Sunday, November 30, 2008
Happy Thanksgiving (oink! oink!)
Like everyone else, we watch the Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives,” starring Guy Fieri, the gastronome with the white (yellow?) spiky hair. He can be obnoxious, but the restaurants he visits always look appetizing in a greasy-spoon kind of way. Last week’s hour-long “best of” episode was especially appealing because it featured, among other places, Mike’s Chili Parlour, an ancient hot dog palace located in Ballard, just north of downtown Seattle. Since we were flying up there to be with my sister Vicki for Thanksgiving, Tim’s eyes immediately lit-up.
“Look at that enormous chili dog!” he said in a food-induced trance. “Do you think Mike’s is on the way to your sister’s?”
I can certainly take a hint and so quickly went to Google Maps. Mike’s was indeed on the way to Vicki’s house, if a bit off the beaten track. I printed the directions and called my sister to tell her we would be taking a side trip to Ballard en route to her house. While on the phone, she asked her husband if he had ever eaten at Mike’s.
“No,” I could hear him say in the background. “But it sure smells good every time I drive by!”
We arrived in Seattle on Wednesday just in time for lunch. After a couple of false starts—I had copied directions from the airport, not the car rental agency, which was located off-site—we got on the right freeway and headed north. We drove west of downtown Seattle and through various neighborhoods until we finally saw signs for Ballard.
“Too far!” Tim yelled, as I zoomed past NW Ballard Way. “Turn right here!”
We were suddenly in the middle of a seedy industrial area that looked like something out of “On the Waterfront.”
“There are no restaurants here,” I exclaimed. “Damn you, Guy Fieri!”
But just as we were about to give up, we spotted two very satisfied-looking men emerging from a diner.
“There it is!” we both yelled in unison as I swung over to the curb and parked.
Built in 1922, the exterior of the restaurant still has vestiges of an art deco facade that must have been elegant at one time. The inside, however, is pure diner, with raised booths, a pool table and full-on bar. It was small and dark and looked like it hadn’t been painted in forty years—in other words, it had lots of character.
Tim eyeballed the menu and selected the chili cheese dog he had seen on TV. I, on the other hand, haven’t eaten a hot dog since reading Upton Sinclair's “The Jungle” in sixth grade and so was pretty much out of luck. There was a handwritten note tacked above the bar promising grilled chicken sandwiches. But the young waitress said they had run out of chicken earlier in the week, so I just ordered french fries.
The chili cheese dog was so massive—and messy!—that Tim happily ate it with a fork and knife, while I looked the other way. A group of obvious tourists came in and scanned the room for seats.
“Looks like someone else watches the Food Network,” I whispered to Tim.
The story doesn’t end here, of course. From Ballard we went to my sister’s home and had pork roast for dinner. This was followed by turkey and lots of other food on Thanksgiving. The bird wasn’t the only thing stuffed by the end of the day!
As if that wasn’t enough, we decided to join the post-holiday shopping crowd and so drove into downtown Seattle, Friday morning. Pike Place Market was even more festive than usual. Still, we resisted all urges to eat. That is, until Tim spied a small sign across the street: “Taxi Hot Dogs.” He looked at his watch (11:30AM), decided it was time for lunch and headed toward a small hot dog joint a few doors north of the original Starbuck’s.
“One regular hot dog,” he ordered and was once again in his glory.
We both vowed we’d eat nothing but salad when we returned to L.A. We’ve been home now for 24 hours. It still hasn’t happened . . .