Tag Archives: Lunch

Checkers

J emails me on Monday with this:

F— you Checkers. F— you and everything you stand for. OK, honestly I’m not sure what Checker’s restaurant stands for. I don’t see many signs that say “Eat Checkers and Free Tibet,” or “Eat Checkers–It’s What Nelson Mandela Does,” so admittedly there’s no moral equivalent to eating at Checkers. Maybe that’s why I went there.

Checkers is one of those places I keep meaning to go to. Unlike Sonic, which has brilliant advertising but no locations anywhere near me when I’m hungry, Checkers is conveniently located about a mile from both my jobs, so, theoretically, I could eat dinner there every night on the way home.

But having a Checkers so close by is a lot like living in a town with a major tourist attraction or knowing a hot girl who is terminally single. You could always see the Liberty Bell, or go out with her, so while you keep meaning to you never really do and then one day they either board up the museum due to budget cuts or she gets married and suddenly you’re left with the friggin pancakes and no syrup–don’t try to find the analogy, pervert, it’s not there.

So tonight, I went to Checkers.

Checkers has this unique system where there is no place to sit down. It’s just a drive-in. I guess some consultant in New York City told them, “You want to get an edge on all the other restaurant chains? The most profitable part of any fast food business is the drive-thru. If you want to make serious bank, have JUST A DRIVE-THRU!!!.”

“That’s brilliant,” said all the suits around the table.

“So what should we name this place?”

“Hey how about Checkers?”

It wasn’t a great idea, but the guy who brought it up had been dating the hot, terminally single girl from accounting thus taking her out of the pool and everyone hated him for it. They figured the boss would smoke him out for the weinie he was, but he didn’t.

No one knew why, but they suspect it was because the boss was already calculating what he could buy with the $7.10 an hour he could save by not having to hire someone to mop the floors of a restaurant so he said, “Sure, what the hell, Checkers it is.”

What the hell indeed.

So tonight, I went to Checkers.

Doesn't the neon glow just make want to go in, sit down, and grab a burger? Well, you can't.

The first thing that should have tipped me off is their menu variety. Checkers has a lot of stuff on their menu. An overwhelming amount of stuff in fact.

Here’s a rule of fast food. Fast food is for burgers, and maybe chicken sandwiches. I know a lot of them serve fish sandwiches, but the less said about that the better, especially with the Lenten season almost upon us. Out of respect for my Catholic brethren who necessitated the Filet-O-Fish in the first place, I’ll defer.

Checkers sells buffalo wings, both boned and boneless variety, and they sell them in five different flavors. I love boneless wings. I love the fact that someone came up with the idea of boneless wings, because what they are really saying is, “Look pal, we know you’re too lazy to throw the bones away or put in the extra effort to get the meat off the bone, so we’ll go ahead and make some illegal immigrant in Lake Titicaca do it for you and, just to keep the joke between us, we’ll still let you call it a wing? OK pal?” Lazy bastards.

Needless to say I ordered the boneless buffalo wings. I got them in garlic parmeasan flavor, which I shouldn’t have done, but I did. I’m not proud of it, but I did.

Here’s the thing. I’m just putting this out there as an unpaid consultant. If I am going to make a restaurant where people can’t sit down, I’m only going to sell things that you can eat in your car. So I got the box of boneless wings out and the sauce starting dripping out of the box and onto my jacket.

WTF?

Oh well, I thought. I’ll wait until I get to work. If the sauce is dripping out of the box, they must really lather it on, this must be good.

I think you probably know where this story goes. The wing sauce, that managed to drip all over my coat, did not manage to coat a single boness wing. And they were dry.

Moreover, I had been talked into upsizing to “large,” so the whole experience cost me $9.39. What did I get for “large?” No extra boneless wings. Maybe I’ve been conditioned by the tub of fries you get at most fast food places, but the french fries hardly seemed abundant either. What I got was a giant soda that made me want to pee so bad by vision started to blur.

So what have we learned today?

Don’t eat at Checkers.

Go see the Liberty Bell.

And for the love of God man, just ask her out, she’s not going to wait for you forever.

Now who wants pie?

Reading Terminal Market, The Gallery, and Specialization

On 1/18/11 at 2:29 p.m. J writes:
It’s not like I really want to stick my finger in the eyes of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, but eating at the Reading Terminal Market is an exercise in disappointment.

I want to like it. I mean it is, after all, the READING TERMINAL MARKET!!! A holy place of eating in a city famous for being fat because, well, we know how to eat and, for the most part, how to cook.

But I’ve eaten at the Reading Terminal Market four times now, and each time I’ve said, “That’s it, I’m never going back!” and yet I keep going back like a dog to his own vomit or a battered spouse because, well, I keep thinking this will be the time. But it never is.

