Friday, April 27, 2012

The adventure that inspired the blog

(Not a picture of actual catfish consumed, although it looks pretty close)

It’s seven o’clock and I haven’t eaten. I could do the ole standby: fried eggs and corned beef hash or go out. The question is, where? I could grab a Domino’s carryout special and bring it back, or find a place to sit down and relax for a bit. The idea of sitting and being waited on sounds more and more appealing.

There’s place behind the neighborhood called Captain Morgan’s. Cute huh? It’s on Morgan Road, so…Captain Morgan’s. They have decent seafood, and do a pretty good job with “blacked” tilapia and even catfish.

I pull into the parking lot and the lights are off, “For Lease” sign is on the window. Crap. Now what? I pull into a parking space. Facing the shopping center I consider my options. There’s a Subway, behind me is Arby’s, Waffle House, McDonald’s, and a Chinese place. Oh yeah, I overlooked the Railroad CafĂ© in the same shopping center I’m parked in.

I’ve eaten at this Railroad place once or twice for lunch. Wasn’t really impressed with the service, or the food for that matter. But as I consider my options, I figure this place will at least have catfish and that is pretty close to what I was originally going out for.

Deep sigh, I walk in. I’m greeted by at least five different handwritten signs on colored paper, taped to the walls and windows. Something about Wednesday “Nite” kids special. Something about all you can eat pancakes. Something about shrimp. I stop to glance them over but it’s too much to take in. I walk to the counter where three ladies promptly stare at me.
“Seat yourself?”
“Yeah, anywhere you like.”

It’s a pretty thin crowd so I choose a smaller table towards the middle of the room. I have a sort of complex about having my back to the door. Call it, too many Godfather movies. Whatever. So I sit with my back to the wall, facing the middle of the dining area, facing the front door.

Waitress comes and takes my drink order, water. I might be treating myself but I’m still on a budget. She comes back with the water and tells me I can still order off the lunch menu at the lunch menu price. I ask about the Thursday Night special I saw in the menu. All you can eat catfish, “whole,” it says.
“Now is that a WHOLE catfish or like two fillets?”
“It’s like a fillet.”
“Is it fried or grilled, or do I have an option?”
“It’s fried.”
“Hmmm Oh you have pork chops on the lunch menu….Oh it’s fried too huh?”
“Yeah I can probably get them to grill it.”
“Well, I’ll just go with the catfish special.”
That is what I came in for. The menu says it’s served with fries, slaw, and hushpuppies.
So I ask, “Do the hushpuppies come out first? Or do they come out with the meal?”
“I’ll check. Different cooks do things differently,” she says as she walks away.
“Oh boy,” I muttered only audible to the nearly empty room.

Now this is where I start to ponder, who runs this restaurant? Who runs the kitchen?
Each cook is free to decide how each plate will go out and in what order? Do the cooks not confer with each other? How do they know they are making consistent dishes from shift to shift if each cook is doing his own thing?

She never comes back to tell me whether the hushpuppies will come out before or with the meal, she just brings the meal with the hushpuppies. Ok, no big deal. Looking at the plate I immediately notice something is aloof.

That is not a fillet. That is a whole catfish. Two, whole catfishes sitting atop a pile of french fries. Well, this is new for me. I’ve never tackled cutting into a catfish still on the skeleton, but at least I know there are tiny little bones in there that would be rather uncomfortable if I were to swallow them.

As I contemplate my next move I take a bite into a hushpuppy. Cold and chewy. Tossing the uneaten half of the puppy that has been forever hushed back into the basket, I turn back to the task before me. I figured, “I guess I’ll take a knife to it, cut it off the skeleton onto the plate.”

Mild success. I look at the skeleton, then at the small pile of fish, back at the skeleton, back at the fish on the plate. That sure was a lot of work for so little fish. Oh well, one more fish to go. A little easier the second go-around.

The fish is now mixed in with the fries. It’s kind of difficult to maneuver around the fries. Managing to scoop up some fish with a french fry, I finally taste the fruit of my labor. Wow, that really doesn’t taste like much of anything. The fries weren’t salted and the fish….the fish….sure was bland and boring. I know I’ve had fried catfish before, but I sure remember it tasting more….better.

Hello salt and pepper! I pile the ebony and ivory all over the plate and try again. At least now it tastes like something. Waitress comes back now.
“Everything okay?”
“I guess we can go ahead and put another order in,” I tell her as I look back down at the rest of the fish that I will probably be able to finish in two or three more forkfuls.

Eerily quick two more whole catfish are on my table. I ask for some lemon slices this time to try and liven it up. It worked, much tastier with lemon than salt and pepper.

As I’m finishing this round of fish, I’m noticing the last table in the dining room is paying their bill. I look at my watch: 7:50. The waitress comes back again.
“Do you guys close at eight?”
“8:30. You have plenty of time.”
“Ok. One more order then. I’ll be done after that.”

Out of the blue I hear a familiar tune. What is that? I look at the television on the wall that I’ve been consciously trying to avoid watching. Is FoxNews playing Marilyn Manson? The TV has been muted this whole time, why am I hearing it now? Sure enough, it’s the creepy, growling lyrics from Sweet Dreams by Marilyn Manson coming from somewhere.  I realize it must be from the kitchen. Waitress comes back with my last order.
“Do you mind if we turn off the Marilyn Manson?”
“Sure. That’s the dishwasher, he always blasts it.”
Another server who has been walking around walks by my table and chuckles, “Did you ask her to turn it off?”
“Uh…yeah. Maybe that’s the mood you guys are going for but I’d rather try to enjoy my meal without that in the background.”
“Well we usually have country playing all the time and people don’t seem to like that either so we usually just keep the news on.”
My patience and interest in this conversation is gone. I just nod my head.

A man comes out from the kitchen, probably in his 50’s, and asks my waitress from across the dining room, “Who asked you to turn it off?”
“That guy,” she said. She didn’t have to point since I was the only one in the room. He didn’t look around because he knew, he knew I was the only one in the restaurant.
“He must be a nerd,” he says back to her, still from the other side of the dining room  and turns to face the TV that I am forced to look at based by where I’m sitting.

I look left. Look right. Is there a hidden camera around here? Is this a joke? I stare at the back of his head wondering if he is going to turn around. I stare and stare and stare. Do I say something? Do I wait for him to turn around and look at me? He walks back into the kitchen, never looking at me.

Now I’m done. I’m really done. I take my ticket and walk to the counter.
“Did that guy call me a nerd?”
“Did he? I don’t know. I don’t listen to him,” she lied, “well how was everything?” she continued.
“It….was… experience.”
Railroad Cafe on Urbanspoon


  1. That IS quite an adventure!! Wow! Now that you're blogging, you'll find that you LOVE ridiculous situations like that, because it gives you something to write about. That's how I feel, anyway!!

  2. My husband often picks up dinner for us there and I am always leery, as I am a vegetarian. He typically orders a veggie plate for me, with vegetables that no one ever seasons with meats. He brought home what they refer to as squash casserole and assured him there were no meat seasonings or broths in it. It is not squash casserole. It is chicken and squash casserole, which I immediately knew when I tried one bite, and spit it out. I find it interesting that one of their labels on review sites is vegetarian. They have no idea what that term means. (On another note, neither does The Bright Star. One day when I was having lunch with my husband there, I was asking the server whether a particular vegetable was meat seasoned. One of the brothers who own it, turned around and said to me, "Well, it doesn't have much meat in it.")

    1. Ha! I can't believe they are still open. I think it says more about the available food choices around than the restaurant.