I am partaking in a journey where I will appraise every non-franchise restaurant in town and review their food as well as their service. It is an attempt to expand my mind and appetite. Simultaneously, I will also be taking what I learn from these establishments and attempting to remake them with my extremely limited skill.
That was the opening conversation after I took my seat at D’Lanos. Like I had just stepped on someone’s cat. Like I was out on Halloween night, going door to door declining candy. Waitresses wandered through the establishment with coffee mugs grafted to their forearms. I saw one waitress wielding two akimbo. Each table had the obligatory granular and liquid condiments, including a sugar decanter the size of my fist. The moment I entered D’Lanos, I knew exactly what to expect; I could have left without ordering and saved myself the trouble.
Coffee mugs greeted every sitting. Stain-proof uniforms resembled something taken from hospital surplus. The menu could be hung in an exhibit next to Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup. D’Lanos follows the family restaurant playbook co closely, I could order with my eyes closed. It took a step further by not only separating their burgers from their sandwiches (even though some of their sandwiches are burgers) but also dedicating an entire page to entrees designed for the elderly. I would like to know what constitutes an elderly entree. Is it their incapacity to chew? Order a pasta. Is it the portion size (like my mother theorized)? Order a half. I hope I never reach that stage where I am 70+ and forced to order cod loin.
What the fuck is cod loin? I didn’t know cods had loins.
I haven’t commented that despite not being hugely overweight, there was less than two inches between my stomach and the table in the booth I’m sitting in. The table is cozy, and would probably appear bigger if it was cleared of all this gastronomic debris. Of the dozens of selections, the attentive waitress recommended either one of the breakfast dishes or a patty melt from the lunch menu. I go for the sandwich, which ends up being a grilled cheese sandwich with a burger inside. In defense, it was the best example of that I could find. This is the kind of place that serves coleslaw in a tiny cream cup and gravy in a soup bowl. The fries were slightly undercooked and as you might have predicted, I ran out of potatoes before I ran out of gravy. Thirty minutes after sitting down and I was finished. The coffee jawa came around repeatedly verifying my desire to not be topped up.
D’Lanos is located near Parkwood, has an airlock entrance, and disclaimers that it keeps no cash after closing. It also sports a sign prohibiting the use of public washrooms. Probably not the best area of town. The location is an old one and a source of gastronomic mediocrity for as long as I’ve been alive. In its early days, this location was a Ricky’s…so not exactly moving up the culinary ladder if catch me drift. Obviously D’Lanos has found the recipe for success in this region. How could I criticize that? They are a block away from the often Spartan U&Me, a clearly superior establishment. Two sushi restaurants are a stone’s throw and yet, this place is packed before noon on a Thursday. Not only that, but I imagine Sunday lunch is crammed to capacity from catholic mass run-off. I know this to be true because when D’Lanos went by Rickey’s, my family use to come here for lunch following service at Sacred Heart.
I noticed a lot of elderly wandering slowly in, another indication that D’Lanos is simply a reflex—an automatic response to the community. This is a restaurant filling a niche that is required by ignorant patrons unwilling to cook simple dishes themselves or eat anything not perfected previously by Denny’s—a location too distant to reach by bus or taxi. I know I’m overly unsympathetic about family restaurants, and maybe there is a need to offer food for seniors, but my mother, over 70, has never had the need to compromise her cooking for her age. Nothing is easy to chew or digest. The dishes she cooks for me every two weeks (our tradition) range from Mexican to Indian, rarely ever serving Americanized shovel-food. I wouldn’t want to order from an elderly menu even if I was elderly.
What bothered me further was that this selection of dishes may be appealing to the non-elderly if D’Lanos believed the public would be interested. Maybe I’d like to try cod loin. If I did, I could discover that I love cod loins. That would be a unique dish, forcing me to frequent D’Lanos more often, as they would be the only place that serves cod loin. I don’t think I could handle that obligation, and would hate it if the employees here got used to seeing me. “Want the usual, hon?”
“Absolutely, give me a hunk of cod loin.” I would have a table reserved with no coffee mugs. Or I could just drive to U&Me a block away and enjoy food I hope to still enjoy fifty years from now.
1515 Victoria St, Prince George, BC V2L 2L4
By the way, I know what a loin is in butcher terms. A loin is a cut taken from the middle of a filleted cod side and is considered a prime cut. Knowledge is power.