Sunday, April 26, 2009

My Imaginary Australian Restaurant

My imaginary Australian restaurant would be NOTHING like the restaurant we went to today.

We went to The Down Under Pub in Frisco for lunch.

It was a huge disappointment.

We had a nice drive there. It's about an hour from our house. We listened to the Mamma Mia Soundtrack. We passed an IKEA and we talked about going there after lunch. That seems like an Australian thing to do. Now that I know about Australia's love for ABBA, I pretty much associate anything Swedish with Australia.

I wondered what the Down Under Pub would be like. Would it have authentic Australian food? But then I'm STILL not sure what authentic Australian food is. I think of lamb, meat pies, sausage rolls, and pumpkin...lots of pumpkin. But you know what food really screams Australia to me? Thai food.

I was disappointed with the restaurant before I even got there. Frisco is ugly. I don't like it. I've seen other places in the DFW area that look like it. It's very flat and full of commercial retail crap places. There's no pretty nature. The architecture is awful. It's just blah!

The Down Under Pub is located in a large strip shopping center.

The restaurant logo is an upside down map of Australia. It's the same on their website, but I never really noticed it.

I thought MAYBE there'd actually be real Australians working there.


The hostess was American. She wasn't rude, but she wasn't the warmest.

Our waiter was also American. He was nice....decent.

The decor was disappointing. Most of it was American Sports crap and American beer. There were a lot of Australian license plates. I'll give them credit for that. Also, near the toilets they had a photograph of Sydney Harbour.

Jack got a children's menu--one that includes crayons. You'd think maybe it would have something Australian about it. Maybe some Aussie animals? Nope. It had dinosaurs.

We had already seen the menu online, but we looked at it again.

There's a section that's called Aussie Favorites. If you want to be a true blue Aussie, try our favorites. They're bonza mate.
What is bonza? Is that a real Australian word? I gotta look it up.

Okay. It is! Well, at least it's in this Australian slang dictionary.

I'm not sure about the food they consider to be true blue....

They do have meat pies. That's Australian to me. They have SHRIMP on the barbie--not so Australian to me. But perhaps prawns on the barbie would be. Then the other foods are meatloaf, ribs, and pork chops. Maybe I'm ignorant because of my vegetarianism, but I don't think of them as Australian. I'm not saying Australians don't eat those foods, but it just doesn't scream true blue Aussie to me.

Tim was nice to me. When I gave him my puppy dog eyes, he ordered the meat pies. I wanted to know what they were like.

Jack got French Toast.

I got angel hair pasta.

We also ordered chips. This was a moment of confusion. The menu has Real Aussie Fish and Chips. We just wanted the chips, but there was no side of chips. I pointed to the menu item and asked the waiter if we could get just chips. He looked at me completely confused. I think he said, Chips? He seemed very lost.

Tim told him we meant French Fries.

He then told us that this was funny because chips ARE French Fries.

I don't know what this guy was thinking. I'm guessing he thought we were typical ignorant Americans and were randomly pointing to chips while asking for French Fries. I don't know.

The food came.

The pasta was edible, but not exciting.

The Meat Pie came with TWO meat about portion issues.

I kept asking Tim questions about the meat pies. How is it? Is it horrible? Is it okay?

He tried to be nice; told me it wasn't too bad. He said it was at least better than the meat pie he had on the Manly ferry in 2007. THAT had been awful.

Tim said the pie at The Down Under Pub wasn't too horrible. It didn't have any gravy though. It looked dry; like a pie pastry with ground beef. He added ketchup to it.

Our chips were okay; didn't really taste like the Australian kind I love.

I loved Jack's French Toast. I thought it was one of the best French Toasts I've had in a long time. But then I realized that's because they didn't have maple syrup. They had the cheap crap with high fructose syrup. That's the stuff I grew up with, and I like it so much better than maple syrup.

The restaurant, like most American restaurants outside NYC, had free refills. I got annoyed when they brought Jack a second pineapple juice without asking. But then I told Tim, hey but Australians would probably like this. They seem impressed with our free refill lifestyle. I'm all for free refills. I think it's great. But I think the waiters should ASK before bringing you a new drink....especially when bringing a child a drink. One pineapple juice has too much sugar, but two is WAY over the line. Jack is mature and obedient to understand that he couldn't have another full juice. He had a few sips and that's it. But some kids might not be as reasonable....specially younger children. And parents shouldn't have to deal with it. So shame on The Down Under Pub for that.

I asked the waiter about the restaurant's history. He said it's about eight-years-old. I asked who started it and whether they were Australian.

Yes, the owner was. But the restaurant had been bought out a few years ago. The waiter told us they were trying to make it LESS Australian. He said it as if this was a good thing. Maybe I'm reading into things. But to me it was like someone claiming they were phasing out veal or trans fat. He acted like the restaurant would improve once they rid themselves of most of the Aussie stuff.

To summarize....I did NOT like The Down Under Pub. I think I prefer the Outback Steakhouse. That's bad, but not as bad as what we experienced today.

I thought a generous thought for a moment. Maybe the Down Under Pub is a decent place. And it's just not good for an American girl who loves Australia. But no. The food isn't good. The service is mediocre. There's nothing special about the place. Oh! And the bathroom stalls are incredibly small. I could fit in because I'm fairly short. I'm not sure what a tall person would do.  I guess use the handicap stall?  In those bathrooms, anyone over 162 centimeters is handicapped.

We left the restaurant. We didn't end up going to IKEA. Instead we met my sister's family at Chuck E. Cheese. While I was there, I dreamed up my own little fantasy Aussie restaurant. This is what it would have:

MENU-They would use authentic Aussie terms--chicken schnitzel, prawns (NOT shrimp), chips (NOT fries).

They'd have a meat pies and sausage rolls. Good ones. And of course they'd have some vegetarian pies. They'd have pastas and salads with pumpkin because that's very Australian to me. They'd have lots of Australian beer, and at least one Australian soda.

They'd have some Thai dishes. Maybe just one or two. For dessert, they'd have Lamingtons, and Pavlovas.

ENTERTAINMENT-They would play Australian music. Then they'd have TV screens with classic Aussie films playing--Murial's Wedding, Priscella Queen of the Desert, Picnic at Hanging Rock, etc......

DECOR-Aussie sports teams and maybe posters of Australian celebrities. Oh! I know! How about postcards from all around Australia? I'd also love vintage Aussie advertisement posters. That would be cool.

STAFF-They wouldn't have to be Australian. They don't even need to fake an accent. But I would want them to have a love for Australia. I would want them to be familiar with it and knowledgeable about it.

OTHER-Both the regular and children's menu would have facts about Australia.
Instead of the traditional red and white mints, they'd have free Fantales and Minties.

I would love it if there was a restaurant like that in Texas!

Although the Down Under Pub was a disappointment, I didn't get incredibly sad or anything. I think I've said before that seeing Australian things in America often makes me feel a bit melancholy. I didn't feel that bad today. My only one brief sadness was when I first bit into Jack's French Toast. For some odd reason, it made me think of Gina. And I missed her for a moment. Why does French Toast make me think of Gina? I have NO idea.

On a happier note, I have found my new favorite Australian candy. Curly Wurly; the one that looks like it has a Wiggle on it's wrapper. It's chocolate with caramel inside, but the caramel has a slight saltiness to it. It's a great yummy salty/sweet contrast. It's not sickening sweet like a Rolo or Milk Dud.

When Tim tried it, he said it reminded him of an old American Candy Bar. He couldn't remember the name though. It turns out it's the Marathon Bar. I can't remember if I ever ate that.