*This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events I experienced firsthand; used with permission.
Trying out a restaurant for the first time can be a delight. Not this time.
Ordering food from a new restaurant can be a delightful experience, or it can be a dreadful experience. Let’s talk about why my family tried a new ethnic restaurant that opened in a neighboring town recently and why it turned out to be a dreadful experience.
Last August, my father nearly died. He was hospitalized with heart failure and internal bleeding and required multiple blood transfusions before he could undergo heart valve replacement surgery. It was a three-month order that saw him return home only to be rushed back to the hospital via ambulance, sometimes within twenty-four hours of coming home.
During one brief period between hospitalizations, my father heard about a new Portuguese restaurant that would open nearby soon. He was excited because he’d always wanted to try their food, but their only existing location was too far away.
My mother was apprehensive about trying the food served at this restaurant. Although she was born in Portugal herself, she doesn’t enjoy Portuguese food. It’s difficult fare to prepare properly, and my father is fussy. So my mother had a feeling it wouldn’t work out.
She was right.
Nonetheless, my father was excited, and he talked about trying out this new restaurant nearly every day throughout his multiple extended hospital stays. He could n’t wait to order their food, and after everything he went through, we could n’t wait to make his wish for him come true.
Unfortunately, the new restaurant location didn’t open as expected because they had difficulty hiring staff to man the new site. I wanted to visit the original location and bring home takeout for my father, but I have a phobia of bridges and highways, and it was just too darn far away.
None of the local food delivery services would go there either. I tried. It was out of their delivery radius. I considered taking an Uber both ways to retrieve the food, but it would have been too expensive.
We had no choice but to wait until the new location opened. It was only a reasonable ten-minute drive from our home.
Finally, we received word that the new location was open for business. By this time, we were all excited about trying something new, even my mother.
My mother figured why not pick up dinner for the family? She could save herself a day of cooking, and my father would get to try food from the new restaurant location.
My mother and I hopped into my Volkswagen Beetle and headed for the restaurant on a Friday afternoon. The drive was uneventful. The parking lot was huge and empty. We could have parked a half-dozen eighteen-wheelers in the lot with room to spare.
I felt so delighted at the ease of parking with all those available spaces that I didn’t think about what it meant when a restaurant didn’t have any customers. It was a harbinger of things to eat.
The interior of the restaurant was just as deserted as the parking lot. Everything was shiny and new. They had roped the dining room off to prevent customers from sitting there. For the moment, they were serving takeout only.
I have to say the decor was fantastic, but once again, the emptiness of the place should have served as a sign. We spent a good thirty minutes selecting our food and watching it being boxed into containers, and not a single other customer entered the restaurant during that time.
Do you want to know what wasn’t empty? It was the trays of food inside a long stainless steel counter that ran the length of one wall. Food filled every tray to the top, and everything looked amazing.
Appearances can be disappointing.
For a restaurant with the word “chicken” in the name, there was remarkably little chicken in the place.
The only chicken dish out of dozens of trays filled with food was a single tray containing whole chickens split down the middle and flattened to resemble bats with outstretched wings in flight. They looked wholly unappetizing.
We didn’t order the chicken.
There were plenty of ethnic Portuguese dishes all covered with the same oily red grease.
My mother ordered multiple dishes because she wanted my father to sample “a little bit of everything.”
As the employee scooped our selections into white Styrofoam containers, she asked if we wanted extra red sauce. “It costs extra because it makes the containers heavier,” she explained.
We declined the extra sauce.
My mother and I ordered breaded fried codfish “fillets” that turned out not to be filled at all. I asked whether they were boneless before ordering, and I was told, “Yes. They are boneless, but be careful when you eat them in case there are any bones.”
They were more bones than fish and swimming in flavorless red grease. I ate one bite of fish and two bites of potatoes before giving up and going to McDonald’s.
My mother called them dinosaur bones. “I’ve never seen fishbones that big,” she said.
In the end, we tossed all the uneaten food into the trash dumpster at home: codfish, spareribs, boiled potatoes, yellow rice, red rice, bread rolls, and “fried back fat.” “Fried back fat?” I asked my mother. “Are you sure that’s what it’s called?”
She said she was sure.
The total cost of the food was over $115 plus a tip for the server, who was actually quite nice. The food was so bad that my mother lost her appetite for two days before returning with a vengeance.
This isn’t a restaurant review because I won’t disclose the name or location of the restaurant. I believe they deserve a chance to grow and flourish in their new location. If other customers share my family’s opinions and experience with the place, they will learn on their own.
Who knows? Some people may actually enjoy the food. I hear their flagship location is doing fine.
By the way, after the aforementioned health issues of last year, my father is doing fine, too, and that’s more important than ditching more than a hundred bucks in uneaten food in the dumpster.