We arrived at 7:30. The parking was just turning over with several open slots right outside the front door. Simultaneously, SWMBO spied the circular lobby area filled with waiting patrons and asked if we were really wanting to try it. I parked and asked Spawn for her opinion.
"Sure," was her enthusiastic reply. "They got elephants! And giraffes!"
"There ya go. What more could you ask for from a restaurant?" (Note to self: Wear my glasses and pay particular attention to spousal-unit's facial reactions.)
We walked in and waited at the hostess station, humming with activity as six different hostesses scurried back and forth through the restaurant's mazelike seating.
"Three," I said when the List Holder looked up in my direction.
She started to take our name when she asked, "Would you want to eat in the patio area or bar? Both are seating immediately."
It wasn't a "cold" night and with my added insulation I could easily stand it. I turned to SWMBO and asked, "Interested in the patio. Looks like they've got heat lamps scattered about."
"Oh yes sir," the List Holder volunteered.
"Sure," SWMBO said. "It'd be better than expecting her," pointing down to Spawn, "to sit on raised seating."
"What type of wait are we looking at for dining area?"
"That cinches it. Patio, please."
List Holder called a buzzing drone aside and said, "Patio. 6."
Drone picked up two menus, crayons, and a kids' menu and we followed her to the patio.
"Giraffes! There's a baby giraffe!" Spawn jumped up and down as we walked past one statue. "Did you know baby giraffes are six feet tall..." and proceeded to recite the entire Albuquerque Zoo narration on giraffes.
The drone seated us and I started to read the menu. That first pulse of heat from the lamp (four feet away) hit me. "Whoa. That was unexpected."
"Well that's easily fixed. I'll swap with you. Sit here. You'll be warm in no time." Spawn and I swapped seats as our waitress, Cheerleader Barbie, bounced and flounced up to our table.
"Hi," she perkily cheered. "Can I get you something?"
"Yes, please," Spawn smiled. "I want the corndog."
"Oh," CB stuttered. "I can certainly take your..." she muttered as she fumbled for a pen and her order pad.
"Why don't we wait on that and figure out what we want for drinks first?" SWMBO volunteered.
"Oh," CB was clearly unsure of how to proceed now that there were two sets of directions to process.
"Spawn? Do you want lemonade? No. Milk? She'd like a milk. I'll have a beer. What's this Big E Chef beer?"
"We have our own beer brewed specifically for the restaurant. It's good!"
"Is there a particular style - pilsner, stout, IPA, heffewiessen - or is it one-size-fits-all? Never mind," I smiled, seeing that the question streaked right past her. "I'll try one. A short."
SWMBO was still looking over the menu but then decided on one of those iced fruity cocktails.
CB left, still searching for her pen. The table beside us was not enjoying their experience thus far. I wasn't sure why at the time but was by the end of our meal.
We watched the patio traffic, looked through the glass into the bar, talked about our day... Then SWMBO pulled back her sleeve and asked, "Is she shipping the ice in from Glacier? Where's our drinks?"
"I don't know. Let me go find out."
I started to stand up when I saw CB coming through the bar area. "Looks like she's got a full tray of stuff." I watched as CB almost lost the load opening the door but managed to recover. "That would've been a trauma..."
"Milk. Big E Short. Tropical Swirl."
No one said anything for a few seconds, then CB volunteered, "Can I take your order?"
SWMBO glanced up at her and frostily answered, "Yes."
I knew that tone having experienced many years of it, but CB with blissful ignorance announced, "I'll be right back. I gotta deliver these."
SWMBO sighed and looked at me.
"Don't. She's got Teflon between the ears and nothing you can say will stick," I warned.
She sat back and stirred her drink to mix in the different liqueurs. "Hey! This isn't bad!" and she offered it to me.
I am gifted with that little voice that shouts warnings when I'm doing something silly -- or at least not too smart -- and I mostly listen. Curiosity got the better of me, though, and I took a sip. IT WAS AWFUL! Even the beer -- of which CB never did tell me what it was -- couldn't remove the fruitiness! Spawn giggled and clapped at my suffering. (Yep; she's going to be the only one gleefully picking the retirement home I end up in...)
CB returned while I was incapacitated and SWMBO relayed our dinner order.
We ordered the Soy-Ginger Calamari appetizer, a dinner salad, the kids' corndog, the Langoustine-Chicken Jambalaya, and the Shrimp Adventure. To shorten an otherwise over-long experience (and retelling): The calamari was soft, tasteless (as Spawn said, "Tastes like chicken!"), and lukewarm. The jambalaya was overcooked, tasteless, and lukewarm. The shrimp adventure was alright but not worth an effort to remember any of the different shrimp on it. The dinner salad was served on a 14" oval platter; it was one of the largest side-salads I've ever seen.
Dinner and drinks (minus the gift card) came to ~US$37.00. I tipped $1.00 because every step between each of the courses seemed to take longer and longer, with food coming out lukewarm and/or with "skins" formed across sauces from sitting up in the window forever.
It was a good meal to use the gift card on but not worth a future visit. Avoid this place like they were serving plague on a platter.
"We're decaf drinkers, and most restaurant decaf is like hot water with a brown crayon dipped in it. This coffee was no different."
Tim Dietz, sdnet.eats, 1140, 6/3/03