Shmistie and I once (and only once) had dinner at Chili's, and we were both astonished at how bad the food was. Cheap, certainly, but just BAD we were not expecting.
Thereafter, we frequented Ristorante Divino, Rosso, and Solstice instead.
And I blame R.
This is how it happened:
One autumn evening in The Southernmost of the Carolinas, R invited me and quite a few friends to dine at Gervais & Vine, a Mediterranean tapas place in the Vista.
Aside: I worked in the Vista, as a dishwasher, loooooong before it was called the Vista, in Columbia, SC. The only thing in that part of town at the time was burned out warehouses, and I washed dishes at Longhorn Steakhouse (and at the time, this was, to me, fine dining). It's weird thinking back to that time (before the Navy, before college2, before basically everything that mattered), and seeing how different the Vista has become. I had dropped out of Art School at Winthrop (college1), and was, literally, just washing dishes, when I thought, "Hang on, this is dumb. Go DO SOMETHING." And, years later, here I sit in a wonderful apartment in Sacramento, remembering an awful time in my life, and wondering, honestly, how I got here.
I once went to visit Miss Jessica Nash in her dorm room at USC (that's the University of South Carolina, for my west coast friends) after getting off of work (she had a little crush on me, and I on her, so she invited me over), and, knowing that I was covered in awful dishwashing stuff, I deposited myself on her kitchen floor, rather than on her furniture. She had a few friends over. After a few minutes of joking around, she rose and came over to the kitchen sink, apologizing. "Something must have gotten stuck in the garbage disposal..." I stood, stiffly, and said, "No, I'm sorry, that smell is me." And I left. I still miss Miss Jessica Nash. I am pretty sure I signed up for the Navy the next day.
I smell pretty nice these days.
So there we are at G&V, and I'm informed that it's going to be about 40 minutes for a table. R is getting everyone drinks, and asks me what I want, and I gestured to the crowd and begged off (as I am NOT a fan of being crowded).
And R had one of those moments.
He wasn't mad at me, and he immediately understood that a submarine guy maybe shouldn't be forced to stand in a dense space, ever. He just got it.
He said, "Hey, why don't we come here on Sunday afternoon, and you can enjoy the food, and it won't be crowded at all."
I took off, and, come Sunday, we did exactly that.
And the food was AMAZING. The cheeses were excellent, the meats were properly seasoned, and it didn't hurt that the Beaujolais Nouveau had just made it's appearance that week (for the uninitiated, it's an annual red wine which is best served slightly chilled, and is really only VERY GOOD the weeks after it's released; it's not an aging wine).
I've frequently said that this was the moment that I realized that food didn't have to suck.
This leads us to tonight, whereupon a friend of mine and I had dinner at The Press, which is a very good restaurant in Sacramento. Honestly, the best thing we had all night was the appetizer, a grilled calamari. If you're anything like me, you completely missed the "grilled" part (my brain went, "they mean fried"), but it was AMAZING. But so was everything else. It was a great experience.
There are not a lot of real truths in life, gentle reader. I'm a mathematician, and I know truth when I see it. And so I think I'll close tonight by pointing to one truth that is true, and magnificent, and inviolate:
I'm never eating at Chili's again.
Tomorrow: ADVENTURE!! :)