Thursday, November 23, 2006

Clark's Guide To Non-Traditional Holiday Dining

Welcome and happy Thanksgiving! Contrary to what you may believe, you are not required by law to sit down with your family and eat the traditional holiday feast of turkey, potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce and assortments of various casseroles, which is good news for those of us who don't have that option available to them and might have been nervous about being rounded up by the authorities and thrown into a festive autumnal gulag. No, my friends, you don't have to worry about that because there is a variety of alternatives available to you. Okay, it's a small variety, since almost everything is closed. Basically here are all of your options. Enjoy! And feel free to refer back to this guide at Christmas time!

UPSIDE: Free!!
DOWNSIDE: You don't really need a free meal, do you? Honestly?

Every city has at least one church that provides service to the homeless and really goes all out during the holidays. Here in Tampa, it's Metropolitan Ministries. WARNING: One thing Christians and Atheists agree on is that taking free food from a church when you're not in need is an automatic ticket to hell. Even Jews, Muslims and people of other faiths who don't believe in hell agree as well.

UPSIDE: They're open
DOWNSIDE: It's Denny's

Denny's offers a traditional style roast turkey dinner for $9.99 with turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, salad and a slice of pumpkin pie. After dinner, feel free to stay for hours and hours, drinking coffee and muttering to yourself.

UPSIDE: Virtually limitless
DOWNSIDE: There is no downside to the Waffle House

Ok, a slight quibble, if not a total drawback is that Waffle House's holiday special is country ham & eggs. I know some weirdos eat ham instead of turkey on the holidays so okay. But everybody knows that eggs are only holiday fare during Easter. Compensating for this is the fact that it's only $6.49. You go, Waffle House!

UPSIDE: You know what you're getting and you know they'll be open
DOWNSIDE: Not exactly standard holiday atmosphere

Like snowflakes, no two Chinese restaurants are identical, yet they are all exactly the same. Same menu, same prices (very few items on the menu over $10), same paper lanterns hanging from the ceiling. That's why we love them so much; they're incredibly dependable. McDonalds and Chinese restaurants are the only places in the world where you can go in and order your meal and know exactly what it is going to taste like before you get it. The other day, I saw a banner over a the door of a Chinese restaurant that said "NEW!". Impossible. There is no such thing as "new" Chinese food. What, did they fry the rice? Did they mix the sweet and the sour together? Did they come up with some crazy new zodiac with monkeys, dogs and dragons instead of scorpios and cancers? Please. Like cures for diseases, all the Chinese dishes there will ever be have already been invented.

PS: I know someone who refers to a nearby strip mall as "The Tampa Bay Asian Cultural Center" because there's a Chinese restaurant, a dry cleaner and a nail salon. That isn't very nice and he does not deserve delicious Crab Rangoons.

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