Tag Archives: office dining

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?

Yankee Candles: the bane of the holiday season.

As injustices go, it doesn’t quite rank up there with starvation in Ethiopia, child prostitution in Thailand, Nelson Mandela’s imprisonment for resisting apartheid in South Africa, or the Holocaust, but I for one am sick of going to my office refrigerator and finding ice cube trays with one lonely ice cube. Come on people, what am I supposed to do with this? Couldn’t you have put that ice cube in your cup and refilled the tray? Who does that?

Spare me the lecture about how this just shows that Americans in general, and me in particular, have truly run out of things to worry about. Yes, we probably have. But that hasn’t stopped us from worrying and complaining.

Perhaps it’s the holidays. I think they make everyone depressed.

Those of us lucky enough to have families dread the thought of having to spend time with them, while lonely people wish anyone would be there to open presents with on Christmas Eve. True story–I once read a post on craigslist.com from a woman called, “Spend Christmas Eve with me.” She was alone, she didn’t want to be and she would welcome anyone to her house who wanted to spend Christmas Eve decorating her tree and listening to Christmas Carols. She ended the post by saying that men who were looking for something sexual should look elsewhere. My guess is she either spent the night with a lot of lonely women and their cats or is dead in a ditch somewhere; there really isn’t much in between on this one.

Those of us lucky enough to have money wind up spending it on a lot of meaningless garbage and running up debt, while those who do not have money have to answer some poor little kids question about why Santa couldn’t make it to his house. Nothing depresses me more than the thought of a kid with nothing to open Christmas morning, and I blame Yankee Candle for the whole mess. Seriously, Yankee Candle has become the new paperweight. Ever thought about how meaningless a paperweight is as a gift? Do you know of many offices that have a lot of windstorms that require us to have a special item to keep our papers from blowing away? My office doesn’t even have a window, and even if it did I’m not opening it in January. I might open it in April, but by then I would have forgotten about your damn paperweight.

Yankee Candles though are a travesty on the American economy. In my house we buy them in bulk and give them to people we feel obligated to give gifts to but don’t care enough about to actually think about what they would truly want. My guess is I’m not the only one who does this, and because we give them out before Christmas I also suspect that many of them get re-gifted at office parties and large family gatherings where people do not notice.

Oi vey.

Office Christmas parties are now in full swing depriving the American economy of much needed productivity. Seriously, if you are out of work and looking for a job you may as well stop until after new year’s because the decision makers are all on vacation and HR is busy planning the office party. Beyond the office party there are a lot of departmental parties and a lot of unnecessary gift swapping.

Whoever thought office gift swapping was a good idea ought to be taken out in the street and pelted with Yankee Candles. Most of these are “Yankee Swap” (Damn Yankees ruined everything, let’s hope the South rises again—Lee surrendered I didn’t!—Where was I? Oh yeah, office gift giving) where people have between $10 and $15 to come up with a gift that everyone might like. All these gifts go in a pile and people pick from the pile. Then the next person has the option of stealing your gift or picking from the pile.

I did this for three years at one of my old jobs. Every year I did the same thing. I would go to the local convenience store, buy a gift card for the exact amount of the Yankee Swap and put it in the pile. When my turn came, I would pick it and act surprised. Curiously, no one ever wanted my convenience store gift card and I would just fill up my gas tank and buy a Slim Jim on the way home. All things considered, a very Merry Christmas.

Gift Cards are great though because while they used to require thought they really don’t anymore. Used to be you had to at least be aware of where the person likes to shop, but now you can buy gift cards at your bank. And this is different than cash, how? Maybe it’s better if I don’t ask.

It will all be over soon, and then we’ll be in to gift returning season because, honestly, even if you are a conscientious person trying to do right by everyone on your gift list you are going to screw it up somewhere and that Yankee Candle is going right back to the store.