Today I had lunch at the Cajun place, the name of which I cannot recall. I love Cajun food. Of all the places I have visited in my business travels, the place I have loved the most is New Orleans. Even the Food Court at the mall by the Convention Center in New Orleans is an exercise in deliciousness. When Katrina hit, and I did my requisite feeling bad for the people trapped in flooded houses and hating President Bush for his non-response, my first real cognitive thought was, “I wonder what happened to Mulate’s. They had awesome Po Boys.” Call me insensitive, but I really didn’t know anyone from the Ninth Ward; I did know Mulate’s sandwiches.

Where was I? Oh yes, Philadelphia.

Reading Terminal Market can be overwhelming in its choices, but a couple of days ago I walked by the Cajun place and they offered me a free sample of their chicken and sausage gumbo. The cup was a typical sample size, but somehow the lovely young lady filling my sample cup managed to get both a piece of chicken and a piece of sausage in it, and it was delicious. I decided right then and there that I would head back someday and get lunch.

Too many options, IJS.

Today in Philadelphia it’s cold and miserable. I had packed a bologna sandwich with some fruit, chips and cookies, but the weather really called for hot soup, and my preference is hot spicy soup, and gumbo fits that bill. So I set out on a quest for the one true lunch. I took no companions because I didn’t want them cramping my style. I have no real evidence of this but I suspect that people who have first dates at Reading Terminal Market don’t make it to second dates.

“So where do you want to eat, dear?”

“Oh I don’t know, where do you want to eat?”

“How about here.”

“Do you want to eat there?”

“I don’t know, do you?”

“How about here?”

“Do you like that food?”

“Do you?”

And assuming the guy hasn’t gone all Kensington Strangler on his date by this point, the couple likely winds up eating at Chili’s which, whatever its demerits, is at least predictable.

Where was I? Oh yeah, the gumbo.

So I order the chicken and sausage gumbo, and here’s the part they don’t tell you when they sample—IT’S SERVED OVER RICE!!!!!! The sample was not served over rice; the sample came in a small free cup. Basically, the gumbo at the Cajun place is an exercise in selling rice for $7 because by the time the little twit filled my bowl with heaping spoonfuls of rice there wasn’t much room for the gumbo, and despite my best efforts the rice managed to absorb most of the gumbo sauce so I was left eating a flavorless bowl of rice with a couple of pieces of sausage.

And the whole exercise came to $9.40 because I wanted something to drink (next time I’m bringing my own bottled water) and Philadelphia sales tax is 8 percent.

From now on, I’m sticking to the free samples.
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I remind him what he ripped off from me and his love of the free sample guy in The Gallery:
“So I set out on a quest for the one true lunch. I took no companions because I didn’t want them cramping my style.”

You’re welcome.

“From now on, I’m sticking to the free samples.”

…and retarded people.
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J retorts:

Hey man, if we’re going to share a brain I’m going to use your material sometimes.

My little retarded friend was at Chic Fil A today, but he was back wiping the counter, which is a degrading waste of his time because he’s actually really good at passing out free chicken, not that it’s hard, but you know, when someone does something right you want to acknowledge it in a world where all we do is criticize people, so what I’m saying is, HERE’S TO YOU RETARDED YOUNG MAN AT CHIC FIL A! THANK YOU FOR YOUR EXCELLENCE!!

You know what else I learned about free samples today in the Gallery?

First, the samples at Charley’s Cheese steaks are way better than the actual sandwiches you pay for. Even controlling for the fact that the samples are free, they never get the sandwiches right. But if you hit the free sample lady at just the right time it’s the perfect taste.

Second, if you’re getting sick of Bourbon Chicken, walk by one of the stands and wait for them to ask if you want a free sample. You can ask for whatever you want. Today I asked to sample their General Tso’s chicken knowing full well what it tastes like. I suppose when you have an interaction with the person behind the counter, as opposed to a sad, silent type standing in the crossway with a piece of chicken on a toothpick, you might feel more of a sense to buy lunch there. I didn’t. I took my sample and walked away, but a person with social graces might.
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I remind him:

I’m pretty sure you already did several posts about free samples in the Gallery…specifically Charley’s Cheese and how their samples are more delicious than their actual product.

Some might call it a repeat…more genius staff assistants would say you’ve gone into syndication.

And, as a generalist, I too applaud the retarded young man at Chic Fil-he has become a master of a specific craft and he needs to be recognized. He has succeeded in specificity in a way I have not…bravo!
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J:
Or perhaps that I’m resting on my laurels. The Gallery is a gift that keeps on giving when it comes to material. Today I noticed four uniformed and well armed security agents leaning on a post talking to each other, interested in nothing so much as their own engaging conversation. You could have held someone up at gun point and they might not have noticed. Made me feel a lot safer.

