At lunchtime, a few weeks ago, the alignment of the stars had me standing at the door of Hellas Gyros, on Bryn Mawr. I'll admit that having passed the place hundreds of times, the hand-painted signage advertising "Lamb Stew" had it's own place in my mental files. I was fairly certain, this day, that I was set for the stew. But, never having been before, and never having heard anything about it, I was in store for several surprises.
Upon entering, I took notice of several men that were scattered about the seating area. They were all seemingly transfixed by whatever it was that was on the television. Turning to the left, a counterman stood beneath the menu board, his arms crossed over his chest.
A quick glance at the menu board had my eyes glazing over. It was the usual lineup of dogs, burgers, gyros, etc. But, there, down towards the bottom, was the "lamb stew." Approaching the counterman, I asked about the ordering protocol. "Do I order first, and then sit down." "YES," he barked. I returned my gaze to the menu board, as he stood glowering at me. He seemed angered by some injustice or another, like, say, having been born. It was palpable, emanating from him in waves.
Internal dialogue: "You know, he probably figures that I'm just another chucklehead that's gonna order a cheeseburger. Maybe some fries. How pathetic. No one ever orders his Greek specialties. Over time, this has warn on him considerably. Knuckle down, kid. He'll soften. Appeal to his pride."
"Is the lamb stew the best thing on the menu?"
He responded, fairly shouting: "I don't know what is best for you! For me, everything is best! For you I don't know!"
Note to Self: Internal dialogue is sooo overrated.
"O.K. I'll try the lamb stew. And I'll take a Coke."
Again with the squalling, "Sit down!"
I took a seat at one of the booths in the back. Right behind, what appeared to be, another counterman, staring at the TV, through a cloud of his own cigarette smoke. I looked to the TV. A pairs figure skating competition was being broadcast. This seemed quite odd. I was in a room full of working men, who were all captivated by a pairs figure skating competition.
While I waited for my food, my eyes turned to the hand-written signs posted over the counter.
[The following spellings, punctuations, and capitalizations were copied *exactly* as they read. Well, quotation marks notwithstanding.]
"If you order it for to go do not! use anything on the tables ketchup, hot sauce, salt, pepper, etc. for your order."
"If you order food and pay for it and you don't return to pick it up. And then return the next day expecting to get it. You will have to pay for everything all over again!"
"NOBODY IS ALLOWED TO GRAB OR TOUCH ANYTHING ON THE COUNTER UNLESS YOU ARE TOLD ITS OK! NO EXCEPTIONS!"
Finally, my food arrived. The counterman placed a plate of the stew on my table, as well as a basket that contained two slices of toasted white bread. Moist, fatty, fork-tender chunks of lamb barely clung to a couple of neck bones. Adjacent, soft potatoes, green beans, and onions were piled on top of steamed rice. The whole lot was enrobed in a pleasant, if undersesasoned, tomato sauce.
I perked it up with some of the hot sauce and black pepper. It was a perfect lunch on such a dreary day.
1133 W. Bryn Mawr