Monday, October 19, 1998

Soup's On

In the six plus years we have done this weekly newsletter, I don't think we have ever published a restaurant review. Since we have covered just about every other subject imaginable we are way past due. And who better to do the first one than your friendly neighborhood editor, fresh out of work, eagerly looking for a new career?

Despite having limited experience in the field, I do come with some clout. It was me who helped determine Boston Market's fate. As I was driving down Division Street in St. Cloud looking for a place to eat dinner, I was being my usual wiener like indecisive self when it comes to such minor matters. Just as I was ready to throw in the towel and stop at McDonald's for a fish sandwich, I happened to see a Boston Market up a few blocks. I remember my friend Spunky once recommended their turkey sandwich so I decided that was exactly what my dinner was destined to be that evening.

As I got closer to the restaurant however, I noticed it was across the four-lane street and I would have to make a left turn, sans stoplights, across two lanes of busy traffic. I didn't need a Boston Market turkey sandwich that badly. Fortunately I seemed to come across St. Cloud's restaurant row and there was a Perkins right to my right. Later that night when I got back to my motel room I turned on the news and heard the Boston Market chain is facing serious financial woes. Ironic? I think not. If you ain't on the right side of the street, forget about surviving as a business.

I actually had two meals at the St. Cloud Perkins. For dinner that evening I enjoyed a delectable (although a bit too hot- I burned my tongue) fish sandwich. I ordered chicken vegetable soup with my meal. The soup was good but as a bonus one of my other options, french fries, also came with my meal. My server, a pleasant young lass, joked about my luck.

Later on in the week I ate breakfast at the same Perkins. This time around the service was slow. My over easy eggs were fine, but my hash browns tasted like well water. Quite frankly I was disappointed in the meal and the restaurant. Call me quirky but I am much more likely to eat breakfast at Perkins than dinner and my breakfast was nowhere near the quality of that mouth watering fish sandwich. This was merely a meal by rote, nothing at all unique to enjoy.

The ambiance of the restaurant was pleasant enough. I sat behind three young women (coeds?) who must have been on their way home from school (they were talking about having gotten up at 4:30 that morning to hit the road). They were talking math, triangles and such and it brought me back to those frightful days of college math when I didn't have a clue, unlike today. Not that I was eavesdropping but they were also talking about the classes they were planning on taking in the future on their way to changing the world. Oh to be ambitious again...

The best part of any Perkins of course is that gigantic flag. It's just plain big! I must admit the next best part of my experiences at Perkins (as has been in the past) is they put a whole pot of coffee on the table for you whether you are with someone or not. Put the combination of the two together and you leave Perkins a wired patriot. The background music was a tad annoying- mostly 1990's country music. I was beginning to think it would almost be preferable to have no music at all when the Traveling Wilbury's End of the Line came on and seemed strangely appropriate for the moment. "Well it's all right, even when you've got nothing to say- every day's a different day."

Being the connoisseur of fine foods that I am I must point out that the menu offered by this restaurant is enough to please most people. You want a hamburger, they got them. You want a salad? They have them too. Breakfast, lunch or dinner, Perkins aims to please. Sure you can get the same meal anywhere but that is exactly the point. When you go to a restaurant like Perkins you don't want each and every one to be different. What you are looking for is something familiar in a foreign setting. A big flag, eggs over easy, fish sandwiches, yes indeed, to go anywhere and have the same choices does soothe ones' soul just a bit. Overall my dining experience at Perkins was exactly what I expected: OK food, OK environment, fairly cheap and painless. That you can go into any Perkins in the country and find just about the same thing can be comforting during those homesick times.

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