When you find yourself being a bit jealous of a man who’s main job function is passing out chicken on a toothpick you perhaps need to reevaluate your choices. I’m just saying.
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Me:
Remember that article Nancy sent us about that strangling that happened at 11 a.m. last week in the Gallery? Yeah-made me feel great about unknowingly spending my lunch break there at Five Below on the same day.

Reevaluate my choices I am. Maybe instead of working in an office, I could work in an ice cream shop. I’d really love scooping ice cream all day and handing out cones to people. I mean, you get to give people ICE CREAM all day.

Hey-maybe I’ll see if Ben & Jerry’s is hiring…
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J, for the last time:
Yeah I remember. I walk through the Gallery regularly. I know exactly where it happened and exactly where he was found. I see people screaming at each other there all the time.

I was at the library this afternoon over my lunch break. I saw that some janitorial services was hiring. Third shift, cleaning office buildings. For a moment, I considered it. I loved being a janitor. I actually considered applying to my campus department after graduating. I found the work satisfying, I liked the people (and not just the other students, the full time folks who have made custodial services at a small Christian liberal arts college their career) but then my friend Jeannine’s mom said I was nuts and she was right, so I took the path I’m currently on. But there are moments when I’m being figuratively shit on that I think to myself, it would be better to just literally clean up people’s shit because at least then I wouldn’t be fooling anyone about what my job is or my station in life.

Ben & Jerry’s is awesome. They have a policy that the top executives cannot make more than seven times what the people on the lowest rung make. In practice, this means they have a hard time finding executive talent, but it probably also means you can make quite a lot selling ice cream and no one yells at the ice cream man.

No Subject

J writes via e-mail today at 1:53 p.m.:

I hate being disappointed with food, but after walking a block out of my way and spending $5.94 I am calling them out. Paganos. Your pizza sucked today. It reeked of sucktitudinosity. I wouldn’t eat it again if someone paid me to. It was dry. It was tasteless. It was way below what is normally served by your restaurant.

That's a mess.

You’re slacking. I don’t appreciate it.

I ordered steak and bacon and chicken and bacon. Both tasted dried out if they tasted like anything at all.

The pizza crust was chewy instead of that thin crispness.

In short, it sucked, and I had anticipated it too. Was really looking forward to it.

Thank you, Paganos, for ruining my day.

On Free Samples at The Gallery

Via e-mail yesterday at 1:56 p.m. (I took a sick day Tuesday)
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J writes:

So in my never-ending quest to act like a homeless person even though I make enough money to support a middle class lifestyle, I managed to scrounge an almost complete lunch today from free samples.

The Gallery Mall is a smorgasbord of this.

The cheese-steak stand (not a truck, so the sandwiches are about three times the price and frankly not as good—I think it’s called Charley’s Fried Subs or something) is always giving away samples of its California Chicken Cheese steak (a chicken cheese steak with ranch sauce and cheese) and its pretty good. Word to the wise though, the samples are better than the actual sandwich. I believe it was at the point where I suspected I had consumed a sandwich worth of samples that I broke down and bought the sandwich. The sample girl smiled; she had done her job that day she figured. Thing was, the sandwich itself was not as good as the sample. Not sure why, just know what was.

There’s also a collection of sort of Chinese places that give out samples of a chicken that I think is either bourbon chicken or teriyaki chicken, depends on the place. Either way it’s pretty good. Another word to the wise though, these Asian women are pretty sharp. If you walk the length of the Gallery mall and try to make another pass through for a free sample, she’ll pull the tray away and say, “no you’ve already taken a sample,” in broken English. It’s pretty gutsy and probably a power trip for a just-off-the-boat immigrant making a living passing out chicken on a toothpick, but then again I’m trying to scam an extra free sample on my way back to work, so it’s hard to know what’s more wrong with this picture.

I’ve sort of made a game about collecting free samples and I consider it a red letter day when my retarded friend is passing out samples at the Chic-Fila. I have no way of knowing if he’s actually retarded or not, but I do know he takes an inordinate amount of pleasure from passing out free samples, so I figure he’s not quite all there. This man is king of the sample universe as far as I’m concerned. Some days he gives out chicken nuggets, other days those milk shakes the store was promoting. One day, he actually gave out pieces of a chicken sandwich. I was in flavor country. He even let me take two unlike that Asian bitch from the sort of Chinese stand. You’d think his generosity would make me buy more items from Chic Fila, but alas when they charge $3.09 for their new Spicy Chicken sandwich it just makes me hope that he’ll put more samples out.
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I respond (at 11:52 a.m. today):

Edgy and awesome.

Also, you spelled Chik-Fil-A wrong. Or whatever.

By the way…

Via e-mail at 3:24 p.m.
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J writes:

…you’d be proud of me. I had a chicken cutlet sandwich for lunch. It had broccoli rabe on it. I ate the first half of the sandwich with the broccoli rabe on it. Not the second half, but the first half I did. It’s growth man, growth.
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I respond:

I AM so proud!

