Sunday, September 6, 2015

Sour Cream and Onion Burger: Iowa City 1982

After a night in the bars we'd sometimes hop in Matt's car and drive to Coralville where the all night diners were.

My favorite was the Perkins.

Perkins had decent late-drunk-night service and a menu with all these different burgers on it. Burgers that were--for that time--somewhat eccentric. I always ordered the Sour Cream and Onion Burger with fries and I would dump ketchup all over it and alongside it and around it and probably some mustard too. I'd drink coffee even though I wasn't having eggs.

Those late-drunk-night diners could get rather freewheeling. I remember the table next to us one time getting in a syrup fight. Yes, syrup. I feel sorry for the waitress, manager and clean-up person even to this day.

Anyway, I'd eat my burger and my fries in a rather fast and mechanical way. I recall one of my friends--Jeff Wheeler? I don't remember his name exactly as he was not one of my close friends and he was from Osage, Iowa and I'd ask him about that small town and it was kind of a running joke between us (why do I think everyone's name was Jeff? I bet his name wasn't Jeff, but it was, I'm pretty certain, Wheeler and he was, definitely, from Osage)--he was watching me and said something like: "That guy knows what he's doing" as I went through my meal with a rhythmic chop and chomp.

But now that I think of it, we rarely if ever tipped the waitresses. We were no doubt loud and obnoxious--not as bad as the syrup fighters, but still . . . And eventually Matt got into the unfortunate habit of doing some dine and dashes--not paying for his meal. That never happened when I was with him but he'd told me about it and eventually he'd dined-and-dashed once too often and the waitress recognized him and they held him.

I was there that time and they basically held the whole table there and made sure we all paid. I felt insulted. It never occurred to me to not pay. But, later, I understood. Guilt by association. I think Matt had to pay for back meals.

Still, I never tipped. I'm not sure why. Stinginess, yes, but also I plead ignorance. Lack of experience. Not understanding how the system actually worked. I don't think I got it until I went to Santa Fe and worked as a waiter. Now I almost always over-tip.

My neo-compensation for those Sour Cream and Onion Burgers will never reach the ones who deserve it.

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