I’m sitting here in a booth at Aunt Sarah Pancake House on W. Broad, by The Phoenician. Sometimes, I have to go into hiding like this to make the world slow down for minute, get some school work done, and some work work too. The FREE WIFI sign has been attracting me for a long time now. Whenever I do this thing, playing hooky from work, I can never seem to figure out where to sit down and be productive for 2-3 hour stretches. I could stay home, but Jasper and I tend to distract each other (even while grandpa is doing sitter duty). Anywhere near VCU is parking prohibitive and swarming with students. The Black Sheep has no wifi. Do you all have any suggestions?
In the meantime, let’s take a look a little closer at my surreal setting. We’ve got CNN on one TV and FoxNews on the other. The table looks all sticky. It’s not, but the tri-fold menu is. I can hardly wrap my mind around the choices. Sadly, no huevos rancheros. The place is non-smoking. So, that improves the air quality and reduces the griminess. Remember those stained glass lamps that Ruby Tuesdays smashed in their commercials, making a big deal about their long overdue redesign? I think they got handed down to Aunt Sarahs.
Can you tell I haven’t been in a big chain greasy spoon in a long time? I’ve got so many good memories about breakfast food at Ihop (childhood), Denny’s (high school), and Shoney’s (college). This visit requires an indulgent trip down memory lane. As you may have noticed in past posts, I love biscuits and gravy. The stuff appears in multiple locations on the laminated pop-up book of a menu. To make sense of the whole thing, I narrowed my choices to the 6am-10am specials (simply can’t pass up a sale). And there it was at the bottom, “Sizzlin Skillet with biscuits and gravy, two eggs and choice of potato” for $5.99. Well, I planned to go to the gym today anyhow. Let’s do it.
The last skillet meal I had was at Cafe Rustica. So, that probably put an unrealistic expectation in my mind (more of a mental image than a real belief ab out what I was going to be served). I asked the server if they could do my gravy without sausage and I saw a little twinkle in her eye before she said, “Sure thing, baby.” It’s not really that big of a deal what they had to do to accommodate me. I know there’s bacon grease in that gravy. It’s probably on my coffee cup too. And the cook probably just poured the gloppy white goodness through a slotted spoon before putting it into my skillet. Whatever. I didn’t ask them if they have GimmeLean or Morningstar Farms.
Within five minutes my breakfast arrives; a silver tin pan (not a cast iron skillet) resting in a wooden cozy. There’s no sizzle. I touch the pan. It’s not hot. My mound of white gravy sits atop two halves of an english muffin, not biscuits. The potatoes are thin previously frozen disks, and the eggs over easy are… perfect, of course. If you’re reading this thinking that I’m trying to tear Aunt Sarah’s a new one, then I must have faked you out with my wind-up. Mediocrity can be a thing of beauty.
There was nothing especially good about the gravy, or the potatoes, and what can you say about two made to order eggs? But I wouldn’t site any shortcomings either, just trade-offs. The privacy, the TVs, the Wifi, the six refills on my coffee before I’d finished eating and writing this… plus a disturbingly full belly all for under $10? Why was I asking for suggestions about other work-day getaways? Not quite sure, but I welcome your input nonetheless.
Wait, didn’t I say I came here to do some work? Doh!