Could you even taste the rabe? Or was it a texture thing?
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J bounces back:

A little of both. My previous experience with broccoli rabe was that it was almost inconsequential. It was small flecks of green stuff that claimed to be broccoli, but I couldn’t tell. More importantly, I couldn’t really taste broccoli, so I just went with it. This sandwich had huge broccoli florets that were impossible to avoid and, well, tasted a lot like broccoli. The problem was this sandwich had the sharp provolone cheese melted on top of it, so you couldn’t just pick the broccoli off without losing the cheese. On the second half of the sandwich I cut my losses.

Actually I spent most of the lunch distracted by the bread crumb in R’s head.
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I retort:

Are you one of those people that doesn’t like broccoli? Or more accurately, one of “those people” that despises it?

Because I love Love LOVE broccoli. It’s one of the only vegetables I have liked all of my life. However, I only like it fresh (not cooked).

So I can see how broccoli rabe may have been a challenge for you as far as texture goes. But taste…mmmmm, broccoli tastes delish.

In regards to the cheese on top of the broccoli, I don’t understand why restaurants put cheese anywhere on a sandwich but directly on top (or on bottom) of the hunk of meat the sandwich is built around. I really don’t. This is why Taco Bell confuses me. PUT THE CHEESE DIRECTLY ON TOP OF THE MEAT.  It’s like they don’t want the cheese to melt.

But regardless, I am proud-very. Is Indian food up next?

Also-who is R?
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J writes back:

I don’t like broccoli. If that’s wrong, then I don’t want to be right. I don’t even like the look or the smell of it.

Your point on how cheese must be on top of meat is valid and well taken. The thing is though, with this sandwich, the cheese had melted on top of the broccoli, but when I attempted to remove the broccoli I managed to save most of the cheese, because as anyone who knows about cheese will tell you, provolone does not melt well.

It also didn’t help that R had ordered a vegetable sandwich; that was two points against her from the start.

I’ve had Indian food. Didn’t I tell you about my adventures at the Indian food buffet?

R is the new ***** ****** person in the ** office.
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Just a Recommendation

Via e-mail today at 12:35 p.m.
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J writes:

No witticisms or deep thoughts today, just a recommendation. Food trucks are great, cheap and reliable but because we live in Philadelphia and not New York they pretty much all serve the same thing.

Not the food truck at the corner of 5th and Chestnut, however. Outside the Lights of Liberty lobby a couple of men of unknown ethnic origin make the best, and I mean the best, grilled chicken sandwich. They call it fresh grilled chicken and it’s spiced unbelievably. I had a fresh grilled chicken cheese steak today that was light years better than the “steakum” variety served at most food trucks.

Give it a try, you will not be disappointed.

Unless you are like the moderator of this blog and you don’t eat either meat of cheese.

I guess N can keep her $4.

Cheese

Via e-mail at 2:02 p.m. today:
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J writes:

It appears that one of my favorite food trucks near the Public Ledger Building across from Independence Park, roughly 5th and Walnut, has begun feeling the effects of the recession. That is they have raised the price of cheese from $.25 to $.50. I’ll admit it’s hardly a budget buster for me, and when you sell as many cheeseburgers or cheese hot dogs as they do, it likely helps their bottom line, but here’s the incongruity—the price of everything else has not changed. And they don’t charge for a lot of other things.

At lunch today I got a kielbasa. I had them put it on the grill (they are always better grilled and they have to be just shy of burnt to get the full effect) and dressed it up with fried onions, brown mustard and, of course, the aforementioned cheese. Total cost: $3.00. Money well spent. Without the cheese it would have been $2.50. Without the onions and mustard, it still would have been $3.00.

What makes cheese so special that they feel entitled to charge $.50 for it? And why do we pay?

My sandwich had a lot, I mean a lot, of onions. Free.

They were also quite generous with the mustard. Free.

Cost of grilling (some trucks charge an extra $.25 for “anything on the grill.”). Also free.

Sandwiches often rise and fall on the quality of their condiment supplements. Even as Heinz dominates the ketchup market, we all know not all mustards are created equal. When you are making sandwiches in volume, condiments are a cost to consider.

When I was a kid, my McDonald’s hamburger came with three pickles. Today, they come with one. What’s a pickle? Nothing, unless you are making as many hamburgers as McDonalds, in which case it’s a big item on your condiment budget. If I wanted extra pickles I suppose I could get them, but they’d likely charge me for them, like they do for the extra sauce packets I keep in my refrigerator because my kids won’t eat regular bar-b-q sauce and I have yet to find an equivalent for their hot mustard.

But I digress…

You know how much McDonald’s charges for cheese?

$.30.

What a world.