Saturday, September 19, 2009
Gallatin, Missouri: The Corner Café
My notes about Gallatin can’t be complete without a small restaurant review. By now, I hope you know that Sue and I do appreciate high-class, artistic, and even healthy food as well as down-home food. The latter isn’t usually the most excellent food you can consume, but there are still reasons to celebrate it and enjoy it now and then. And in small towns, it’s pretty hard to escape. In France, you eat snails. In diners, you eat burgers.
With the Corner Café, there are definitely pros and cons. First, the cons. Numbers 1 through, like, 54 are: It’s smoky in there. Cigarettes, cigarettes, cigarettes. I mean, I can handle some smoke, but my eyes started really burning. There was no designated smoking section. The ceiling fans were all spinning like crazy, too. Amazingly, there were no ashtrays on the tables. But I think anyone who wants one can have one.
We went in there about an hour after the Tour of Missouri passed through; the place wasn’t particularly crowded, but MAN did it smell of smoke.
Here is another con: The restroom had a big sign saying something like, “Don’t put toilet paper in stool.” . . . Um, say what? . . . Does that mean what I think it means? When I washed my hands and pushed the paper towel into the trash can, it looked like others had interpreted the sign the way I feared it meant. Oh my gosh, don’t they have plumbing here? (I mean: Quick! Call a plumber!)
Okay: Maybe by now, a week after we were there, that little problem has been fixed. And no, it didn’t smell like doodie in there. It didn’t smell bad in there at all. It just smelled like . . . cigarettes.
Are you completely grossed out by now? Okay, hold on. One more “con.”
It really took a while for our food to appear. I think it was a kitchen thing and not a waiter thing. I know this isn’t fast food, but then it wasn’t very busy when we were there. We had a copy of the St. Joe newspaper at our table, and we read that. But we were starting to get kind of annoyed.
Just when we were about to say “enough,” the food appeared on white oval plates. Hmmm.
Hey, it was actually pretty good! Sue got a Southwest-style chicken sandwich, and I got a burger that came with pepper jack cheese, bacon, ranch dressing (to the side, thank you), actual green leaf lettuce, actual ripe red tomato, and fries. A ripe tomato! This little café has achieved something that eludes all the corporate-ass buying power of Chili’s, Rubee Tewsdee’s, and all those types of places: Red, ripe, in-season tomatoes!
And the bacon on the burger? The real deal, thick cut, and juicy. Mmm.
Nahhh, this isn’t “art cooking,” but there is a way to make burgers be good, and this little café did the burger right.
Other stuff on the menu included various other diner foods, plus some kind of chain-brand pizza. I mean, it’s a pretty typical small-town diner, you know? Relaxed. And an excellent place to hang out if you’re a smoker.
And the place does have a reputation for its smokiness—we got that from two different sources while we were exploring the town. When we told one lady we had eaten at the Corner Café, she immediately chirped back: “Oh, I’m sorry!”
You’re probably wondering what to make of this review, and frankly, so am I. Is it thumbs up, or thumbs down?
Well, it depends. If you’re a smoker, then it’s a definite thumbs up—freedom to enjoy a cigarette before, during, and after your meal! If you can’t stand cigarette smoke, it’s a definite thumbs down; you will hate-hate-hate it. If you’re flexible when it comes to air quality, and you appreciate small-town diners, then you’ll probably enjoy the place. I was favorably impressed by the burger and by Sue’s chicken sandwich. The prices were reasonable, the people were friendly enough. And yeah, we were there in part to support a locally owned business, the backbone of America.
It is what it is.
One more comment. Next to the cash register was a basket of cookies—apparently homemade, packed in threes in plastic wrap. Chocolate chip; white chocolate and macadamia nut . . . Mmm. Okay, when I was paying the bill, I bought a three-pack of the latter to eat while we were driving home.
A few hours later, when we got back on the highway as we were leaving Adam-ondi-Ahman, we opened them. And guess what.
The cookies were delicious. But even after removing them from the plastic wrap, we could taste the cigarette smoke right in the cookies. And I think that sums it all up pretty well.