Funny about Money

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. ―Edmund Burke

More Money than Taste…Adventures in Scottsdale

Taste: New Business Club Venue

So this morning it was off to a Denny’s for the weekly meeting of the Scottsdale Business Association. This greasy spoon locates itself in Darkest Scottsdale, just off the 101 on Indian Bend, almost adjacent to the Pima Reservation.

For years, we met at The Good Egg at Hilton Village, a formerly upscale strip shopping center now trending to (for Scottsdale) down-at-the-heels. All the serious Richerati have moved north, leaving their formerly fancy digs to aging middle class types who favor joints like Trader Joe’s and My Sister’s Closet.

The Good Egg was an OK place for our get-togethers: it had the advantages of a central location and a veteran waitress whom we all loved. And it had a little alcove where we could sit around a long table (cobbled together with little restaurant tables) in relative privacy. It wasn’t great — the food was mediocre and the coffee was dreadful — but it sufficed.

However, after the Egg was purchased by First Watch, things took a sharp southerly turn. They changed the menu choices, in some ways for the better, but the cooks seem not to have enjoyed any additional training. They replaced the plates with these big square (ostensibly stylish) things that take up so much room on the table it makes eating pretty clumsy, and they cheapied down the amount of food they put on the plates. The coffee went from the Egg’s “bad” to “even worse,” something that can only be described as an amazing achievement in reverse customer satisfaction. They redecorated and in doing so covered one of the walls with stupid-looking fake antique tin ceiling tiles, which not only look horrible but bounce decibels and jack up the noise level. And they honed the staff’s customer disservice skills. The manager quit and went to another restaurant. Our beloved waitress stayed but seemed to grow unhappy and distant.

We began looking for another place to meet. We tried several restaurants, one of which had wonderful food (a real rarity in an American coffee-shop type eatery) but whose seating left much to be desired.

Others seemed to offer no improvement or simply cost too much — one place wanted to gouge us extra unless everyone ordered an expensive breakfast entrée. Since two of us don’t eat much at breakfast and since none of us wanted to pay upwards of 12 bucks for a few pancakes whipped up from a mix, that outfit lost.

I personally haven’t been in a Denny’s in years, not after they served up a cup of coffee in a mug bearing some woman’s bright red lipstick. When I asked for a clean cup, the idiot waitress refused to replace it! So that was it for me, where Denny’s was concerned.

But everyone else in the group liked the place; so it was go there or quit the club. Besides, it’s in Scottsdale, not in grody mid-town Phoenix.

To my surprise, the joint is much improved over the old Denny’s on Camelback, which was pretty much a true greasy spoon. And the service was excellent: the waitress was running her feet off. The booth where they put us, not realizing we intended to descend on them en masse, was comfortable, and the ambient noise level was low enough that all 12 of us could hear ourselves talk.

And amazingly, the food was not too toxic. The coffee was OK (one helluva lot more than you can say for First Watch), and the food seemed more than adequate — and abundant. My friend Steve sat next to me; he ordered his usual bacon and scrambled egg combo: the bacon was crisp but not overcooked (last week at First Watch I noticed they served him several strips of black stuff) and neither were the eggs.

So we’ll be going back there. We now have a standing reservation for the back room.

Taste: Furniture

The Pavilions, where the Denny’s in question is housed, is a sprawling shopping center that climbs over a couple of main drags. There is a lot of commerce around there. As we were standing around after breakfast chatting, I noticed a Front Gate Outlet.

Front Gate is an upscale furniture retailer. They sell a lot through a catalogue, and the prices are in the “if you have to ask” range. But…hm? An “outlet”?

So after we broke up, I went over there to check it out.

Really. Some people really do have more money than taste. And Scottsdale is the home of the more monied than tasteful.

You never saw such ugleeee furniture in your life: big, clunky, dark, looming stuff, and not a stick of it inviting to sit down in or to eat off of or to store your tchochkes in. Uglee outdoor furniture. Uglee indoor furniture. Uglee area rugs. Uglee bedding sets. Uglee everything!

Sat down in one curious-looking chair and found it so uncomfortable I couldn’t imagine why anyone would buy it.

And the prices? Take your breath away. $3500 for a nothing-special leather sofa that you could get at Macy’s for $1800.

Tastes: Grocery stores

Well, one advantage of schlepping that far across the city is that the easiest way to get there is across Shea Boulevard. Though the trip will burn a lot of gas, ultimately it may save gas, because it takes me right by all the stores I usually shop at.

There’s a Home Depot in the Pavilions — you could walk there from the Denny’s. There’s also a Target in that shopping center.

And at Tatum and Shea there’s an Albertson’s, a Trader Joe’s, a Whole Foods, a Penzey’s, and a gigantic Fry’s mega-supermarket.

So, in theory, if one were to assiduously maintain one’s shopping lists, one could do all of one’s shopping on the way home from this weekly meeting.

That would go a very long way toward keeping me out of Costco, and it also would mean I wouldn’t have to drive from pillar to post to get all the food and household items I favor. Hell, I’d already be at pillar and post.

Denny’s in Texas:
Billy Hathorn CC BY-SA 3.0
Armchair: Deposit photos: © AnatolyM

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Author: funny

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  1. Quite the adventure in dining! Couple of things Denny’s has improved “in this neck of the woods” as well. There is a new manager….a gal…and she is a “hands-on manager” and does a great job. My Dear Mother eats here with her sister and/or “adopted daughter”. The staff is very good with the “ol’ gal” and as she puts it….”the food is edible”….
    As for your breakfast meetings….The restaurant biz is more challenging than ever. It is all about “table turn” and the “net”. So you guys holding a meeting for 2-3 hours COULD be viewed as an obstruction rather than an OPPORTUNITY to showcase the eatery. I will tell you costs for restaurants are going thru the roof. A neighbor of my brother has run a family pizza place for close to 30 years. But recently he had to look for another location as his rent went to over $5K PER MONTH … PLUS CAM. Which is a lot of pizzas. This is in a strip center!…I swear when you add that to an electric bill of over $2-3K …. insurance….phone…..I don’t know how the guy does it….

    • LOL! “Edible”: she sounds like a woman after my own heart, where restaurants are concerned! 😀 I did feel the Denny’s was far and away better than First Watch or its predecessor, the Good Egg.

      The restaurant business has always been difficult. Our meetings last about an hour: officially 7:15 to 8:30. Give or take ten minutes. The restaurant is usually half empty at that time — it’s NEVER full, and there’s never a waiting line. At some times of year — the summer, especially — there’s hardly anyone there at all.

      In Scottsdale, there are a LOT of better places to eat than a chain greasy-spoon; the richerati tend to pay more money to get better food, and the tourists eat in the hotel or resort restaurants.

      The crazy rentals landlords are charging boggle the brain. You wonder how they think businesses can pay those amounts. My glasses guy had to move out of the store he’d been in for years because they gentrified the shopping center and jacked up the rent through the roof. Just because you put a new facade on your shopping center doesn’t mean your tenants are magically getting a lot of new business!

      • So very true about the rents for commercial retail space. You gotta wonder what the “small bidness” guy is gonna do. They are being pinched from all sides….Costco….Wal Mart….Amazon….and then escalating costs…. And “Small Business” is what government officials tell us is what is the driving force for growth in our economy….Sad…

      • @ JestJack: Yep, if you believe it. I don’t see how people stay in business at all.