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A Romantic Dinner for Two

June 12, 2004

It was one of those Fridays where there was nothing going on. Ho hum, another week of work is done, but now what? All the current movies suck, I don't need to wash my hair and all we have in the fridge are a few rotten things and some spreadable butter substitute (without trans-fats, I might add). We also needed a night away from our barking, leg-lifting "kids." Tap tap. Anyone up for a Thumb War?

Wait minute...I know. Let's go to The Sizzler!

The Sizzler I'd never been to The Sizzler before - this one or otherwise. Someone should have warned me. After spending a rather lovely hour at Target purchasing such necessities as the Olsen Twins "Premier Night" dolls for me, a Spider-Man pillowcase for Dan and a baby gate to keep my bastard dog from pissing at the bottom of stairs (it's his spot, you see), I was not in the right mental zone to take my supper in a screaming-children-bouncing-off-the-walls-all-you-can-eat family restaurant. Dan had to restrain me from running out. "We're going through with this. This was YOUR idea and you WILL make it."

Our local Sizzler sits next to the Target Garden Center in Colma. Colma is a town a few miles outside of San Francisco. It's good for three things: Home Depot, car dealerships and cemeteries.

The ratio of corpses to living people in Colma is about 10 to 1. Quick history lesson: Back in 1900, San Francisco passed a law prohibiting any further burials within the City. Land was too valuable to populate it with dead people and all the bodies were eventually uprooted and shipped to Colma. With its gently rolling hillsides and cheerful strip malls, the little town appears tranquil and serene on the surface. Then -- CRUNCH - one of the undead bites into the juicy head of a JoAnn Fabrics customer. Welcome to Colma - a Nice Place to Die! Where's George Romero when you need him?

Waffle House My first thought upon entering Sizzler is "oh, it's just like Ponderosa!" To date, the Ponderosa franchise has only delighted the palates of lucky Mid-Westerners, Texans and the people in Florida waiting to die. Like the Waffle House and Steak N' Shake, it has not yet met its manifest destiny by going west, young man.

As soon as one enters the inner sanctum of The Sizzler, the waitress takes your order as you wait in line, followed by the retrieval of your tray, place setting and choice of chilled beverage. Not having yet memorized the menu, I am immediately put on the spot and expected to perform. Um, er, scanning menu for something not too cream based...oh god. Judging from the interaction between the customers ahead of me and the waitress, I suspect they are seasoned pros. The pressure is building. Sweat begins to bead.

"We have a special," the waitress pipes up.


"The Crazy Shrimp Trio!" She beams.

Hell, if she says the shrimp is crazy, then I'll have to go with that. I've been known to dabble on the wild side every now and again. I might as well get the All-You-Can-Shovel-Into-Your-Hole Salad Bar. And while we're at it, throw in the All-You-Can-Eat Sundae Bar too.

Beef.  It's what's for dinner. You may ask why I didn't order steak. I mean, I'm at The Sizzler for chrissake. Don't worry: Dan is eagerly looking forward to his Steak and All-You-Care-To-Eat Shrimp Classic Combo. I begin to see a pattern emerging: Is everyone who comes into this restaurant starving? Portions are already big enough to feed Gigantor - who needs this much food? My questions are answered after checking out the other patrons and I stand corrected. You need a lot of fuel to run a 400 pound machine. And if 18 pounds of fried shrimp is what it takes, please don't let me stand in your way.

We are seated in a booth by the remarkably calm host who seems oblivious to the madness. As we make ourselves comfortable on the plush vinyl, we distinctly hear the NASCAR-clad gentleman in the in the booth behind us: "I think I chipped my pelvis." And so the meal begins.

First things first: the Salad Bar. I weave my way past the soft serve machine (I'll see you later) over to what more closely resembles a salad hut instead of a bar. Hmmm, do I want fried onion rings or nacho cheese product on my salad? Chicken wings, yep, gotta have those. Ooh oooh - ham cubes! With cottage cheese! Awesome!

In returning to the table, the TV keeps catching my attention. Who is that enormous man with double nipple piercings and why is he attempting to lift a felled tree trunk over his head? Now he's pulling an SUV attached to a giant chain. Apparently a member of The Sizzler crew couldn't make it through their shift without tuning in to the World's Strongest Man Competition.

Dan slurps at his Sprite. I watch a man heave a barbell over his head that sports two monster truck-sized tires on each end. Our entrées arrive.

Crazy Shrimp! As promised, my shrimp trio is some crazy shit. That stuff in the middle is shrimp over rice pilaf in case you were wondering. My aching stomach demands to know why I ordered the salad hut and the entrée.
Stomach: You already had clam chowder, chicken strips, bacon bits and peaches...on the same plate. Are you trying to kill me?

Me: Look out, it's time to get crazy!

Stomach: Bitch, I know how to hurt you. My boys, Interior Esophageal Sphincter and Lower Intestine, got my back.
Dan's steak arrives speared with a popsicle stick marked "medium." It is a dark brown puck stamped with what can only be factory-made grill marks. Our eyes shift and we gape at the football-sized baked potato dripping with its softball-sized splooge of butter. The pile of All-You-Care-To-Eat Shrimp is golden brown and fried as advertised. I can't tear my eyes away as the butter starts to melt into a small lake.

Dan is thrilled.

We imagine if this were our weekly ritual: every Friday at our reserved table at The Sizzler. We'd wave to Sue and Bonnie, the gals behind the counter, before loading up on all the fixins. We agree that it would be awesome. In the meantime, my shrimp trio has started to look more sedated than crazy. Dan's puck is gone and what's left of his potato is floating in a shallow pond. Neither of us can fathom taking another bite. Thirty seconds pass.

"That's it. I'm hitting the Sundae Bar."

EAT-IT-ALL Dan fondly remembers his past glory as a Baskin Robbins scoop boy. During high school, his family received several ice cream cakes a week until he was fired...or just sort of quit going. Whenever the opportunity arises, he still strives to prove his expertise forming the perfect soft serve cone. The Sizzler is no exception; Dan returns to the table with a sky high swirl of chocolate and vanilla sitting in an EAT-IT-ALL cone. I have to have one.

By the time I've finished my first cone, Dan is lapping away at his second. True gluttony has set in and we need to get the fuck out of here. On the way out, I could not resist taking advantage of the Sundae Bar again. It is All-You-Can-Eat, afterall.

This is the part I feel pretty poorly about: we completely forgot to leave a tip at the table. I guess because we paid the bill before sitting down, it did not occur to us to do so. No one leaves a tip at Burger King or Taco Bell. The more likely excuse is that Dan is embarrassed to be seen with a girl simulating oral sex on an ice cream cone and wants to leave as quickly as possible. Either way, I feel pretty shitty about stiffing them on the tip -- even if it isn't on purpose.

As I systematically lick my second EAT-IT-ALL on the way home, I wonder who took the title of "World's Strongest Man." When we left The Sizzler, the apeman from Poland was in the lead. He completed the "Atlas Stones" event and had pulled ahead of his competitors. I'll have return to The Sizzler as soon as possible to find out - unless they've decided to move on to covering the USHRA Monster Truck Jam or Wrestlemania 462. One thing is for sure: next time I'm only getting the Sundae Bar, and if anyone tries to stop me, I'll chip their pelvis.

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