fact that there are people who aren’t so lucky and aren’t given any paid vacation time, I know because that used to be me, but it can get really overwhelming having to choose how to spend those two weeks of vacation. First world problems, am I right? Just give me a couple of minutes to explain, and you will understand why this is so difficult for me. I’m completely out of vacation time for the rest of the year, but I find myself already feeling the pressure of what I’m going to do with my two weeks next year, and am not sure what I’m going to do. Here’s my dilemma.
 
Just about every summer in my childhood I would go with my dad and his side of the family to my grandparents beachside condo in Orange Beach, Alabama, and aside from holding a special place in my heart because of all the good memories, it is one of my favorite places in the world. I wasn’t able to go this past summer, because somebody at my work had already requested off for the same week that the whole family was going to the beach, and although everyone was understanding about me not being able to make it, I could tell my grandmother in particular was upset by the fact that I wouldn’t be able to go. I hated that I was going to miss Orange Beach, but I assured them that I would put my vacation request in really early for next summer so that nothing would stand in my way of getting to take the weeklong trip, or so I thought.
 
While the tradition on my dad’s side of the family is to go to Orange Beach every year, with my mom we usually go somewhere that we’ve never been before, so it’s always tough when I have to miss those vacations, because I never know if I’ll ever have another opportunity to go to those places. Recently my mom started talking about vacation next summer and decided that she wanted to go on a weeklong Alaskan Cruise, so with the cruise plus the travel days, the whole trip would take the better part of a week and a half, which would mean that I wouldn’t be able to go on the trip to the beach, which I’d already said that I would go on. It’s not like I don’t want to go to the beach, I love Orange Beach, but I’ve never been on a cruise or to Alaska before, and this is my opportunity to do both, a dilemma that could maybe be solved if only I were given more vacation time, but guess what, even if I could go both to the beach and to Alaska, there would still be problems, because one of those vacations would be with my mom, and the other with my dad, and none of that time off would be spent with either of my wife’s parents, which we obviously would like to do, but even if we cast aside the Alaskan cruise, we still wouldn’t be able to go to Orange beach with my dad, and go visit both of my wife’s parents, because one lives in California and the other lives in Florida, which would need to be two separate trips, so really we’re in a lose-lose situation in terms of coming up with a fair way to split vacations with our families, because that seems to be practically impossible when only given two weeks to do so. I often hear that divorce is toughest on the kids, but if we’re being completely honest, I think divorce is way tougher on the adult children who have to make tough life choices about who to go with on vacation.
 
Even if all of that gets resolved and we find a way to spend meaningful time with all four of our parents, there question still lingers of when my wife and I could take a vacation on our own, to go somewhere we’ve always wanted to go and spend some quality alone time together. There’s just not enough vacation time for all of these different trips that I want and need to take, but after much deliberation, I’ve finally come up with what I think is an adequate solution. I’m going to quit my job and spend the rest of my days on the road, traveling around and experiencing all that life has to offer. That was a lie, which is really unfortunate because so badly I want for it to be true, but it’s just not in the cards for me right now. I guess I’ll just keep hoping that something changes in terms of my vacation time, like Donald Trump declares a federal law that everyone gets a full month off work every year. I mean he’s bound to do something good while he’s in office, right?

Saturdays with Dad

IMG_4292I’m sure the number of people that would voluntarily spend their afternoons inside of a Sports Authority without anything to actually shop for, would probably be relatively low, but as a child, it was one of my favorite things to do. On Saturdays when my dad would come visit from Memphis, on the days when he wouldn’t take me back with him but we would spend the day in Little Rock, we would have a whole day to fill, and they generally followed a predictable routine.  He would pick me up on Saturday mornings, and we would go eat breakfast at McDonald’s, sausage biscuits with a hashbrown for both of us, then following breakfast we would either go to the park or a bookstore where we would spend the rest of the morning. Once lunchtime rolled around we would do one of two things, either go to a traditional restaurant, or occasionally KFC when I could talk him into it, or we would got to Chuck E. Cheese where we would eat and then spend the rest of the day playing games and having so much fun, and while this was the place that we frequented most, every once in a while we would break away from that and do something else to occupy the afternoon, like go to Sports Authority.

Looking back it was truly amazing that we were able to go into a store, and stay occupied there for hours, but until my aunt Kathryn moved to Little Rock when I was in middle school, we didn’t really have anywhere to go, so we would just make due with what the city of Little Rock had to offer. What could a father and son do for hours at a time inside a sporting goods store? Well my friends, the possibilities are endless and the only limits are your imagination. We would go to the hockey aisle, grab a couple of pucks and a foam hockey puck and had the Stanley Cup Finals right there in the middle of the store. There was never a winner or loser, not because I was being raised the new age way to not keep scores in children’s sports the way a lot of people do today, but because after the second or third puck had been lost forever under the big shelves that lined the aisle, my dad thought it was probably a good idea to move on.

