Yesterday, I discussed my pleasure at finding a very economical meal at Denny’s on their $2-$4-$6-$8 menu. But the $2 quesadilla and the $4 breakfast is only the start of it. I am happy to report that I found some other good stuff without the need to resort to the regular menu.
You can get two pancakes with butter and syrup for $2, but for $4, you can get all-you-can-eat pancakes. I know what you’re thinking: How many pancakes can you eat? Not many, in my case. Denny’s pancakes are large and filling. I wish I this option had been available 30 years ago, when I could have eaten pancakes until the cows came home.
Continuing the all-you-can-eat theme, for $6 you can get unlimited soup and salad. For the vegetarians among us, there is no law that you have to get the soup. However, I must admit that the broccoli cheese soup did look tempting. If you ask whether the soup is vegetarian, the staff will tell you that it is meatless, but I don’t believe for a second that it’s not made with chicken stock.
For $8, you can order a fried seafood dinner consisting of fish, shrimp, French fries, broccoli and garlic toast. If you’re like me and don’t eat shellfish, just ask them to leave it off.
One of my favorites, however, is a truly unhealthful choice known as the fried cheese melt. This sandwich consists of breaded, fried mozzarella sticks covered with melted American cheese and served on grilled white bread with sides of French fries and tomato sauce for dipping. Four dollars!
I confess, I tried this several months ago and it tasted even better than it looked. To properly enjoy this dish, it is important that you do not look at the nutritional information. If you do, you will discover that this item packs in 1,190 calories, nearly half of them from fat. Speaking of fat, you will consume 61 grams thereof. In other words, file under “for special occasions only.”
Restaurants are not all about the food, of course. One would expect a certain amount of ambience, at least enough to allow you to relax and enjoy your meal. Well, Denny’s is a family restaurant, so one’s expectations must necessarily be limited in this department.
Since adopting the diner motif, Denny’s has acquired some rather funky fixtures. Aside from the perennial blinking Christmas lights (for Valentine’s Day there were red ones, for St. Patrick’s Day there were green ones, for Easter there were lavender and pink ones — you get the picture), Denny’s now has rows of streaky, orange-hued lamps hanging from the ceiling. I think these were intended to resemble period pieces from an art deco diner, but instead they come off looking like Chinese lanterns gone wrong. They may very well have been obtained from a seventh grader seeking to make a little money from an art project.
I also pay attention to the recorded music played in the establishment where I chow down. Lately, I’ve noticed that some chain restaurants have taken to playing fairly hard rock that sounds annoyingly cacophonous to these aging ears. Not so at Denny’s, however. Neither hard rock nor elevator music, I was quite content with listening to pop hits by Fleetwood Mac, Lionel Ritchie, Hall & Oates, James Taylor and the like.
One of the things I enjoy about sitting in Denny’s by the freeway is observing the travelers straggling in, retired couples, young people, families with children, visitors from overseas. There is talk of where they’re headed and where they’ve been, the maps and cell phones come out, and conversations often proceed in a Babel of tongues.
The following are a few of the things I observed in Denny’s last night.
At the table behind me were a man and a woman treating a very little girl to a very big banana split.
At the table ahead of me was a woman traveling with four children. The youngest was around four years old and oldest maybe ten or eleven. Two girls and two boys, all of them fidgeting and none of them able to figure out what they wanted to eat.
At the table ahead of them was a businessman sitting by himself, just him and his laptop. Now, I felt a bit gauche because I was using my cell phone to text in a public place, but this guy made me feel good when he set up his computer and proceeded to check email. Periodically emanating from said laptop was tinkly, faux nickelodeon music that I can only describe as being in the style called “early slot machine.” Only he was working on a spreadsheet rather than lining up cherries and sevens. Go figure.
Finally, I must mention the mother and daughter duo I encountered at the register on the way out. The woman was holding on to the little girl by the hair on the top of her head. Mom kept repeating “It’s gonna hurt if you run!” Of course, the kid was squirming, trying her best to get away. That is, until Mom gave up and grabbed the kid by the arm, forcefully pulling her out the door.
I keep hearing about people being disgusted with public displays of affection, but why is it that twenty or thirty people can observe a public display of child abuse and no one says a word?