It's that time of year again, when all sweethearts scramble around, buying little hunks of precious gems, the chocolate that'll put a stop to those New Year's resolutions, and jamming up the Internet taking a gander at those microscopic pieces of material adorning those ultra-super models. It's also the time of year for romantic candlelight dinners, roses, and intimate conversation.
My Irishman, my dashing blue-eyed gentleman, my charmer, dreamboat, love of my life -- had a special day planned for me. "Where are we going?" I asked.
After all, surprises from him are rare. So he mumbled the place was called something like "Owls." Yes -- the one with the orange light bulbs rimming the window sills and a large owl with humungous eyes on the sign out front. But those eyeballs don't fool me ...
TOM: Yes, it was my idea to try Hooters. To be a good restaurant critic, one must be well-rounded. It took me 20 minutes of fast talking and promises that both Julie and I knew I would never keep. But she agreed to go inside and have a late lunch. I think her comment was, "This is utterly ridiculous."
JULIE: It's only because we both write for The Augusta Chronicle that I am forced to continue speaking to my dear Tom -- after all, we write a column together. That aside, I have to say walking into Hooters was like walking into an old Western saloon in the 1800s. Everywhere you looked -- Miss Kitty. Instead of guns, the guys had cell phones. The girls dashed around with trays of brew and vittles and then parked an elbow on the table and chatted with the boys.
TOM: "The boys" are obviously hard-working men taking a short, much-needed break. Yes, they did stop now and again to visit with the hard-working, over-worked Hooters person. They each had their jobs to do. The gentlemen in dire need of nourishment; the Hooters workers providing a much-needed service.
JULIE: OK, now I'm gonna take him out back, tie him to a tree and drench him in honey. And those guys weren't taking any "short breaks" -- we were there an hour and a half, and they were still there when we left. The world's longest lunch hour. And our hard-working Hooter person spent a good deal of her time on a dirt bike, riding around in circles inside the restaurant, and giggling so cutely when she crashed into a table.
TOM: OK, you've made my point. This is not easy work -- some would even call it dangerous.
JULIE: Your hole is getting deeper ...
TOM: These hard-working, conscientious maidens have their work cut out for them. It was very obvious to me that our server was very nervous, or possibly cold.
We started off with the sampler plate -- I felt it was important to sample what I could. The plate included crablegs, fried shrimp, chicken wings and boiled spiced shrimp. All freshly made. My only complaint: The wings were somewhat greasy. My fork slipped out of my hands four, maybe five, times. Thank goodness one of the servers was always at hand to retrieve said forks.
JULIE: I told him that if he dropped one more fork he'd be wearing it. A man can lose his head in this joint -- Tom being a case in point. What Tom forgot to tell you is that we were served our wonderful hors d'oeuvres platter after our lunch was served. Not that he noticed ...
TOM: Oh, I noticed. When one goes to a cutting-edge restaurant, one must keep an open mind. And mine was. I ordered the Hooter's burger, medium rare. And that's exactly what I got. Cooked to perfection, and the buns just perfect.
JULIE: Now I'm ready to take him out back and SHOOT him! Speaking of "shooters" -- we bought one. It's just large enough to hold one oyster, 2 ounces of sauce, or two complete waitress uniforms, not counting the bandana they wear around their waists.
TOM: They had bandanas? When I get focused on food, nothing else enters my mind. Anyway, using my last fork, I tasted the wonderful curly fries and cole slaw. The food is good, not great -- which makes the job of these hard-working servers even more of a challenge.
Whatever the ladies said to their customers must have been pleasing; all the men had smiles. The sign of true professionals.
JULIE: As their menu states, "What else brings a gleam to men's eyes everywhere besides beer and chicken wings and an occasional winning football season?"
As most women understand, men are challenged in ways we'll never have to worry about. But I assure you I saw no cigars, and everyone maintained a respectful distance from one another.
Here's a place where men can keep their treehouse and still have good eats from the kitchen -- but instead of Mom, it's delivered by a girl named "Smiley."
What else can this Earth Mother say but, "boys will be boys" even if they are wearing Armani suits?
Say good-bye, Tom.
TOM: Yes, dear.
Tom Gates and Julie Curran are the proprietors of Floyd Manor Inn in Blackville, S.C., and can be reached for further comment at (803) 284-3736.