The tradition of returns is as old as Christmas itself. When Jesus was born away in a manger some well meaning kings, or wise men depending on your translation, brought gold, frankincense and myrrh to a screaming child (I don’t buy the “little lord Jesus no crying he make” line for a minute—I’ve raised two babies). After Mary graciously accepted these gifts, she likely ran out to the first century equivalent of Wal Mart and promptly exchanged them for some Yankee Candles.

Now who wants pie?

Tis the season for…

J writes via email:

It occurs to me that with Thanksgiving next week, we have now officially entered the holiday season. Retailers, desperate to squeeze the last dollar out of a beleaguered consumer, started their sales a lot earlier this year which makes me wonder, are there any chumps who pay full price for anything anymore? Probably we all are because retailers aren’t chumps either and they likely mark everything up so they can mark everything down in time for us to fill each other’s lives with a lot of cheap imports so we can alleviate the guilt that comes from ignoring each other all year.

Christmas is a uniquely obtrusive holiday because it leaves everyone depressed. First there are the truly less fortunate who can barely make ends meet throughout the year and certainly don’t have the resources to fill the area under the tree with a lot of wrapped up crap, or even much less afford a tree. My heart breaks when I think of kids who don’t get anything for Christmas, especially when I consider that most everyone I know will exacerbate the trade imbalance with China as we fill our kids lives with a lot of cheap plastic crap that will either be broken inside of two hours, forgotten inside of three weeks and out in a garage sale inside of four months as the weather gets warm and we go a wassailing through people’s driveways in search of things that they couldn’t even care enough about to get all the way down the driveway to the trash can.

Seriously, ever notice there is only a one letter difference between garage sale and garbage sale? It’s as if someone one day was trying to take out their trash, threw their back out or something and then said, “well maybe I’ll just start putting price tags on things and see what happens.” Thus the underground economy of the garage sale was born, but that’s a topic for another post.

The thing about the holidays is they require a lot of forced socialization. First there are our families—and did you hear the surgeon general wants us to spend Thanksgiving Dinner talking about our family medical histories so we can better understand our genetic risks? True story. I can just see it now.

“Uncle Ed, no one wants to hear what color your shit was yesterday! We’re trying to eat.”

“Hey, I’m just following the surgeon general’s recommendation.”

“Have another glass of gravy and blow it out your ass.”

“Speaking of…”

As if families were not bad enough, there is a lot of forced socialization with our co-workers as we go to departmental Christmas parties, office-wide Christmas parties, industry-convention sponsored Christmas parties, important client Christmas events, and the one at the boss’s house that only a few people are invited to. These are the worst social chores. If you are lucky enough to have gainful employment in this era, you likely spend most of your waking hours there and the last thing you need is to spend even more of it at a holiday party I don’t care how much you like everybody.

Can we all give each other the best Christmas present ever and acknowledge that just because we work together it does not mean that we have to be friends? This does not mean that we don’t like each other, but if you are lonely it’s not my fault and you should not make me feel like it’s my obligation to give you a social life just because we share a cube wall. If you want to be part of a community go join a church. It’s not hard to find one that doesn’t expect all that much from you, especially this time of year. Yes, I’m talking to you Christmas and Easter folks.

But the Christmas Party is the worst social chore.

Employers want to celebrate the end of a good year.

Except…

Unless you work in bankruptcy foreclosures this year pretty much sucked for you. You didn’t get a raise, your sales barely held on and you likely lost your job. If you didn’t lose your job you lived in constant fear of losing it, and you were asked to do more with less as everyone tried to save money. So it seems like the easiest way to save even more money is to not have a catered affair with a lot of alcohol, the bill for which could easily have paid the salary of the staff assistant that was let go to save money.

That level of holiday cheer never happens...in offices.

The holidays are a reason to celebrate.

