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This new year, rather than go to any big parties and get trashed with all of my friends, I was invited (ordered) to go to dinner with my girlfriend and her dad (Mr. M) and stepmom. Her father had actually invited me, and I knew better than to turn him down. She said the place called itself “upscale casual”, and told me to dress nice. I did. I wore a shirt and tie, nice pants, nice shoes, nice new sweater, the whole deal.

Good fucking thing.

The place we (the four of us) went to dinner is called "Cafe Chicane", and there's a sign on the door that says "PROPER DRESS REQUIRED". This should have been the first warning sign to me. My girlfriend’s dad had made a reservation, and the hostess girl at the door recognized him, so she just said “Hello Mr. M! This way please.” She led us back to a table in the rear of the ground floor of the three-story building (the second floor is a ballroom and the third is a bar and cigar lounge, I later learned), and took our coats to the coat check (warning number two).

We were confronted with not menus, but little flyers that advertised the meal of the evening. We were allowed to choose an entree, but the other four courses (warning number three) were fixed. There were no prices on these little doodads. A girl came out from the kitchen with four plates with one slice of Italian bread on each, and offered us “extra virgin” olive oil and fresh ground pepper. I decided to go with the fillet mignon, told my girlfriend to order for me, and went off in search of the bathroom.

The bathroom at this place was no joke, either. They had one of those little widgets that spray your butt with water to clean it after you crap (warning number four), a device I’ve never understood. I was glad I didn’t have to poop. At least there was no dude to give you a towel. I didn’t have any money to tip with.

Back at the table, I sat down just in time to receive the first course of the evening- potato and leek soup. As I looked at the soup, I began to realize what kind of a place this was. There were five pieces of shredded carrot arranged in the middle of each bowl of soup, in a cute little star formation (warning number five). The soup was delicious. I still don’t know what a leek is, but it makes for a good soup.

Out came course number two- cold bean salad. This looked... well... pretty strange. It was a little pile of beans on top of that thin spiky lettuce. There were apparently three kinds of beans in the bean blob, and one of them must have been pinto, though God only knows what the others were. They were all mashed together. It actually was very tasty, if not scatological.

The waitress, the water girl (that was her only job- warning number six), the bread girl, and the manager were all so far up Mr. M’s ass through the meal, you would’ve thought he was the second coming or something (warning number seven).

Course number three was escargot and mushrooms, which I didn’t eat, due to an allergy to mushrooms (seriously) that sets off my asthma. Everyone else ate theirs, and they split mine between them. The dish looked like a little pile of shredded... something. It didn’t look appetizing. I said a prayer of thanks for the strange blessing of my allergy.

The main dish was excellent. I’ve never had a finer fillet mignon. Both my girlfriend’s father and I had the fillet, while the girls both got scallops, which ended up being one battered scallop the size of a grown man’s fist. I’ve never seen a scallop near that size before, nor since. Maybe they got them from the Easter Island reefs, or something. I don't know. The side dish for the main course was mashed potatoes, which were also quite good, although they were composed of two little lumps that looked like they’d been squeezed out of an icing decorator.

Desert was strawberry sorbet in a glass filled with champagne (warning number eight). I have never liked strawberries, but ate dessert purely for its alcoholic value. It was really quite tasty, and got tastier and tastier the more I had.

At the end of the meal, we were brought coffee and chocolates (“from Sweden!” according to the zealous waitress). Mr. M and I were given fat Dominican cigars (warning number nine), which were also very high quality. The little black book with the bill came out on a lovely bone china platter, which Mr. M took only a cursory glance at before sticking his credit card inside. He smiled, sat back and said, “well, everyone, how was dinner?”

“Delicious!” We all replied. It wasn’t a lie. The meal had been truly fantastic. Then he laid it on us.

“Was it worth 450 dollars?” he asked, chuckling.

I felt faint.

“Yes, daddy” replied my girlfriend. I looked at her in abject shock, and let out a pitiful little moan. Mr. M just looked at me and laughed. “It’s okay, Bruce,” he said, “my pleasure, you know. We’re celebrating! It’s all in fun tonight.”

I guess he likes me after all.

So here, kids, is a quick list of warning signs that will inform you that you cannot afford to eat in a given restaurant:

  • There is a dress code
  • There is a coat check
  • There are more than two courses, and you don’t get to pick them
  • That butt-sprayer whatsit
  • Your soup is a work of art
  • There are employees whose only job is “water girl” or “bread and pepper girl”
  • The employees and manager pay attention to you without you asking, and do things like fill your water every time you take a sip.
  • Dessert contains expensive alcoholic ingredients
  • Cigars are included in the meal
and finally:

  • Your girlfriend’s dad who owns two BMW’s and the eastern division of J. Crew goes there regularly.

/me prefers the 24-hour diner down the street.


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