Saturday, July 11, 2009

Cheap Date

(I’ve always said I’m a cheap date, but I’ll admit, when it comes to dining, I prefer very nice restaurants and they’re never inexpensive. For every rule there’s an exception, however.)

My friend suggested we go grab a bite to eat. I was hot, hungry, and dressed casually, so we headed down the street to a Texas Roadhouse, certainly not one my regular spots. They had a 35-minute wait, thank goodness, so we left. It was very noisy and we would have had to yell to talk with each other.

We jumped back in the car, headed south, and kept looking for a viable alternative. “Let’s try Estela’s Mexican Restaurant,” he said, and up the driveway we went. The place had always looked vacant to me, although their sign remained up for 16 years.

When we greeted the hostess, she asked, “Can I get your name?”

“Is there a long wait?” I asked.

“Oh no,” she answered. “We’re just taking everyone’s name.”

So my friend, being the smart aleck he is, said, “Schmaltz. Spelled S-c-h-m-o-l-p-f-t-z.”

The hostess’ grin got a little scrunchier while I cracked up and rolled my eyes. Promptly someone escorted us to a table for two.

The place was a whirlwind of activity with more waitstaff than I’ve ever seen in any restaurant. The atmosphere was spirited, positive, fun.

“Coming in!” waitpersons would yell as they approached the dual-swinging doors and entered the kitchen. Unusual, but they didn’t have a mirror to see if another person was coming out. So to avoid smashing a burrito on someone’s bust, they’d shout their arrival.

My friend and I caught up with life’s events, crunched on chips, and sipped water while awaiting our food and watching the flurry of people around us. Our waitress, Ashley, was a delight—friendly, attentive, and she genuinely laughed at all my friend’s quirky comments after I explained that they only let him out for a couple hours each week.

During one of Ashley’s visits to our table, she must have recognized that we were wondering why our dinners were taking so long, and she said, “Your dinners are coming. At least they’re free!” Amid the voices, people running back and forth, and clatter of dishes, I wasn’t sure I’d heard correctly, so I just kept smiling and said thank you.

After about a half hour, our meals arrived, steaming hot and smothered in a burnt orange sauce. We dove in. Halfway through, a beautiful woman who appeared to be the owner stopped by and in a breathless, happy tone asked, “How is everything? Are you enjoying your food? And who invited you to our party?”

“Party?” I started to laugh, “We’re at a party?”

“Yes! Tonight is our training night and private party, because we’re reopening!”

I couldn’t contain myself, and the laughter bubbled out of me. “I’m so sorry. We weren’t invited. Are you Estela?”

“No, Estela’s my mother. My sister works here too. We were open for years, then closed for the last nine. But you’re fine. It’s okay,” she said graciously with a huge welcoming smile on her face and perhaps muttering a Hail Mary that we’d vacate our seats soon so the invited guests could dine free.

We’d crashed a party, and the hostess was simply compiling a list of the invited guests who’d shown up. I had tears streaming down my face from semiembarrassment, yet felt overjoyed by this serendipitous faux pas.

My friend left a generous tip for Ashley. Then we thanked our host, Estela’s daughter, and made room for the invited. And I became a cheaper date.

Pretty Schmaltzie.

copyright © 2009 by Auntie Eartha. All rights reserved.

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  1. Estella's sounds good. I could see you as a party crasher. You'll have to take me:-)

  2. Glad Estela's is reopening. I had enjoyed that place and was disappointed when it closed.


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