Funny about Money

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

The Six-Restaurant Lunch

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So yesterday my friend La Maya suggested we should go out to a nice restaurant for lunch, to celebrate the end of the semester for her and to catch up on life, the universe, and all that. Such an activity, as you can imagine, might entail having…you know, a conversation.

The uptown area, because it’s in full-out gentrification mode, is now littered with faux-gourmet restaurants that serve up non-fast food in surroundings more upscale than your standard McDonald’s. So off we went to our favorite northern Italian white-tablecloth eatery.

Grab the last parking space in the lot, climb out of the car, amble up to the door, and find: CLOSED. They don’t open till 3 p.m.

This, I’d suspected, since another friend has his office just down the road from the place. We used to eat there whenever the mood struck us, but the last time he and I descended on the place for lunch (as I now recalled…), we’d found it locked tight.

Oh well. Plenty of other fish in the chef’s kettle. We moved on to another favorite.

Closed.

Traveling on down the road… Our third choice was also closed.

We drove to five popular restaurants in the Camelback business district — which houses lots of lawyers, corporate executives, and financial advisers who can afford a decent lunch. Not one of them was open.

So we went to a place renowned for the racket it pumps into its customers’ ears. I hate this place because I can’t hear myself think inside there. But it has a patio, where you might hope to escape the gawdawful loud Muzak.

Not so much. The hostess goes to seat us on the patio…right underneath a blasting speaker! We explain to her that we dislike not being able to hear each other speak and wonder if they could please turn down the racket.

Amazingly, she does so.

We get settled, order a couple of iced teas, and peruse the menu. Before we can get past the salad offerings, B-R-R-R-R-R-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-C-K!!!!!!!!!!!

One end of the patio roof is supported by a small outbuilding, next to which she has seated us. A crew of guys is working inside there with a masonry drill!

The racket actually hurt your ears!

So we got up and left.

Finally we arrived at our sixth restaurant, an old-line eatery once frequented by the late Governor Rose Mofford (since she died in 2016 and stepped down from the governor’s office in 1990, that clues you to how old and traditional this place is).

Amazingly, unlike its millennial siblings, it’s so stodgy it opens for lunch. Isn’t that quaint?

And its management assumes you want to talk business, or at least socialize: no blasting “music” assaulting your ears.

What should we find on the menu but a hamburger whose description suggests it is damn near identical to the fancy overpriced hamburger at the B-R-A-C-Keria. We each ordered one of those, and since after driving to six restaurants we were well beyond the iced-tea stage, we also ordered a couple glasses of wine.

Jeez. Can you imagine?

We decided that our profound gratitude at finding a restaurant so outdated it evinces some consideration for its customers is, without doubt, a sign of our advancing age.

What is with places that insist on blasting you with unpleasant, throbbing Muzak while you’re trying to have a decent — expensive! — meal? (Those hamburgers cost 16 bucks, folks, and that didn’t include the wine.)

La Maya speculates it’s because people no longer converse with each other. They sit at the table poking at their mobile phones. If they have something to say to the person across the table, they text it.

If that’s not dystopia, I’d like to know what it is.

My theory is that restaurant owners want to force people to move on and clear the table for a new party as fast as possible. By way of doing that, they make the ambience unpleasant enough to discourage you from lingering over your coffee or wine.

And that is dystopic, too. The thought it brings to my mind is not printable.

Twice I suggested we go to my house where I could throw a very nice steak on the grill along with some exceptionally fine fresh asparagus and some fancy expensive grain, and where two unopened bottles of wine beckoned. She was having none of it, though: you don’t get tenure at an R-1 university without a certain stubborn persistence… She was determined to find a livable restaurant.

And we did. It was quite nice. I would go back there again, any day.

Well. Any day that I’m feeling flush, anyhow.

Don’t miss it when you’re in Phoenix…

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7 Comments

  1. Several restaurants in a business district weren’t open for lunch?!? Very strange.
    I’m with you on having music or tv’s basting while I’m trying to eat and converse. I’ve never liked noise pollution but as I get older, I have less patience with that crap. Sometimes I’ll ask them to turn down the volume, and they have always accomodated me! Also, I think you are both right about why restaurants blast that racket at us.
    I had an $8 burger/fries combo on Monday when a friend treated me to lunch at Applebee’s. Of course, the drink was extra. Can’t imagine paying $16 for a burger.

    • LOL! And that tellsya how often I eat out…(almost never): I can’t imagine paying $8 for a burger. 😀

      But we paid the Premium Price (snarkle!) to get the Ultra Fancy Dan Freaking Organic EVERYTHING Including the Trimmin’s Gourmet Richistani burger because nothing else in these places is much cheaper and because we were both tired and wanted to treat ourselves. And I hafta say: it WAS exceptionally good.

      As for the diet? Later. Much later…

      Some restaurant writer — local, I think, but don’t recall — was campaigning to get people to ask managers to turn down the racket. Theory: if enough people complain about it, maybe the restaurants will quit it.

      My guess is, if it bothered most people much, they would’ve complained long before this. Sheeple are, after all, sheeple.

      P.S. Actually, the same burger was priced at $14 over at the B-r-a-a-c-keria…

  2. Is being closed for lunch something new and trendy, like it creates an aura of exclusivity so that dinnertime is swarmed? How odd.

    • My guess is, fast-food joints have taken so much of their business that they can’t make enough from the lunch trade to pay their costs. When a potential customer says $8 is as much as she’ll pay for a burger — and that’s half of what Phoenix Grill and Windsor are charging — why would a typical office worker go anywhere other than Burger King or McDonald’s?

      They probably make more by focusing on the dinner trade than by having to pay staff and utilities to operate during the lunch hour.

      On the other hand, you wonder how many customers a stylish restaurant drives away with ambience characterized by ear-splitting racket.

  3. Other than maybe at a lower end bar/grill that leans more toward bar, I have not noticed loud music/TVs that would prevent conversing talking to those I was dining with. It’s possible it may be generational differences in expectations of what one expects when dining out because I have also noticed restaurants that are uncomfortably quiet. $16 for a burger at a nice restaurant does not seem out of line (I’m presuming it also came with a side). For comparison, a fast food burger and fries at Five Guys is around $13.

    • Yup. The side was a salad or a large pile of fries.

      Maybe it’s a regional thing? I sure could do with an “uncomfortably quiet” restaurant. Twenty or thirty years ago restaurants here began decorating their interiors with hardscapes…bare surfaces that echo mercilessly. So just people talking — ordinary conversation — would jack up the decibel level so that literally you could not hear the words coming out of the moving mouth of someone at your table.

      And yes, my ears have been tested recently — excellent hearing.

      More recently, we see not only the echoing caverns but blasting Muzak that fills the air, so that even if not many customers are there, you STILL can’t hear each other speak.

      Why people like that escapes me. But they must.

  4. I have a hard time when there’s a lot of ambient noise, because I can’t tell from facial or body language whether another person is talking to me or someone else, or watch their mouth for clues to help interpret what they’re saying.

    I haven’t encountered the problem of too-loud music drowning out conversation when we’ve dined out, though the places we frequent could hardly be classed as upscale. Where I have encountered it is at the Chamber of Commerce’s Business After Hours events. They’re billed as networking events, so you’d think they’d want people to be able to talk to one another, but apparently not. At one event (a prelude to the annual beach music festival, admittedly) the band was so loud it was physically painful.

    I don’t understand how anyone could enjoy their music so loud it’s disruptive, but people seem to. (And ha! I can’t even text when it’s too loud to talk, because I can’t hear my phone talk to me, either!)

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