A few years back, in the midst of a breakup no less sudden for being long overdue, I spent a week of evenings crying into my, I don’t know, Fetzer merlot or Glen Ellen cab or whatever they served at the lobby bar of the atrium cafe in the Holiday Inn in Brookline, Mass.—assuming you have, at some point in your life, been on a great American road trip, you know it, even if you’ve never been there—
before realizing there was no place I’d rather be miserable. Colored by childhood memories of frolicking pre-ironically around the indoor pools and miniature golf courses of Holidomes from Oklahoma to California & back again, there was something so comforting about the blandness in the air—the dull color scheme, the chintz, the disorientation of each random passerby—& something just so touching about the menu, bearing the brunt of some poor old lifer cook’s belabored & belated attempts at relevance, that it occurred to me to compose an ode to the mediocre. I would champion the everyeatery.*
The idea didn’t fly, of course, with editors who pointed out that my command of the English language wasn’t such that I could singlehandedly render mediocre a compliment rather than (or, more to the point, by paradoxical virtue of its being) a pejorative.
To this day, though, I remain slightly enchanted by the idea of a guide to the everyeatery—especially when I encounter good old joints like Hanson’s Grill & Tavern.
It couldn’t, for 1 thing, be more predictably cozy in all its fern-bar trappings. Brick walls, wooden tops, upholstered booths, flatscreens flashing this bottom of the eighth or that third & long. It’s girls’ night out here, boys’ night out there, mom’s night off everywhere.
Meanwhile, the huge menu abounds in just the sort of quasi–New Americanisms I was craving when we stopped in last night. Sure enough, the Louisiana Station Salad hit the vaguely retro spot.
What you can barely see beneath the niblets & the shredded roast chicken (much of it juicy dark meat), the sliced avocado & scallions ringed by cornbread croutons are chopped tomatoes, dollops of goat cheese &—the kicker—date chunks, as well as romaine & iceberg. What you can’t see is how nicely it all comes together in 1 far from light but hardly flat-out unhealthy, in fact relatively nutritious, salty-sweet & crunchy-creamy mess. Speaking of creamy, I swapped the suggested balsamic vinaigrette, which I had enough of in, say, 1995 to last me a lifetime, for the charred jalapeno vinaigrette—oddly thick, cloudy & devoid of kick, but refreshing nonetheless.
The Director wasn’t so lucky.
That quesadillalike wedge atop his otherwise plain garden salad is supposed to be blackened ahi. Of all the things fresh fish should or could resemble, prepackaged flour tortillas aren’t even one.
Granted, that was just as well for my purposes. After all, one out of two ain’t bad—it’s mediocre.
*For the record, this term doesn’t come up on Google except as an obvious typo. Coinage points.