Normally I wouldn’t have anything to say about a fast food chain restaurant. Lately, however, we seem to have had an explosion of new chain arrivals in RVA. Many of these places most of us have never heard of. You do hear a few people waxing nostalgic about some of these places from their college or home town days but for the rest of us it’s a guessing game. Today I decided to try one of these new places out.
First, let me say that being hungry while driving around Short Pump is an exercise in overload. Everywhere neon signs beckoning you with key words like ‘gourmet’ or ‘brick-oven’ trying to tell you that they serve the same food as the other guy in the next shopping center but that they’ve got a special ‘twist’ on your average pizza, or sandwich, or whatever. The result of all these choices, at least for me, is something akin to ‘deer in the headlights’. So, I fell prey to one of the keywords while driving aimlessly and decided ‘gourmet sandwiches’ would be the way to go.
Designing a Jimmy John’s wasn’t that difficult. Post-industrial minimal with faux-snarky signs to fill up all the blank white spaces (I did think the ‘No Hippies’ sign was a bit odd and possibly insulting to hippies…). As I approached the counter I was hit with a bit of anxiety. If you go to some fast food places on a regular basis you know the routine, what to order, where to stand, where to pick it all up. As a newbie I tried to take it in as quickly as I could without looking like an complete simpleton. The line moved quickly and I arrived at the register before I could get more of a basic idea of what I wanted. I stuttered out an order, paid, and then stood there foolishly not knowing what to do next. Tentatively, I reached out and asked if I should just take a soda cup – the cashier looked at me with an expression that said ‘Duh!’
So, cup in hand, I wandered around trying to figure out the set-up. Found the soda machine, filled up and then grabbed a table – if there are napkin dispensers in this place they were beyond my ability to locate. The sandwich assembly line was moving fast and someone kept out calling out sandwich descriptions. Since the don’t give out order numbers I can only imagine the potential for confusion if more than one person ordered the same thing in the middle of a rush. Could get ugly.
In an amount of time that I could describe as ‘just barely quick enough’ considering the number of customers my sandwich name was called out. I unwrapped my sub and took a bite. The applewood smoked ham was very good, the provolone was tasty, the lettuce crisp. We had the making for a pretty decent sub. The problem was the bread. Tough and chewy it kept threatening to squirt the fillings out on to the table as I bit down. It was very similar to the bread at Fuddrucker’s – doughy and devoid of flavour or character.
The result was a bland sandwich – certainly not the ‘gourmet’ advertised on their sign. Had I known the menu better I probably could have ordered better. Different toppings might have made it more interesting and when was the last time that you actually had to order a pickle? The sandwich I had at Coppola’s a couple of weeks ago was far superior in all respects and, while I haven’t tried the behemoth battleship sandwich’s at Black Sheep, I bet they’re better tasting and a better value.
All this got me to thinking. Basically anything they have to offer out in the chain riddled traffic mess of Short Pump can be got better and for the same or less at any number of our locally owned restaurants in the city. So, the next time life finds me out in Short Pump and feeling a bit peckish I shouldn’t waste my time looking for some mediocre attempt at ‘gourmet’ food but instead run quickly back into the city for the real deal.
It all started while relaxing after dinner one evening. Basically an inability to take a deep breath. A bit like someone had stuffed my chest full of cotton balls. I’ve had a couple of bouts of this ever since I quit smoking four years ago. As my lungs have repaired themselves I have become very sensitive to spray cleaners. One good whiff and breathing is suddenly a chore. This, however, was different – it was spontaneous. An hour later it was gone and I put it out of my mind.
A week later, while relaxing after dinner, it happened again. Laboured breathing. Can’t fully inflate lungs. WTF? What was causing this. First thoughts were that I may have developed a full blown food allergy. I’m allergic to a whole host of things but the only thing I really need to avoid is grass (hence the complete lack of a lawn at our house). Maybe one of these minor allergies had lobbied for a promotion to the majors.
Since I had cooked both meals I went over the list of ingredients used to find any commonalities. One items stood out – a new bottle of Grapeseed Oil from Trader Joe’s. A little checking online led me to see a lot of conflicting information. Some swore by it to help cure allergies while others added it to the list of things to avoid if you have a nut allergy. Having a nut allergy would suck. I enjoy snacking on them and use peanut oil on a regular basis. Decided to not use the grapeseed oil anymore and take a wait and see attitude. Didn’t have to wait long.
