Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Wonderful Wednesdays

Since both DH and I are on academic schedules, we’re looser with our dinner plans in the summer. One addition is that we eat out with the kids every Wednesday: “wonderful Wednesdays” we’ve named them, since kids love ritual. So does DH. Sometimes we let the kids have a say in where we eat (which inevitably means Breadman’s, Elmo’s or a chain restaurant—but no fast food because I insist it be ‘sit down service’), but usually we are attempting to have a decent meal somewhere that makes the kids happy, too.

(As a long non-foodie digression, I should add that my soft ban on chains is even less stringent under the right circumstances. When employed at my first job, I used to hide out at the local Chili’s with DH, since I knew I’d see no one from work. It was my habit to have their chicken nachos as a meal –which they make individually, thus ensuring that each chip had a uniform amount of cheese, beans, chicken, and jalopeno—with a big glass of dry white wine. A questionable combination, I know, but it had a cheering effect on me. I think spending my adolescence in the most generic of suburbs allows me to derive a kind of strange comfort in a certain class of restaurant chain, as well as the occasional shopping mall. Unless I’m with extended family, I rarely find myself at Applebee’s, TGIFs, or Ruby Tuesday's, and you’ll never catch me at an Olive Garden (aka the spawn of Satan), but Chili’s and its like does offer a bland anonymity that relaxes me sometimes. While those places become depressing in larger doses, an occasional visit –if the food is palatable--can have an anesthetizing effect).

Anyway, back to Wonderful Wednesdays. One of the few places in Chapel Hill/Carrboro that works successfully for all members of my family is Panzanella, the Italian restaurant that Weaver Street Market in Carrboro runs. Great mussels, good salads, decent wines, and some of the best pizza in the area (which, I know, is not saying much—more on pizza in the next post). My ds, relatively picky, is happy with the pizza, and my dd, even pickier, can have plain noodles with butter and parmesan. If we pick a restaurant that fails to please dd (meaning, it lacks plain noodles with butter), we just pack a pb and j sandwich. That’s what we do when sushi’s on the schedule. I’m pleased that my ds has reached a place in his eating evolution where he can happily order Udon at Akai Hana with occasional tastings of sushi. His love of anime makes him open to all things Japanese. DD is still at the wrinkling-her-nose stage.

Last week we tried the fairly new Carrboro restaurant Southern Rail on “wonderful Wednesday,” and we were profoundly disappointed. Lovely setting in the old train cars, but a train wreck of a menu. Only dd was happy; she had the usual noodles with butter. I had my last-ever restaurant crab cake. I swear. That’s when I decided that I would never order crab cakes out again (unless in MD, as I previously stated). These crab cakes were horrifically inedible—so much so that I only ate half of one. Even worse was my son’s hamburger. Who can’t cook a hamburger to please a 10 year old boy? I don’t know who’s cooking there, but they’re not tasting the food. Or, if they are tasting the food, they simply don’t care. It was, to put it mildly, disgusting. Plus their descriptions of the wine offerings were doubtful. I’m not sure if they know what “dry” is.

So the question is: it’s Wednesday . . . where shall we eat tonight?

Uh oh. DS just sang, "Let's go Outback tonight."

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