Memories of small out of the way family restaurants was sparked by a recent Lone Star Parson post.
At the end of 1969, as newly married, my wife and I enjoyed a family owned Thai restaurant in a sketchy part of Denver. It was located across from a city park, now a dog park, known then as “Needle Park”. Today the area is gentrification central.The motherly type who owned it seated you at a table and brought a rolling menu board. You selected a price level and that determined the number of courses you were served. The food was fantastic. She didn’t have a liquor license. We dined there at least once a month.
The 1980’s found us living in Renton, WA. A family operated the restaurant portion of a downtown bar. In the years ahead they bought out the bar and now have a chain of restaurants.
Parking on 3rd Avenue was hit or miss so we always parked in the rear. Exiting, we usually went out through the bar. One night as we exited one of three drunk bar patrons reached out and grabbed my wife’s breasts asking,
“Are those real?”
I broke a chair over his head. His buddies decided to get into the fray. The chair was still somewhat intact so they got to experience the same fate as their buddy. Glass was broken, tables overturned, etc. As we left I put two $20 bills on the bar (a fair amount in 1980).
We didn’t go back for awhile but when we did we entered from the street. When our margaritas arrived, Mr. Rodriquez was the server. After putting the drinks down, he put some money on the table.
“The drinks are on the house. The change is from your last visit”.
Successful car salesmen develop contacts that refer customers. They are rewarded, in those days, $50 (out of my pocket), and the owner of a Chinese restaurant referred many other Chinese buyers to me. I rarely made much of a commission on these transaction, usually a $50 minimum, but bonuses were based on volume and these sales helped my monthly numbers.
I often took my family to his restaurant. It was a price point menu, with various price points determining the number of courses. At one visit, he came over to take our order instead of his server.
“What will you have, he asked”.
“John, we like the $12 dinner for four but your price is too high! You want too much money”.
He gave me a “look” and went away. After the meal when the server brought me the check, he came over and picked up the check and put it in his pocket. Wifey was surprised to see her cheap spouse leave a $20 tip.
Now I rarely eat out. Food has become fuel. When I do eat out, it is usually breakfast with family and friends. What is becoming a favorite is the local VFW breakfast buffet every third Sunday for $9 a head. Yeah, I’m still cheap.