Wednesday, relaxing after dinner, it happened again. This time we got to add a whole new symptom – flushing. Have you ever had a niacin pill? It dilates all your blood vessels causing you to flush bright red and tingling all over. So, here I am, unable to breath, all my nerve endings firing and looking a bit like I’m about to be served at The Hard Shell with a side of drawn butter. Since dinner didn’t involve any grapeseed oil or other nut products I went back online to see if I could nail this down.
Can I just say here that the Internet isn’t always a good thing. Sometimes you get just enough information to scare the shit out of yourself and, frankly, who ya’ going to call at 11 at night?
Possible diagnosis were pretty ugly. Reading about pulmonary embolisms, diabetic ketoacidosis or the possibility of cyanide poisoning sent me downstairs for a glass of wine. Who was going to run my store if I had to spend a little time at St Mary’s? Time progresses. My breathing got a little easier and off to bed to try to get some sleep.
The next morning renewed my worries. Deep breaths were difficult and I was still flushed. A call to my doc got an 11:30 appointment although subsequent calls to find someone to keep my store open were not quite as successful – this is what happens when you employ VCU students who are taking some of the same classes… what do you mean you both have to take the test today?… Guess VCU professors aren’t that flexible…
So, I closed my store for a bit and trucked over to my docs. They were concerned. A whole lot of questions and a lot of poking an prodding. As time went on the questions were less about my body and more about life. New baby coming. Economy sucks. The election is just dragging on and on. House projects. Blah, blah, blah.
The verdict – stress and anxiety.
Pardon? I nearly suffocate myself due to stress? Turns out, yes.
Seems stress hits you where your weakest. For some people that means stress brings on cardiac events. Others it hits their digestive systems. For me – I become hyper-sensitive to my environment. The concern now is to control the reactions so I don’t progress to point where it becomes so extreme my airways are completely closed off. Lovely.
So I get to spend this week in a drug induced fog. The antihistamine, Xyzal, is really an old school anti-histamine- makes me loopy. The albuterol helps but I’m not sure how I feel about walking around with an inhaler – didn’t the kids who had them in school always get picked on? The hope is to normalize my histamine levels so the stress won’t cause me to drop dead while having nut-bread at Can-Can.
If, after the week is over, I’m still having the attacks then I’ll get to start going through the fun process of narrowing down what allergens are the one’s giving me all the grief. I’m betting that if exposed to Sarah Palin during the scratch tests I’ll have an undesirable reaction.
Barack Obama has answered, ad infinitum, all the questions posed by McCain and his surrogates about Bill Ayers. They lived in the same neighbourhood, they served on a Republican funded board together, he attended a ‘meet-the-candidate’ cocktail party the man threw. Oh, and he has repeatedly condemned actions taken by Ayers. Asking the same questions over and over again and months of digging have produced nothing to contradict Mr Obama’s answers. Isn’t one of the definitions of insanity taking the same action over and over again expecting a different result?
Liddy, who was convicted for the Watergate break-in (and had plans for a series of bombing and kidnappings), is called ‘my old friend’ by John McCain. Liddy has thrown fundraisers in his home for McCain (where for a donation you could get a picture with the two of them), made regular monetary contributions to McCain and has had him on his radio show on numerous occasions. On one show McCain said of Liddy:
“I’m proud of you, I’m proud of your family. It’s always a pleasure for me to come on your program, Gordon, and congratulations on your continued success and adherence to the principles and philosophies that keep our nation great.”
Really? Disregard for the law to subvert the political process is one of the principles of this country? Advocating the killing of law enforcement and recommending head shots in case they’re wearing body armour is something your OK with? Obama has condemned Ayers Weatherman activities. It sounds like McCain is on pretty shaky ground here.
Of course, McCain has said that Liddy has served his time and should be forgiven. Shouldn’t that same message then apply to Ayers? Oh, wait… Ayers was never convicted of any crimes…. Funny, from the way the McCain sounds you would think he had been.
The little girl in the red shirt is Milan, she introduces Finn as her husband…
This would never make it onto Fox Noise. You only get glimpses on MSNBC and CNN. The BBC gives you an idea. But do we really need Al-Jazeera to truly hold a mirror up to us and show us for who we are becoming as a nation?
It’s OK to disagree with someone or even to question another persons motives but the fear and misperceptions represented by these people should give anyone, regardless of who you support, pause. As more and more people fall prey to this rhetoric we should demand of John McCain that, if he truly believes in ‘Country First’, he should start the healing process now rather than use lies and innuendo to further divide this country. If not, and he looses this election, I suspect he will be remembered not as a ‘maverick’ but rather a bitter old man who put his ambition above the welfare of the people.