We would go to the basketball area, and play games of H-O-R-S-E or one on one against each other. The nets on the baskets were tied at the bottom to prevent people from actually playing basketball in the store, but luckily we found a way around that roadblock; my dad was tall enough to jump up and knock the ball back through the basket through the top of the hoop after a basket was made. Loopholes are meant to be found. While playing hockey and basketball were fun, my favorite thing we played at Sports Authority was hide and go seek. Hide and go seek was my absolutely favorite game growing up, and I loved it no matter where it was played, but it was the most fun at Sports Authority. Seeking was fine, but hiding was the greatest, because of all the different places in the store to hide and props with which to blend in with. I had some good disguises over the years, throwing on a pair of matching running shorts and a shirt over my clothes and taking up position on the elliptical machine like I was actually exercising with my head bent low to avoid being seen, or the time I put on full catcher’s gear in the baseball section as if a kid alone dressed in full baseball equipment wouldn’t draw any attention, but somehow, either because I was the master of disguise (which by the way is one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen), or my dad was just playing along like he couldn’t see me, but either way it was a lot of fun. I think the best disguise I’ve ever had, the time I think I actually fooled my dad and he couldn’t fine me, was the time I went to the golf section of the store. I pulled on a rain jacket and an inconspicuous beige hat low on my head, then took up my place on the putting green, with my back to the rest of the store. The putting green was a place for potential buyers of golf clubs, which I was not one of, but I played my part well that day, hunched over the club practicing my putting stroke, looking more like an old man on a course in Florida than a child in the Little Rock Sports Authority. Sports Authority is out of business now, so there’s no way for me to go back there with my dad and relive some of those great childhood moments, but at least I have the memories, and that will have to suffice.

Flatliners: A Night at the Movies with my Wife and Mimi

IMG_4281The night before last was my mimi’s birthday, so last night, Friday, my wife and I took her to the movies to celebrate. For those of you who don’t know mimi, she loves horror movies, which might be surprising to you if you’ve ever met her, because she is truly one of the sweetest and most mild mannered people in the world, but she absolutely loves everything scary, from the books she reads to her favorite movies, so that is how the three of us ended up at the opening night showing of Flatliners at the Memphis Paradiso theater. We bought our tickets and the obligatory snacks that enhance the movie going experience tenfold, then settled into our seats, smack dab in the middle of the movie fairly empty movie theater. Personally, especially when it comes to scary movies, I prefer to sit in the back of the theater for two reasons, one so nobody sees me jumping out of my seat in fear, because that is very embarrassing, and secondly, to prevent a monster from sneaking up and attacking me from behind, but on this night I decided to put my fears aside to give mimi the ultimate movie viewing experience. The lights went down and the previews started up, me growing more nervous as each one passed, knowing that very soon, I was going to be terrified, which shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone who has read this blog because as you know, I’m scared of just about everything.

If you continue reading there will be spoilers, so proceed at your own risk.

The movie started with a car accident, like the very first scene, which made me think about how if only I’d been in a car accident on the way to the theater, I would have been mercifully spared the horror that was to come. So these doctors that allowed themselves to be killed briefly so they could experience the afterlife, were haunted by people from their past after they were brought back to life, people they were harboring a guilty conscience for, because they felt they had wronged them for one reason or another. Ellen Page, the lead in the movie and the only cast member that I recognized, was killed first by her demon, her little sister that had died in the car accident in that first scene of the movie. The other doctors that had flatlined were haunted by people that they had actually wronged and did terrible things to, so it seemed a little silly that the first and only death in the movie would be that of the character who’s only fault was having a car wreck with her sister in the car. The story was pretty dull but it did deliver a few scares, which I was not too fond of. The thing I hated most about it was the buildup to the scary moments, when fast paced music would play, then everything would go silent, and that is when you knew that something was going to suddenly appear with a loud noise and I would inevitably jump in my seat, despite the fact that I knew it was coming, a monotonous and predictable pattern that the director followed throughout the course of the entire movie.

Out of five, I give Flatliners a two, only because as a horror movie, it did deliver some actual scary moments. For me though, it is the lowest on the totem pole in terms of horror movies, because I really don’t think it’s all that hard to scare an audience when you incorporate loud noises and disfigured faces suddenly appearing, and it’s certainly not the type of horror film that haunts you once you leave the theater. The dialogue was dumb and unconvincing a lot of the time, punctuated by random bursts of laughter throughout the theater during some of these particular moments. Despite it being a bad movie with a bad plot that didn’t make much sense, it was a fun night because of the people I got to spend it with, but I definitely wouldn’t recommend going to see it, not unless your mimi wants to go, because if she’s anything like mine, she will have fun no matter what you’re doing together.