Except…

No one can agree on if it’s ok to say Merry Christmas because we’re all walking on eggshells trying to be polite to everyone. So I’m just going to say it. Starting on November 26, when I say goodbye to you, I’m going to say Merry Christmas. If you don’t celebrate Christmas, fine, but don’t get all huffy and remind me of your right to ignore a holiday that 99.9 percent of the country celebrates without incident. When you decided to celebrate one of the other holidays you knew you were going to be in a minority, so own it.

That said, I don’t think anyone should be forced to celebrate at a holiday party. Last year at my office there were Christmas carols, and there was talk of a Christmas play. It’s pretty diverse here in terms of faith and I could not think of any way this would not be offensive to someone and fortunately eventually the powers that be saw clear to eliminate the play. The songs stayed, but I compensated by singing “walking round in women’s underwear” as loud as I could.

The Christmas party gives people a reason to socialize with co-workers we wouldn’t normally see…

Except…

I have heard of no stories where this turns out well. Yes, I suppose you could finally meet that cute girl from accounting, but here’s the thing, if you haven’t hooked up by now, she’s probably married or attached, and if she’s not she’s really lonely and you do not want to have to deal with the dysfunction of a lonely person around the holidays.

Plus, if you work in a big office, you won’t see each other again and you’ll likely engage in a drunk hook up that everyone in the office will remember even if they don’t talk about and you’ll become the subject of a whisper campaign that will last until at least the following Christmas party where you’ll get the chance to do it all again.

For some reason, the Christmas parties will go on though and I’ll go to them because I’m obligated to. Because no one wants to be the Grinch.

But I won’t have fun, and neither will you. Maybe we should all just say so.

Now who wants pie?

Chinese Buffets-An American Staple

I hate it when my eating plans get screwed up because it never works out.

I’m not talking about the sort of screwed up eating plans where you plan on eating a bowl of soup by yourself in your one bedroom apartment with no air conditioning, but instead you wind up sitting in a fancy french cafe with the new love of your life because of some fancy new app on your i-phone, which, if the advertising is to be believed, has the capability of making that love connection even if it can’t connect phone calls outside of New York City.

No, I’m talking about when I have set an eating plan for the day and it doesn’t work out the way I wanted.

Normally on Mondays, I eat lunch out and then eat my packed meal in my car on the way to class. Not to bore you with minutiae, but it takes me about one hour and ten minutes to get to my class door-to- door, so I leave at 5:00 and get there in plenty of time for a 6:30 p.m. start time, which is good because I have perfected the art of embarassing students who come in late.

Lately I’ve been rotating my lunch between the food truck that serves the good lamb gyros on 5th and Chestnut outside the Lights of Liberty ticket center; these have been particularly good lately because he’s switched from sliced lamb meat to a big hunk that he cooks and chops up. The other item in my rotation is the bacon cheesesteak with cheez whiz that I discussed previously.

But today, I was tired of both, so I decided to reward myself with Chinese food.

Now, Philadelphia has a lot of Chinese food options; so many as to be overwhelming.

First, there is Chinatown, which has everything you could want in a city where the population is actually mostly African-American or Italian, but our friends from the Far East do try to be as authentic as they can. That’s why I mostly stay away. For every good deal you can get on General Tso’s chicken, there’s the chance you might order General Tso’s chicken feet, which I’m not into. I suppose I could send it back, but what if it’s like their national delicacy or something? I don’t want to offend someone who can talk about me behind my back without me knowing what’s going on.

Fast food Chinese is almost always a bust. I have a cast iron stomach, or I used to–I feel like I’ve been more susceptible lately, but Chinese fast food is almost always disapppointing whether they call it China Express or Panda Village or House of Hung Lo where they serve Creme of Sum Yung Gy, it all sucks. I’ve never had a good experience with fast food Chinese.

And then there’s the truck. Now everyone knows I am a huge fan of food trucks, but the Chinese trucks always disappoint. As far as I can tell, they just deep fry chicken and then put sauce on it. Yes, I know that’s essentially what Chinese is, but we can at least pretend it’s something more when they serve it on a plate with white table cloth.

