This may be my all-time favorite review from Andria. It's replete with nostalgia, the best made up word ever, and useful information!
3455 Poplar Avenue
Since I've been working nearly every Saturday for the past year, The Admiral has come up with numerous inventive ways of entertaining Miss M on the weekends. Whether this means conquering new playgrounds or shopping for boat accessories, it almost always involves a restaurant lunch. Something about being on an adventure with her dad usually makes Miss M behave for these outings, and they both return home excited about their culinary adventures.
In an effort to include me in one of their bonding moments, my ever dynamic duo invited me out to Perkins on a recent Saturday morning. They'd driven way out to the Perkins in Germantown (what I consider the Baptist Hospital Waiting Room Annex) on their past forays, but this time we decided to stick a little closer to home and only went as far east as Poplar and Highland.
Now, to me, Perkins is the last vestige of the wayward teen. Or at least the bored one. I spent many, many high school nights huddled over a large hot chocolate ($2 minimum per guest, dude!) while my friends and I decompressed after a rowdy night of ACT prep studying or choral performance. At the time, all that mattered about the restaurant was that it was open 24 hours and they were really tolerant of roaming bands of geeks. We weren't paying too much attention to the service or food quality. We just drank our two dollars' worth, sat around as long as they let us, and tried not to provoke the Vo-Tech kids in the smoking section.
So walking into a Memphis Perkins on a Saturday morning at the close of Death Week was a whole new experience. The Admiral had warned me that it would be crowded, and even though it did seem to be packed, we were seated right away. Unfortunately, we were seated right next to the glassed-in smoking section* that appeared to be ventilated directly onto our table. We set to work reviewing the menus while a waitress quickly appeared to take our drink orders. When she saw Mr. Baby tucked happily into his sling, she busted out a picture of her little boy. I was feeling sort of cranky and thought this was a devious ploy for bigger tips, but when I overheard her later not able to give tourists directions to the Pink Palace because she had moved here from Nashville and never went anywhere but work and home, I had a vivid glimpse into the life of a Perkins waitress that I immediately wished I could forget. Once I got over my crushed cynicism, I ordered lemonades for Miss M and me, and was immediately informed by Miss M that she wanted a Sprite. Order corrected, we focused on our food options.
Miss M was suffering through the time-honored dilemma that faces all diners between 11am and noon: breakfast or lunch? She was leaning toward the chicken quesadillas on the kid's menu, which for $4.29 came with a drink and cookie (all other entrees came with a side order as well), but then she was inevitably drawn toward the rainbow-sprinkled and bear-shaped pancake options (the breakfast choices were $3.29 and included drink and dessert). I was coping with the same quandary when the waitress returned with our drinks, and while Miss M drank my lemonade, I rashly decided on the country-fried steak breakfast platter, mostly because it was a buck less than the regular country-fried steak plate yet came with eggs and potatoes. The Admiral went the lunch route with some large pepper-covered sandwich, and Miss M settled on breakfast/dessert with the chocolate chip pancakes.
Mr. Baby was still resting comfortably against me and Miss M was fairly well occupied by the children's menu activities, even though she disapproved of one of her assigned crayon colors. It wasn’t until the food arrived that he lost all semblance of good behavior. Oh wait, did I say he? I meant she. Just the sight of chocolate made Miss M start jittering. She did that patented pre-schooler trick of repeatedly going limp and sliding down the booth seat on the floor. She begged to take off her shoes. She kept touching me (I know this one doesn’t sound major, but we’ve had to implement and enforce a very strict Hands Off Mommy rule when eating). So while I was trying to choke down the least appetizing steak in the country of Fried, the aroma and already questionable taste overpowered by the Smo-Quarium pollution, I was also using one hand to yank her up, off or away as the situation required.
We were prepared to walk out without dessert, considering we didn’t want to reward her behavior, plus her actual meal had been nothing more than chocolate chips and syrup, but our attentive waitress zipped over with a freshly baked cookie. We paid up as quickly as possible and then Miss M and I (with Mr. Baby still quietly attached to me) visited the ladies room. I can’t really remember anything distinctive about it, mostly since I was suppressing a raging urge to lock Miss M in a stall, but I’m pretty sure it was tolerably clean and had a changing table. There may have actually been smoke coming out of my nostrils at this point. We burst out of the doors like we were exiting an air-lock and while I was un-slinging Mr. Baby to put him in his carseat, I heard Miss M mutter, in her tiniest voice, “Sorry, Mommy.” Which is about as much remorse as you can ever expect from a 4-year-old, so I tried to take a deep breath and let all that built-up tension go. But all I could smell was smoke.
* This review pre-dates the smoking ban in restaurants that took effect in October, 2007. I bet it still smells in there, though.