We’re pretty casual at both my bookstores. The extent of the dress code is clothes should be relatively clean and if there is any writing on your t-shirt just make sure it won’t offend. Piercings and tattoos are OK. Also, since we are in the book business, a reasonable grasp of the English language is a plus. Sure, we all have our language quirks – I, for one, am a terrible proof reader and since I write at work I constantly step away to take care of customers which leads to some interesting sentence structure – but if you cannot communicate you shouldn’t be involved in customer contact.
That being said…. Here are a few tips for anyone out there looking for work…
1 – ‘Y’ain’t hirin‘ is ya?’… First impressions are huge and, well, this would leave a lasting one and not in a good way. The young man who asked this yesterday did not seem surprised by the answer, ‘No’.
2 – Dressed for a day on the James. While flip flops, jorts, and a wife-beater may be comfortable attire for crawling on the rocks down by the river why would you think it is appropriate for job hunting? T-shirts extolling your ‘Johnson’, pajama bottoms, and grungy baseball hats with marijuana symbols also tend to be poor choices.
3 – Dressed in a suit? Try to remember to take the suit label off the sleeve. That and a pant hem of staples tend to leave the impression that your going to return the suit as soon as you find a job.
4 – Tattoos & Piercings. OK, I know I said that I don’t really care about them but white supremacist facial tats are a deal breaker.
5 – Bathing. At least sometime in the recent past.
6 – Difficult Customer = Difficult Employee. If your a difficult customer, complaining and nitpicking over everything, why do you think I would consider you to be an employee?
7 – Windows work both ways. If you show up early for an interview do not stand outside the store smoking a cigarette and picking your nose.
8 – Even though the interview is over, it isn’t over. I keep a bowl of hard candy at the front desk for customers. Stopping on the way out and grabbing a handful and then picking out several more pieces tells me more about you than anything you actually said. Oddly, this has happened on several occasions.
9 – Mister Meaner. Beyond the fact that this should be only one word you really should check your application for spelling errors. Also, the question was only for felonies, not lesser offenses…
And finally…. Don’t tell me this would be the perfect job for you since you currently don’t have enough time to read. We have down time but this is still a job.
Is Kobe the best sushi restaurant in town – no. Is it the most creative – no. Is it authentic Japanese – not really. I would describe Kobe as a your basic Americanized ideal of a sushi restaurant. If you want innovative and creative dishes try Viktor’s two eateries, Sumo San and Moshi-Moshi. If your looking for your basic gyoza or shumai and nothing too exotic in the way of raw fish, try Kobe. It’s just basic – it’s our Japanese comfort food. Really, we’ve been going here for years and have never had a bad meal nor bad service. It will satisfy your cravings for Japanese in a roadside diner sort of way – just ignore the star scenes that look to have been painted on ceilings and wall by 3rd graders…
What was most interesting about this meal was Finn. He actually has a normal meal at Kobe. To start a plate of stir fried onions, a good way to practice his chopstick skills. When our apps come out he usually grabs one or two of the gyoza, shumai and kara age. During entrees he’ll gobble a couple of pieces of California roll and then finish with a bowl of miso – drunk through a straw. Every now and then he will have a piece of tuna or a shrimp but it’s pretty hit or miss whether he will eat the sushi. There has even been two occasions where he has eaten eel, although I told him it was snake. This visit, was a little different….
I had ordered my ‘usual’ array of sashimi – scallop, surf clam, tuna, toro, white tuna, salmon and sea eel. I always offer Finn some but he declines most. Tonight he threw me a bit off and tried everything. Not a single funny face. Smiles and exhortations of all things fishy. A little hesitation at the eel, until I told him it was snake, but everything went down. As I ran out of things to try he picked up the little sushi board and asked for… octopus.
M and I discussed this. Was he ready for something quite so chewy? Sure, why not. An order went out for octopus and a little more tuna. The plate came out and Finn grabbed not one of the thin slices but the full piece of tentacle. We waited for the verdict. ‘I love octopus!’, Finn declared. OK then. Our child really will eat anything. This, of course, was short lived. The piece proved to be too chewy for him after a couple of minutes and he got a very worried look on his face. This didn’t really surprise us and we allowed him to spit out the half-masticated piece of octopus into a napkin. ‘Too chewy’, he said – which, I suppose is better than him saying he didn’t like it.
Maybe next time we’ll have to truck over to Hana Sushi and see if they have the baby octopus appetizer on special….