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 was contemplating, given this was my last lunch for this blog (prepping for phase 2), that eating at Grama’s Kitchen would be the biggest anticlimax since Skyline (the movie, not the car). I’d driven by Grama’s Kitchen on more than one occasion, dismissing it as a glorified lunch counter, an afterthought given nearby competition. It’s located twenty feet from a Wendy’s, a hundred feet from a Burger King, and would have been a stone’s throw from a Boston Pizza if that hadn’t burned down recently. With more restaurants across the street, eating at Grama’s Kitchen must only fall to those drifting by the check-out counter desperately in need to ingest breakfast before rushing to a business meeting.
After entering the parking lot, I was followed by a half-dozen others, mostly trucks and minivans, all of which broke away to divert into the morbid human centipede that was Wendy’s drive-thru. Walking to Grama’s Kitchen, I passed a guy in a Honda civic ferociously shoveling fries from a paper cup like they were barbiturates. This created a very uncomfortable situation as I strode by the crawling vehicles to enter a hotel restaurant, like I’m too good for Wendy’s. Am I judging the queue due to their incapacity to distinguish between fresh and reheated frozen food shipped from Guangzhou? Is it the fact that I have thirty minutes to spare for a meal made-to-order while a progression of Orwellian philistines trudge along, waiting to ingest a layers of corn meal, beef sinew, and connective tissue that must be blasted with ammonia and citric acid to render it even edible by the masses, less they contract the latest strain of liver-liquefying enterobacteriaceae?
What an example self-depraved narcissism, deciding between the deluxe baconator and the ¾ pound triple-layered burger homunculi. No, you have a point; the cheddar, guacamole, and tortilla-topped Baja salad is a totally healthy alternative. Where was I going with this? Right, at some point, I have to admit walking into Grama’s Kitchen and discovering their lunch special wasn’t pasta or a casserole but a bacon cheeseburger. Suddenly, I felt overdressed. Grama’s Kitchen’s patties had better not be square.
Discussing the interior, Grama’s Kitchen didn’t feel like the “+1” at an awards dinner. There were no folding tables or classroom chairs. The seats showed their age, but in a nostalgic comfortable way. They’re wood, not pressed pulp with painted veneer but real wood, like those chairs we used to all sit on in the 80’s before apparently the entire continent got struck with sciatica. They were cushioned with the fake leather pulled tight and bolted in place with oversized tarnished rivets. I admit that offers the impression that Grama’s Kitchen was plucked from the 1970s, but that melancholic handmade black-and-white wool sweater 1970’s, not the regrettable disco leisure suit 1970s.
The tables were covered with fruit-patterned plastic tablecloths and large enough to fit coffee condiments with enough spare for plates. Country music bled from the overhead. I started with the chicken soup, flanked by the requisite vacuum-sealed saltines. Still on the fence if it was dropped from a can, which means that making it fresh would have been waste of time. If I can’t tell the difference then you’ve done something wrong. The beeping from the kitchen did inform me it was being nuked.
This was followed by the aforementioned bacon cheeseburger, one of the few options on the laminated single page menu. Thankfully, the burger was made to order; immediately rendering it superior to those next door. The fries were passable, not flimsy, but obviously pre-cut and dropped from a bag. It would be quite the discovery to find a place that cuts its own fries. Just Goode Food should take a cue from Grama’s Kitchen on the subtleties of simple décor. However, Grama’s Kitchen’s could use a lesson on service. My waiter was more concerned with talking with another customer than apparently serving me with a smile…or words. He filled my water only once. Thirty minutes later, and I was somewhat satisfied. I was full, so that counted for something. The burger didn’t float me to the ionosphere like a weather balloon, but few burgers ever do. It didn’t reach the level of A&A, a block further down the highway. At least with Boston Pizza out of the way, there isn’t much for upscale alternatives. There are two sushi restaurants and two fast food joints. At a shave over $13 including soup, it was a tad cheaper than Esther’s Inn, but obviously pricier than next door.
By the end, Grama’s Kitchen fell into that void of forgettable experience. Even now, though I remember parking and seeing that guy jackhammer fries into his mouth like a pneumatic press pounding a telephone pole into the ground, I can’t remember much of Grama’s Kitchen at all. I couldn’t tell you what the other menu selections were or what that burger tasted like. Even as I type this, my brain is crumpling those memories and tossing them aside to make room for more big words. I forgot about Grama’s Kitchen but now can use “idiosyncratic” and “magnanimous” in a sentence. Fair trade.