Thursday, November 12, 2009

Hot Dog!

I knew that we were going to end up at Burger ‘n’ Beyond (979 Farmington Ave. Farmington, CT) when we first drove by. It just looked right, set apart in its own building, refusing to socialize with the other stores. The exterior was plain; the name said it all, so what more did anybody need to know? It promised to be a joint that dished out good old comfort fast food, one of the remaining holdouts against the bland conformity of a chain restaurant world.  I’m a sucker for places like this, the unique places that a lot of people don’t value until they’ve vanished.

Sure enough, my Wolf Conservation Center colleagues and I rolled up to the entrance a few hours later, famished after completing a program at a nearby nature center.  Our faces fell when we realized that we had arrived a few minutes after the posted closing time, but the owner smiled and quickly reassured us she was still open.  She wasn’t going to let us drive away hungry even though it was obvious that she and her daughter had already cleaned up the kitchen for the night.

The menu surprised me. The “Beyond” extended to pasta dishes, fried seafood, vegetarian options, soups and salads. The burgers looked great, but I opted for a cup of the tasty Tuscan Bean with Sausage soup and a Beyond’s Home Dog. I even felt healthy eating this grilled hot dog  - there were so many fresh toppings on it I felt like I had ordered a side salad.  No stinting on portions here; they even put an extra meatball in the order bound for the canines waiting in our van.

The friendly attitude and drive-in service (if you call in an order they’ll bring it out to your car if you ask) aren’t the only throwbacks - the prices are so low I thought they had miscalculated our bill. A half-pound burger is just under $4.00.  I know I’ll be swinging by again to try one out the next time I’m in the area. Then again, the wings are enticing, and the Golden Retriever dog with bacon looks good…

Monday, November 2, 2009

And We're Off...

   Phobjikha Valley, Bhutan

I blame it on my grandparents. They’re the ones who first took me travelling, bundling me off to exotic locales like Panama, Grenada, and Arizona. What was not to like? The fun? The different cultures (not so much Arizona, though it might have marked my first meal at a Denny’s)? The free stuff on the plane? A kid could really clean up back then, what with all the airline comic books, replica pilot’s wings, and silverware for the taking. I must have had enough flatware to throw a small dinner party, complete with complimentary unused airsickness bags if the food were subpar.

And then there were the stories, often told so frequently they passed into family legend. They always served as far better souvenirs than any tchotchke ever could, though sometimes a souvenir magnet might have sufficed. Do we really need to hear about the irony of my crying that time on a ship when I was presented with a crib rather than a bed? Better that we talk about the time our rental car was stolen in Barcelona, or the time in Turkey when my grandfather inadvertently wore a hat that was meant for circumcision candidates. I wasn’t even there for that one, but I know the story so well it’s as if I had been.

Even a simple local drive could turn into an adventure as my sisters and I gave my grandmother random directions (“turn right, now left”) in a game of Get Lost. Only dinnertime or military intervention (we dead-ended at the entrance of a Coast Guard station manned by armed guards) could halt our expeditions.

It’s been a few decades since we negotiated the back roads of Long Island in my grandmother’s copper-colored Plymouth Duster, and a couple of years since my grandparents’ long and entertaining story came to an end. Thanks to them, though, I’m still playing Get Lost, admittedly sometimes unintentionally, still on the lookout for good stories and, of course, free stuff.
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Gotta Gettaway by Josh Lewis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.