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.

Nope.

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 pies....talk 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.

19 comments:

frogpondsrock said...

I am 43, When I was a child, traditional Aussie food was a pie with sauce (ketchup) or a saveloy with sauce at the footy. Roast lamb or chicken with three veg for sunday lunch. Lamb chops,beef patties, steak or sausages on the barbie(bbq) with coleslaw and potato salad. Desserts were generally a sponge cake or trifle. Pavlova was for special occasions like Christmas or birthdays.

Now when we have a barbie there are still sausages and steak but the food has evolved into a hodge podge of food from many countries and cultures and it is FANTASTIC.

A typical celebration meal here at my home is a smorgasbord of whatever food suits the weather.So for a summer get together we will have sushi next to a thai noodle salad next to a tatziki dip next to cold sliced lamb next to a greek salad, with turkish flat bread etc etc etc...

The joy of Australian food is that it can be whatever you want it to be.

Gina said...

I have no idea either.... I can say with great confidence that I have never eaten French toast. In fact, I had to google to discover precisely what it is....

Dina said...

frogpondsrock: I hear you. American food is the same thing. There's no real typical American meal. We're made up of so many different ethnic groups. And we all borrow from each other. I still think though that there are foods that make us think of a certain country. I think a lot of people see American's food as hotdogs, peanut butter & jelly, and hamburgers. For me, Australia is meat pies, sausage rolls, and Vegemite.

Gina: That surprises me. I thought they had French toast in Australia. ???? Have you not ever heard of it, or have you heard of it and just never knew what it was? For now on, I'll try to think of someone else when eating French toast.

Gina said...

You can still think of me - something along the lines of "can't believe Gina didn't know what french toast is...."!

I'm sure there is no shortage of french toast in Australia - just that I haven't ever ordered it anywhere. According to Google it involves soggy bread and eggs, and they're not my most favourite things....which would probably explain it!

Ben said...

I envy the free refill culture over there, here in Australia it just doesn't happen.

Usually the most economical way to buy soft drink in pubs and restaurants is to order by the jug. Beer can also be bought by the jug, very handy if it is your shout as you don't need to carry any glasses back to the table.

My mum used to make French toast for me when I was a kid. I don't think I've ever seen it on the menu in a restaurant though.

I used to get a Curly Wurly with my lunch order at school sometimes, now I think they'd be too sweet for my liking.

Dina said...

Gina: Okay. That makes sense! And yeah.... now I'll probably ALWAYS think of you when eating French toast. The connection is probably going to be sealed in my brain forever.

Ben: Hi! I do like our free refill culture. I never knew about ordering by the jug. Thanks. I'm usually fine with one drink as long as I can get water after that. One of my pet peeves is when I'm at a restaurant eating very spicy food. And then they're too busy to come around and refill the water glasses.

I've been trying to remember if I saw French toast on the menu in Sydney. I feel like I did, but I might be mistaken.

It's funny how our taste buds change. I still love sweet things, but I have less toleration for the super sweet stuff...like frosting. I still like it, but not as much as I used to.

Aussie in the USA said...

LOL...my kids call the USA, "The land of the free refill!" :)

I haven't bothered to venture to the Down Under Pub...and probably won't. Some of my expat friends have been and weren't impressed either.

Dina said...

Aussie in the USA,

Yeah. It's pretty bad. You probably don't need to put it on your must-see list : )

white_lilly said...

The Down Under Pub sounds a bit of a let down I think your fantasy Aussie Restaurant sounds a lot better. You have more of an idea of Aussie grub than they do.

When you say french fries I think of thin sticks of oil soaked potato an Aussie chip is something different,and is a favourite with everyone. I remember in my school days we used to buy at the local fish and chip shop a bag of chips rolled up in paper usually with tomato sauce or vineger and we would all huddle around eating these chips, yum

materix01 said...

Free refills sound great. Only fast food chain in Sydney with free softdrink refills(which are quite bad for you) is Hungry Jacks.

They need to label ketchup as tomato sauce if they want to be aussie... And yes, the joy of Australian food these days is that it's so multicultural these days. Although my concept of Australian food has always been a VB with steak or fish and chips by the beach (maybe some crab/prawns if you're lucky)

Dina said...

white-lilly: I LOVE Aussie chips. They might actually be my favorite Australian food. From what I experienced, Aussie chips are more uniform. You order chips and you know what you're going to get. In America, there seems to be so many different types of fries. Some are seasoned, some are curly, some are mushy, some are greasy. They're not all bad, but they're nothing like the Aussie ones.

materix01: Beach...I wish! Good idea about the tomato sauce. That would make it seem more Australian. I definitely think they need some international stuff on the menu--especially Thai. It's kind of like if you had a Texas restaurant in Australia, it would be crazy not to include some Mexican dishes.

Red Roo said...

G'day there, love the review and the observations. There is a real Australian cafe I know of here in the US - Mine! My wife Emma and I and our four children 9,12,14,15 came here in 05 to open a real Australian cafe and I am pleased to say that your perfect Aussie restaurant reassures me we have not lost our way. We offer everything from sausage rolls and sauce, vanilla slice, caramel squares and homemade rocky road to peanut satay and chili chicken or classic pub grub that changes everyday. We don't give away fantales or minties but we do ship them in to sell along with lots more lollies (not candy). So if your ever up the PA way let me know and I will quench your Aussie thirst and then some.

Dina said...

Red Roo,

Hi!

Are you near Philadelphia by chance??

We're going to be there in June!

Red Roo said...

Dina I am sorry to say we are on the other side of PA north of Pittsburgh half way to Erie so on your next trip east .....

There are a lot of Aussie living in Philly they even have there own footy (football) league so your chance of an Aussie encounter is pretty good. Have a safe trip

Dina said...

Red Roo,

Maybe another time : (

I think there may be a restaurant in Philadelphia.

I bet yours is better though.

Genelle said...

Wow, this restaurant isn't very 'Aussie' at all haha. I'm from Australia, and was just googling Australian foods, to see what they don't have in America, to send over to a friend to try.. And I came across your blog.
I read the menu, and the only real thing Australian on it was a Vegemite Sandwich.. Although they serve with lettuce? I don't know anybody who does that haha.
I'd love to go over there and open my own!

Dina said...

Genelle,

Hi!

Yeah, that restaurant was awful.

It would be awesome if you came to America to open an Australian restaurant!

Did you find ideas for food to send? From my experience, the only thing that's easy to get here is Tim Tams and licorice. The Tim Tams though come in only original (from what I know) and the packaging is totally different.

We order food here from places in the United States. It might actually be cheaper for you to do that....order from the United States and have it shipped to your friend.

This is where we order from:
http://www.simplyoz.com/

The only problem is sometimes they're out of stock with a lot of stuff.

Genelle said...

Wow, thanks heaps for that website, it's great!
I'm leaning towards sending TimTams, Shapes, and Caramello Koalas.. Just to be safe.. Pretty much everybody likes those lol.

Dina said...

Genelle,

I think those are GREAT choices. I love Shapes!