Tuesday, April 19, 2011

So Here We Are . . .

sitting in the laundromat. I am watching the laundry agitating in the front loader. It was that or watching The Price is Right (without sound) on the TV mounted on the ceiling. Chuck is reading a ten years out-of-date guidebook to Cajun Country Louisiana.

“What’s our plan for lunch?” Chuck asks.

“Don’t have one.” I reply.

“How about going to the Hub City Diner? They mention it in this book.” he says.

We had driven past the diner on a number of occasions and there were always a lot of cars in the park lot. Taking this as a good sign, I agreed.

Just before opening this fifties-style eatery in 1990, owner George Graham described the menu as being "diner fare with Louisiana flair." The diner changed hands sometime in the late 1990’s, and we had the chance to speak with the current owner, who, like a number of restaurant owners we have spoken with the past three years, made the move from corporate food service management to owning and operating his own place.

The diner may have been built in 1990 but it has all of the hallmarks of a ‘50’s diner right down to the infamous boomerang pattern in the tabletop formica. My mother had the same pattern in grey, pink, and turquoise.

Remember when turquoise made a home decorating statement. What color is the upholstery on these booths? Looks like turquoise to me.

The wall opposite our booth was festooned with 50’s-era serving dishes. Did these come from a garage sale or a flea market?

The wall divider next to our booth was hung with posters made by local elementary school students as part of an anti-littering campaign.

And what diner would be complete without a soda fountain?

The diner’s menu honors both traditional diner food (chicken fried steak, hamburger steak, meat loaf) and Cajun classics like red beans and rice. Chuck went the traditional diner route and ordered Mom’s Famous Meatloaf (As the menu says “There are only two places to eat meatloaf, here or at your momʼs.”) that came with mashed potatoes and gravy and the choice of one vegetable.

Regarding meatloaf, this has been a year of disappointment that has crossed international borders. I don’t know why it is so hard to find good diner meatloaf. It is either too mushy from too much filler or too hard and dry from too little filler. Hub City broke this string of bad luck. Neither too mushy nor too dry, it was a thick and moist slab of well-seasoned meatloaf covered with rich and beefy gravy.

His meatloaf came with mashed potatoes which were as exciting as mashed potatoes can get. For his second side, he ordered the green beans. Now we differ on these beans. His first reaction was: “canned.” I took a taste and decided that they were not canned. Maybe frozen but not canned. And they had been cooked “southern style”—with a smoked meat, cubes of potatoes, and—perhaps—just a touch of vinegar. I like my green veggies al dente but these were delicious.

I was more in the mood for a sandwich rather than a meal, but the Big Kahuna Burger, a one pound, double stack burger served fully dressed with Curly Q fries, was way too much. Probably even too much for Chuck. So I decided to try an item common to Lafayette restaurant menus—the crawfish burger (sometimes appearing on the menu as a shrimp burger). This is a bread-based patty containing finely minced onion, celery, green bell pepper, and Cajun seasonings and mixed with minced crawfish tail meat. Yes. I do mean that you are eating bread on a bun. The patty was deep fat fried so that the edges turned crusty and crispy. The “burger” was served with the usual lettuce, tomato, red onion condiments that adorn your typical hamburger plus a dish of what I think the menu called remoulade sauce. I wouldn’t call it remoulade. Rather, it seemed like an herbed mayo. But it was delicious on the patty.

My crawfish burger came with a dish of so-so slaw that came in large shreds and with little dressing.

Since I passed on the Big Kahuna Burger, there was room for dessert and we split a Banana Split. (Clever, aren’t we?) Two scoops of vanilla ice cream—one with pineapple topping and one with strawberry topping—sandwiched between a scoop of chocolate ice cream covered with chocolate topping. All of this was adorned with a thick layer of a non-dairy whipped topping. This was first-rate ice cream with a high butter fat content.

So we left, after saying good-bye to “Pelvis,” fat and happy after our 4.0 Addie lunch.

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