Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Crazy Little Christmas

While some nut job spent his holiday sewing fire crackers into his underpants and trying to terrorize one of America’s poorest cities, my parents, I am happy to report, were not. Nor were they armchair quarterbacking this bizarre event the way some douche bag was on NPR when he made the following statement: “We could have prevented what never actually happened.” My dad did not offer an opinion on the matter, but if he had I imagine it would have been more practical than that offered by the NPR commentator, and it would have sounded something like, “if that dumbass is stupid enough to blow up his own crotch then let him have at it.”

Besides, my parents had bigger problems to deal with this holiday. Like the full grown horse that appeared in their front yard on Christmas night. How did they know it was there in the dark, you ask? Well it set off the motion light on the side of the house, of course. And apparently the thing tried to break into their sun porch where my dad keeps his portable radio and his mini fridge, which at the time was stocked with Miller High Life Light and Butterscotch Schnapps. My dad wanted to shoot it right there, but my mom talked him out of it, insisting there’d be no way of disposing of the body without being caught. Instead she called all of the neighbors to see if anyone was missing a horse.

I was completely unaware of both events until the next day because I was parked in front of a slot machine at Greektown Casino trying to win back all the money I spent on holiday gifts. I always do better at gambling when I’m drinking but not even the almighty casinos can escape Christianity’s selective ban on alcohol. But neither the casinos nor Christianity could stop the ever fabulous Philip. He fully stocked our hotel room so we could drink ourselves silly, gamble until the buzz wore off, and then go back to our room and drink some more. As it turned out, Philip never made it past the drink ourselves silly phase.

By three in the morning, I had won enough money to cover all of my holiday shopping costs with enough left over to order room service. We had eaten dinner earlier in the hotel restaurant, Bistro 555, which was expensive and the food was extremely average. The in-room dining menu was almost exactly the same as the Bistro, so my expectations for a middle of the night snack were not very high. The onion rings sounded appealing enough, but having had a killer order of them a few days earlier on a holiday lunch date, I decided not to press my luck.

In a post I wrote about a month ago I described some onion rings I had ordered at, I think, Red Baron, and a reader who follows the blog, Mrs. Hopkins, a.k.a. Ann Onimous, mentioned that she was on a quest for the perfect Flint area onion ring. Shortly thereafter, another reader claimed that US 21 Coney Island, on the corner of South Dort Highway and Bristol Road, had the best onion rings he’d ever eaten. Since Mrs. Hopkins was already on a quest, and since this US 21 recommendation sounded a lot like a challenge, I took it up and invited Lady Hopkins to join me in checking out these alleged award winning rings. Emilio happened to be free as well, and since I felt like he and I should have a do-over after our disastrous “Mexican” lunch at, I think, Red Baron, US 21 seemed like a harmless place for a “make-up” lunch. Besides, what could possibly go wrong?

Well, for starters, we were seated right behind a screaming toddler, and Emilio does not suffer screaming children well. Grumbling snarky remarks at the kid didn’t really put a dent in the howling, nor did the impatient mother whose high pitched scolding only irritated Emilio all the more. Lady Hopkins, however, diffused the situation by sharing a lovely story with us about a person who crapped their pants at the Olive Garden while she was having lunch there a few days before. The manager apparently cleared half the dining room and marched around the tables with a can of air freshener to mask the stench. Emilio and I laughed loud enough that we completely drowned out the screaming toddler and the bitchy mother.

Order was somewhat restored when our server dropped off three freakishly large menus, took our drink orders, and set out to fetch us a basket of what we came for. Our menus were at least a foot and a half high, and with three panels, they stretched out to over two and a half feet wide. I couldn’t even fit the whole thing in my camera lens with the setting on wide angle. The pictures of the food on the menu, though, were spectacular. I’d never seen such visually appealing liver and onions in my life. The owners must have dropped some serious change to put this menu together. And it was jam-packed with breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert options. I had eaten breakfast here a number of times before, and the food was always consistently good. I shared this information with Emilio, who settled on a ham and cheese omelet. Mrs. Hopkins, also in a breakfast mood, except for the onion rings, chose the Eggs Benedict. Feeling rather indifferent myself, I ordered a boring old patty melt.

The onion rings arrived just as Mrs. Hopkins was tying up the loose ends to her little Olive Garden tale and the screaming toddler was finally calming down. The platter of onion rings, while quite visually appealing, had a very unnatural yellow hue to them. It looked like they were dipped in saffron or yellow food coloring or something. Grease was already pooling under the knot of rings as we began pulling them apart. Crispy. Hmm. Flavorful onions. Hmm. No thick doughy batter. Hmm. I’m not ready to call them the best I’ve ever had, but the US 21 onion ring is certainly the bomb, in a manner of speaking anyway.

Philip was in the neighborhood and dropped in to join us just before our food arrived. He ordered a simple Coney dog and fries, and was able to get his meal delivered with the rest of us. The food was about what you would expect at a Flint diner. The patty melt was on the greasy side, but it was hot and fresh. The omelet was pretty big and not lacking in the ham or cheese departments. And then there was Lady Hopkin’s plate of Eggs Benedict. On the surface, they looked like your run-of-the-mill Eggs Benedict. The Hollandaise sauce, however, seemed to have been replaced with chicken gravy. I thought the old girl was just being flippant, but I tasted it and sure enough they used chicken gravy. In all the years I cooked in restaurants, that little trick never crossed my mind. And for good reason. All in all, US 21 is worth the effort. The onion rings are quite good, and though the Benedict not so much, all else falls somewhere in between. Easy on the wallet, the 21 is one of the better Coney Island Diners in the area. And if Stephanie and I ever choose the Flint Diner as our lunch theme, I’ll put my theory to the test.


  1. OMG RTFL! You should write a sitcom about your family, starring your parents, I *love* your stories!

    Chicken gravy instead of Hollandaise sauce is unforgivable. Yuck!

    If you're interested in diners, Davison has new one (The Flag City Diner) at the corner of M-15/State and Lapeer roads (right at the I-69 Davison exit). I haven't tried it yet but heard it's not bad.

  2. They sure do give me some good material. Let me know if you try the new diner. Another one just opened up on Miller Road where a Southwestern place folded earlier this year. Philip says it's only ok.

  3. I actually said the one on Miller Rd. - Leo's, I think it was called - was sad and boring. I spent half of my time there being ignored, including from the manager when I went up to pay my bill. That, I cannot forgive.