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The Snow Day that Ended Terribly

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It was a January morning in the suburbs just outside of the city limits in Little Rock, Arkansas, and by all appearances it was going to be one of those all time great day childhood days. It was snowing, and so much so that we had the day off school, a relatively rare treat that was given to us maybe once a year. One of my best friends, Max, had slept over at my house the night before in anticipation of our expected day off school, relying on the projected forecast of the local weatherman, something that was about as reliable back then as it is now, meaning it would either snow as predicted, or be a ninety-five degree cloudless day that would catapult us straight into August. Luckily, for one of the only times I can remember as a kid, the weatherman predicted snow, and he got it right. On a typical snow day I would go outside first thing in the morning to enjoy the fresh morning snow, then back inside for breakfast and hot chocolate, then head back out to spend the rest of the morning, playing and being carefree in that winter wonderland. I don’t remember much of what went on that morning, but I have vivid and unforgettable memories of that afternoon. Shortly after lunch we were standing outside in the front yard, Max, my brother Logan and myself. The pizza roles we had for lunch were warmly sitting in our stomachs, and we were all feeling pretty good. We had a pretty big front yard, and I’m not going to try and estimate how big, but it was big enough to play football and baseball comfortably, but not golf as it turns out, which is a story for another time. We decided on an old snow day pastime, tying a sled to the back of a four wheeler, one person driving, and the other riding behind having the time of his life. The only fun thing about driving the four wheeler was getting to act as the bull in a rodeo, turning sharply trying to toss the rider from the sled, guiding the sled through slush and throwing wet snow into their face by way of the spinning back tires, but it was no contest in which position we’d rather be in, the sled was the goal.

I don’t remember who got to be on the sled first that day, but whomever it was, was the only rider, because something truly terrible happened, the rope that was connecting the sled to the back of the four wheeler, either from being frozen in some places, or due to the weight of the rider, or maybe it was a combination of both, but that rope, the unsung hero of the snow day, the thing that literally held our fun together, snapped in half seconds into that first ride. It’s hard to be devastated on a snow day, but this was as close that feeling as I’ve ever come, to have our dreams of the afternoon riding through the yard, laughing carelessly in the snow, crushed in an instant with the snap of a rope, was pretty terrible. We sulked briefly, but then decided to make the most of what we had, and invented a new game, one where one person would ride around on the four wheeler and the other two would throw snow balls at the rider, attempting to hit him. I went first and it was awesome, as it was intended to be, but then my brother went, and things turned bad almost immediately. Max and I had our arms full of snowballs, ready to pelt Logan as soon as he took off on the four wheeler, and that’s exactly what we did, chasing him through the yard, hitting him square in the back with the packed balls of white powder. He rode up onto our driveway, and for some reason, decided at that very moment that he needed to turn around and look at us chasing after him, while still pressing down on the throttle.

He must have seen the horror on our faces because he turned back around pretty fast, but it wasn’t fast enough. His head spun around just in time to watch himself ram the four wheeler straight  into the back of my mom’s van. My stomach dropped, this time there was no doubt about the devastation that hung in the air around us. Thankfully my brother was okay, but unfortunately there was now a hole in my mom’s bumper, courtesy of Logan hitting it with the four wheeler. The noise of the impact summoned my mom from the house, who was looking, if possible, less happy than I was. I was immediately sent inside, my snow day over, and Max’s parents were subsequently called to come pick him up. I don’t think Logan even got in trouble, despite the fact that he was the one driving the four wheeler, and the one that turned around, irresponsibly taking his eyes off the path ahead. I don’t know why he had turned toward the garage in the first place, there was clear space to ride free in any other direction, but he had turned right, and ran right smack dab into my snow day. Apparently being the older brother I should have been more responsible and shouldn’t have come up with a game where there was ever the possibility of somebody crashing a motor vehicle into another. I don’t remember exactly how old either of us were then all those years ago, but today Logan turns twenty-three, so in honor of his birthday I’m giving my brother the ultimate gift, my forgiveness. I forgive you for ruining that near perfect snow day all those years ago. Happy birthday Logan, I hope it’s a great day.

