I recently wrote a post pontificating on the way I travel. I mentioned how I will often push people, when I travel to tell me about their favorite restaurants. “Tell me where you eat.” I don’t care where they send other out of towners, where do YOU eat?
In Memphis a few years ago, while I was still recovering from the Crippling of Tim, I asked several people at the Doubletree….yes, I was a Hilton guy for a year or two. The woman at the front desk took good care of me – she got me extra pillows (I needed a bunch because I needed to sleep in a certain position to ensure my arm wouldn’t get hurt overnight), she gave me three cookies (1 because I was checking in and two because I was “a funny white boy”). She was great.
I thought I had a rapport with her. When I asked about her favorite restaurants around, she gave me all the official crap within walking distance. She gave me chain restaurants. She gave me hotel restaurants. She wouldn’t answer the question though.
I felt like I was battling her. She finally admitted that she doesn’t know where her favorite restaurant is. Not as in she as too many to pick just one, but that she has never actually visited her favorite restaurant. The lead valet goes to get her BBQ sometimes and she loves it. She said she would let him know I wanted food and he would go get it for me.
I politely declined and made my way to the valet stand. I found the young man who the woman at reception had mentioned. Like her, he was very hesitant about giving me details. After about 5 minutes, he acquiesced. The place was just a block or two from the hotel, not far off Beale and down the the basement of some building.
I walked in and felt marginally out of place. I was one of 2 white guys in this dank basement that smelled of amazing BBQ. I was the only one wearing a suit too. I was between meetings that evening and didn’t want to change then change back.
I sit at the counter and was greeted by a young round beautiful woman. She was probably 20. I asked what she recommended and our interaction still makes me smile today:
Her: My favorite? Do you trust me?
Me: Sure, why not.
Her: How much you wanna spend? Cash only.
Me: Cash Only?? I’ve got $20.
Her: Shit, you can buy the whole restaurant for $30 (everyone around laughs….mostly at my expense). I got you baby.
A few minutes later she brings out my meal, which was a basic buffet of all of their items. I had ribs, tips, brisket, beans, corn, slaw and even a dessert (I had a choice between a twinkle and a ho ho, I chose the latter).
The food was stellar, the people looked shocked that I was sitting with them eating at the counter. Most people were getting theirs to go. The gentleman next to me was having a heated phone conversation. As he hung up, it was clear he had some business to take care of. He angrily stood up, slammed his gun (nary a gun, but a veritable hand cannon) on the counter, pulled out a wad of cash and handed it to the waitress, gave her a hug – he did this to the chef as well – bid them adieu and walked out. Before he got to the door he turned and yelled back “When you bringing your baby girl back in?” To which the waitress said “She’s got school now, she’ll be back this summer.” It was a surreal experience.
I finished every bite on my plate, for two reasons. For one, it was truly a great meal and two, every eye in that place was on me. I asked for my check and was given a hand written receipt that showed I owed $13. I thanked her, gave her the $20 bill I had in my pocket and left. She shook my hand and gave me a very heartfelt thank you.
As I crossed the threshold at the entrance to this restaurant she yells up to me, “Next time your in town, we best be seeing you again.”
I am so happy I pushed the hotel employees for a recommendation. Speaking of, when I finally made it back to the hotel, after dinner and after my evening meetings, I was walking to the elevator and both the valet and the woman from reception asked if I enjoyed dinner. They waited with bated breath. The sense of relief was visible on their face, but the food was fabulous, I told them. I told them of the man with the gun and they were disappointed, not shocked though.
I continued to the elevator and I hear my name (not Tim, but by my surname), I turn around and see the woman from reception holding two glasses of wine, one white and one red, each with saran wrap atop. She reminded me that I had missed the hotel lobby happy hour and didn’t know what kind of wine I liked, so she save one of each for me. The white was kept in the cooler too.
I loved this interaction with the folks at this Doubletree. It took some work, but I got what I wanted and they were able to share something wonderful about their home.
I love travel. How about you?