A Vegan in a Steakhouse
By Contributing Writer
My Dad is a great guy. Almost everyone he meets finds him charming and interesting; and I agree. He’s also very kind and generous, inviting me out to dinner whenever he’s in town. Up until about a year ago though, he was fond of inviting me to the local Black Angus Steakhouse due to his interest in their Baby Back Rib dinner. I believe until recently he thought a plain baked potato and iceberg lettuce salad with a few cherry tomatoes lolling about on the edges was doing the trick for me.
But after four or five visits to this place positioned almost diametric to my diet and lifestyle values, I began to fantasize about a jailbreak. Not wanting to hurt his feelings, I came up with a compromise I felt might work. One day I got their take-out menu and began highlighting all of the vegan items. From this, I came up with a sandwich very similar to the following, which isn’t on their menu:
Grilled Portobello mushroom
With this typed out, I popped it in my pocket the next time my Dad invited me to eat there. It was an early bird special night, so there were a number of seniors waiting for a seat as we arrived. Many had grins on their faces, no doubt anticipating the items they were soon to slice and fork into their mouth in the privacy of their high-backed banquette seats and subdued lighting bathed in soothing AC.
Lead by a cute ponytailed hostess to our table, I gazed at the archetypal photographs of men with lassos and fiery brands chasing faceless cattle over a plain of tumbleweeds, and returned her sweet smile as she handed us our two-foot high menus. For once I didn’t have to stare at each page, again quixotically hoping something appetizing would jump out at me this one time. I simply closed the menu and chatted with my Dad (who already knew what he was going to order).
After my Dad ordered from the server she asked, “And for you?” With anticipation I handed her my small piece of paper. She asked, “What’s this?” I said every one of the items listed are accompaniments to their existing entrees or elsewhere on the menu. She looked a bit shocked but said, “I’ll ask the chef.” A few minutes later, a tall man in a toque and white outfit from the kitchen shyly introduced himself as he looked down at my small sheet of paper in his hand. He looked puzzled but a little intrigued.
“Is a potato bun okay?” I said sure. “And would you like some plain or sweet potato fries?” Sweet potato, please. “Okay, we’ll see what we can do,” he said. About fifteen minutes later, my sandwich arrived. Though a bit soggy, it was the first square meal I had there since I was a child when I used to come with my family. Then about ten minutes after my Dad and I finished, the chef re-emerged, asking with real interest, “How was it?” I said excellent. He smiled and said, “Good to hear.” This is the first time I’ve ever seen a chef in the dining area of a Black Angus.
A few months later I tried the same thing, but a different server said, “I’ll have to check with the kitchen.” But on return she confirmed, “They all remember you – not a problem.” I like to imagine maybe what the conversations were like in some of the homes of the kitchen workers after my visits, telling their significant other while lying in bed, “You won’t believe what happened at work tonight..”