Weekend Trip to Branson

IMG_4234Yesterday we got on the road about five-thirty in the morning, leaving my mom’s house in Searcy, Arkansas headed for Branson, Missouri. My brother and I both have birthdays in September, so my mom decided to give us this trip to Branson with the rest of the family. The drive was beautiful up through the mountains, the views magnificent as the world started to get light around us, and about eight, we stopped at a small town in Arkansas for breakfast. It was called Ferguson’s, a country, Cracker Barrel like place, famous for their giant cinnamon rolls. I’m not big on sweet things for breakfast, so I got two eggs over easy, with sausage and biscuits. The food was really good, the sausage patties bigger than I’ve ever had in a restaurant before, so that was pretty great, and the biscuits were soft and flaky and melted in my mouth, the buttery goodness dissolving in each bite. After eating we got back on the road again, headed for our main destination of the day, Silver Dollar City.IMG_4215

Silver Dollar City is an amusement park in Branson that I’d been to before, but not since many years ago when I was a child, so I was pretty excited to go back. We thought now that the Summer is over and kids were back in school that it wouldn’t be too crowded there. We were wrong. It was packed, so much so that we had to wait in the parking lot through several trolleys taking visitors to the entrance of the park before we finally found some empty seats. It was the second longest line we waited in the entire day. We got into the park and were swept up in the current of people and then deposited at the entrance to the first roller coaster, Thunderation. Me, my wife, and my brother Logan were the only ones who went on that ride, and it was pretty fun, albeit jerky in some places. Logan told my mom it wasn’t that bad, that there weren’t any big drops, and convinced her to ride it with him, so off they went while the rest of us stood to the side and waited to see how my mom would handle it. I was standing at the ride’s exit when the roller coaster pulled back into the stop, and my mom did not look happy. It was worse than she believed it to be, and vowed then and there to never ride another roller coaster for the rest of her life.IMG_4241

The rest of the day in the park went by quickly, with us riding as many rides as we could fit in before the park closed, my favorite being the log ride that takes you up then plummets you down into the water at breakneck speed while a huge wave of water from the impact comes up over the side of the log and gets everybody wet. We left the park at closing time, went to check into the hotel, and then went to dinner. Since it was for my and Logan’s birthday, it was left up to us to decide were we went for dinner, but since we were unfamiliar with the area and the local restaurants, we weren’t able to decide on anything, so we went across the street from the hotel to eat at The Red Barn Cafe. We walked in and the first thing that struck me was how sticky the floor was as our shoes stuck to and peeled away from the wooden floor with each step, making our entrance audibly heard. We ordered drinks and the second sign that this might not be a great experience was the fact that the waitress didn’t know who ordered what to drink, and asked us to tell her as she passed them out.

I ordered chicken fried chicken, a southern classic, which seemed like a safe bet at this restaurant that appeared to specialize in such cuisine. While we waited for the food to arrive a man who claimed to work there asked to take our pictures, so he took a full shot of the table, then one of my brother and his girlfriend, then one of me and my wife. It seemed intrusive but it didn’t take that long so we didn’t think much of it. A few minutes later he came back, presenting us with each of the pictures framed and the opportunity to purchase them for fifteen dollars each. I told him on behalf of my wife and I, that we weren’t interested in our photograph, but he insisted that we look at it and think about it, setting it on the very edge of the table, the cynic within me believing he placed it on the edge of the table so on the off chance we might knock it off, then we would have to pay for it. I moved it away from the edge. The waitress brought the food, announcing as she sat the plates down that they were out of baked potatoes, but instead of telling us this beforehand and asking what else we might have wanted, she just took the liberty of deciding for the table, and gave everyone mashed potatoes, which wasn’t a big deal for me because that’s what I ordered anyway, but it was annoying to the others who weren’t given a choice.IMG_4227

The green beans were terrible, as were the mashed potatoes, although I will say they did do a valiant effort of covering that up by dousing the potatoes in gravy to hide the fact that they were old. The waitress asked how everything was and while the rest of the table politely answered “good” I didn’t want to lie so I said “eh.” This caught her attention, so she spoke to me directly asking me if the food wasn’t good. I said it was alright, a clear over exaggeration, but she continued to press, asking “just alright?”, clearly wanting me to praise the bad food, but I stuck to my guns and said yes. She walked away. The chicken fried chicken which I had yet to try, looked good, but it did strike me as odd that there wasn’t gravy on it, the only way I’ve ever had it. As I looked around the table at the other people who had the same thing, I noticed that there was a cup of gravy on each of their plates, apparently mine had been forgotten. My grandmother let me have some of hers, and I was ready to dig in. For what it’s worth, the chicken fried chicken was good, juicy and flavorful, but it was the only thing edible on my plate. When we were done, my mom addressed the table, verbalizing what we were all thinking, that next time we come to Branson, we wouldn’t be coming back to the Red Barn Cafe. Out of ten I would rate the restaurant a one, not only because of the terrible food, but the bad service and the intrusive photographer trying to sell his cheap products to us while we were out trying to enjoy a nice family dinner.

I’m about to cross the bridge back into Memphis, the trip is over, and like most fun trips, it went by too fast. The good news is that we got season passes at Silver Dollar City yesterday and we are planning to go back later in the year, so we have that to look forward to. It was a great trip full of good memories save last night’s dinner, and I couldn’t have asked for a better birthday gift. Twenty-seven is off to a pretty good start.IMG_4235