There are plenty of reasons why you may not want to go out to dinner with me, so the following is not an exhaustive list. For one thing, it’s like going to dinner with a fourth-grader. I’m not going to like anything remotely sophisticated, I just basically want a cheeseburger. So after tennis with George and Pam we decided to check out a fairly new burger place in the area. I would expect to sit down, order the cheeseburger, and move on to harder subjects, like fourth-grade social studies. Ordering a cheeseburger should be the easiest thing you do all day. But I soon learned that NOTHING is easy anymore. 

This is the kind of place where they bring you what looks like a wine bottle, and you didn’t even order wine, and you get all excited, but it’s only water. I pretend to sniff the cork and ask, “What year is this?” The waitress looks at me like she can’t believe I don’t know what year this is. The water is locally sourced, because I can see the tap from my seat. 

I looked over the complicated minefield of a menu so I can order this cheeseburger using the process of elimination, and I couldn’t believe all the stuff I had to eliminate. One burger had “smoke sauce,” and I didn’t want to get charged for that—I could just hold the sauce under my car’s exhaust pipe, or order it with second-hand smoke sauce. There was something called “wham bam” sauce, which I wanted to order just so I could say “Thank you, ma’am” when the waitress brought it. You could get a salad with pickled onions. I wanted to ask if I could get onioned pickles instead, but I was afraid that once I got started I wouldn’t be able to shut up.

Sign Up for E-News

There was black forest bacon available. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been in a lot of forests and I never once saw any bacon. There were buckwheat groats, which I’m sure to most people are self-explanatory, and there was ancient grain tabbouleh, which sounds like it was dug up in an archaeological expedition. 

The mission statement of the place assures me that all the animals that I am about to enjoy were free-range, pasture-raised and humanely cared for right up until the time that I impolitely ate them. Instead of encouraging me, this thought kind of bummed me out, because I started thinking about my cow, and what its life was like. How ironic that it lived its life on a free range, and then ended it on a really expensive one.

The baby kale was the saddest story on the menu. Still a little green, this poor kale was cut down in the bloom of its youth, before it even had a chance to know what life was about. Was it martyred for some culinary masterpiece at Nobu? No, it was sacrificed to be a garnish on somebody’s hamburger (not mine). At those prices it also garnished their salary.

After dinner, the waitress came around with a portable credit card machine and settled the bill right at our table. You can press a button that figures out her tip automatically, which removes the possibility of me leaving my customary 16 and three-quarters percent tip. Which is because of my fourth-grade math—sometimes I remember to carry the one, and other times I leave it to find its own method of transportation.

I should probably note that after all was said and medium-well-done, we had a great meal. I was assured that all the ingredients were locally harvested, and asked in advance whether they wanted to participate in my cheeseburger. Finally I told them to just bring me an entire elk and a Phillips-head screwdriver, and I’ll farm-to-table the damn thing myself. And bring me a plate of glutens—it was the only thing on the menu that was free.

Say hello to Rick Melén at rlife8@hotmail.com