So my plan was to hit the Super China Buffet on the way to class where I can get a delicious as-many-courses-as-I-care-to-consume for $10.95.

Deep fried meat in sauce...more varieties than colors in the rainbow.

China Buffets are a wonder of modern capitalism. The food is always good, and, this is key, you can avoid the vegetables.

This has always been my beef with Chinese food. Whatever is really good about it often comes mixed with snow peas or brocolli or some other such nonsense that can have the effect of ruining what was otherwise a previously delicious combination of deep fried meat and sauce. But with a China Buffet you can always go back for more if you’ve been overcome by vegetables.

Sometimes I’ve even taken food items that were half meat and half vegetables, left the vegetables on the plate and pushed them aside. When my waitress comes to take my plate, she asks if I’m done and I say “Yes I am.” Yes, I know I’ve left half the food on my plate, but I ate the part that suffered for me and thus kept the balance of the universe in tact, so it’s all good.

N-if I gave you my vegetables next time we are out for Chinese would that be considered sharing?

 As you might guess, the China buffet didn’t work out. I wound up getting out of work too late because of some stupid meeting about a meeting that won’t happen until next year. Moreover, the meeting actually accomplished no action items, which is far too typical of most work meetings, but this blog isn’t about work, which is good because if it was I’d probably use a lot of meaningless phrases like “action items” that almost got caught in my throat as I said it out loud because it’s the sort of corporate gobble-di-gook I said I’d never use, but there it is.

So I would up getting an Italian chicken sandwich from Steak Out to go and woofing it down before class. It’s not a bad sandwich, but its chicken cutlet with provolone and brocolli rabe. No, I don’t pick out the brocolli rabe, but can someone please tell me what’s Italian about brocolli rabe?

And that’s all that is.

Now who wants pie?

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.

Herrs Bar-B-Q Chips

Via e-mail today at 3:02 p.m.
_________________________________________________________________________________
J writes:

I love Herrs bar-b-q chips. And if love is too strong a word to describe how I feel about bar-b-q potato chips, it’s only because the English language makes us use the same word to describe the love for our dog that we have for taco bell or our children.

I’ll admit I never understood the flavor of bar-b-q. We’re not grilling them. And I’m not sure I’ve ever used bar-b-q sauce in grilling anyway.

But the Herrs bar-b-q chips (Gold Bag) are a fine product. For 99 cents, quite satisfying.

Know what I like most about them? The dust that collects at the bottom. I wonder if I worked at the Herrs chip factory they’d let me be the guy who puts the flavoring on the chips. Would I get sick of it after a while? Maybe the flavor dust bin is part of the tour.

I can dream.

Icing, Food on the Floor, and Coke

Via e-mail at 3:13 p.m.
_____________________________________________________________________________
J writes:

We’re living in a society people…can we agree on a couple of things…

it’s OK to eat icing straight out of the can. We all want to, so I’m giving you permission to do so. There is a lot of white cake being made unnecessarily (chocolate cake has its own special merits) so that people can frost it with all manner of deliciousness. This flour could be put to better uses like solving world hunger.

…eating food off your own floor is OK. This only applies to certain food. While it may be fun to see if you can fry an egg on the sidewalk, I don’t recommend eating it if you do. But if you drop a cheese puff on your office floor, go ahead and eat it. You’ll regret that you didn’t later. I mean, you might not admit that you regret it, but you will.

…Coca Cola can solve a lot of the world’s ills. The 80s were a simpler time, when we all had a Coke and a smile. Coke, as we all know, was originally made with cocaine, which was one of the main psychiatric drugs of the late 19th century. Made people extremely happy, at least until they died from heart attacks caused by the cocaine. Now we don’t use cocaine to treat psychiatric disorders. People are miserable and, oddly enough, they are still having heart attacks. So maybe we over-reacted. I’m just saying.