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.
I made a comment in a previous post where I felt I should review Chinese restaurants separately from the rest, rating them on the time after I finish the meal I’m urged to have a bowel movement. If I were to make such a comparison, I’d have to do the same with family restaurants. Only with them, I would rate them on how more desirable their food would be over a bowl of mayonnaise and cheddar cheese.
On this rainy day, I found myself at Camelot Court. Let’s get the clichés of tables and grails out the way and call this restaurant out for this minor conceit. In a large city, this place would have an actual court, with faux royalty presiding over reenacted medieval brawls and waiting staff doting on customers in vague period attire. As this is a town known for lumber and trucks, what we get is jeans, coffee, and actual brawls.
The Camelot Court is a diner built into a…nostalgic hotel off the highway. Like the Connaught last week, I can’t remember how old Camelot is, or if it predates my birth. I can’t park in front of the restaurant; I can’t park anywhere nearby at all. The hotel apparently rationed no parking for the restaurant. The length of the curb was stacked bumper to bumper with trucks. I ended up having to park at the Camelot’s competition next door. But unlike the Connaught, the Camelot obviously had been renovated in the past few years, having adopted the now almost trite brown motif—brown chairs, brown walls, brown carpet; even the blinds were brown. I know the Camelot must be old, glancing at the lance-wielding, horse-riding knight on the cover, having been printed off a dot-matrix printer. I couldn’t believe this menu lasted this long. Either this was intentionally retro or the owners have an Okidata 320 Turbo in their back room.
The apparently amphetamine-fueled elderly woman recommended one of the sandwiches, and I focused on the clubhouse. It was preceded by a chicken and rice soup, offered with sealed saltines and a dinner roll. The soup was a delicious though an unoriginal start to the meal. As the clubhouse was dropped in front of me (almost literally), I was immediately astonished at its nearly four-inch height. I’m shit you not. I checked with my hand, all four fingers sans thumb. A triple-layered behemoth with real chicken (not sliced from a plastic package), a hefty offering of tomatoes, and crispy bacon. Of course, it wouldn’t be a family restaurant without the complimentary tablespoon dollop of coleslaw.
Any sandwich so large that it requires a cocktail sword to stay together gets high praise from me, but I have to comment that it needed salt. The service was unspectacular, especially how the waitress slumped my plates in passing like I was more speed bump than customer. This may be my fault for not being a regular, a fact proven with the tables around me. I heard them saying “the usual” to psychic staff that returned quickly with reuben and steak sandwiches.
I think my issue with family restaurants stem from a common practice to deliver great quantities of food that don’t particular rocket me to the moon. So often, one or several aspects of the meal are lazy slapped together. This was the case with both Connaught and D’Lanos, but with Camelot, there was effort made. My sandwich was enormous, like the meals you see in the photos of menus, never the kind you actually receive. That was always the disappointment, where you would see the photos of meals at Denny’s or McDonalds and realize what you would got was that plate after it had gone through six years of the Russian Gulag, like a before and after photo with Hurricane Katrina in between. Here was a case of a restaurant actually able to go against Denny’s and succeed, useful since there’s a Denny’s less than 200 feet away. There’s also a nearby Earls and Moxis. And I would select those over Denny’s or Camelot. But Earls and Moxis are both presented as posh establishments, with expensive food and revulsion to those whose pants are stained with paint. For those of the blue collar, try Camelot, probably one the best family restaurants I’ve had so far. But saying that is like having a favorite model of Dodge. Sure, they have coolers built into their glove boxes, but that still doesn’t detract them as being shit.
I just realized it’s best I make sure no one in this restaurant reads that last part.