“We’re not here,” Michael said when we hadn’t been acknowledged at the bar after a few minutes.
We sat near the door of the big boat-bow-shaped wooden bar. The bartender acknowledged and accepted orders from other people who walked in after us—right next to us. He reminded me of Coach from Cheers.
“We’re not here enough to be here,” I re-stated.
We were dining at Simon’s for the second time ever. Our previous dinner had been a celebration several months ago, and on this night the atmosphere was no less festive.
The bar was comfortably filled with people drinking and smoking—the after-work set unwinding with a cocktail. They all looked relaxed, and acted friendly with each other in the roomy bar with its three big TVs tuned to hockey, basketball or baseball. No one watched TV, though. They were visiting, loosening up.
I got the bartender’s attention, and my opaque pink cosmopolitan ($5) was worth the wait. Michael’s Campari ($5) was bitter, as he likes it. After a few sips, we were part of the crowd; this was our place, too.
“Put it on our tab; we’re having dinner,” I told our coach.
As we headed into the dining room, I noticed a plaque that boasted Simon’s as the domino tournament champions of 2002.
The dining room walls are covered with duck portraiture, big octagonal mirrors and Midwestern-themed wooden booths and tables. The menu offers something for everyone, from liver and onions to a fresh catfish fry every Friday and Saturday.
When Ramona waited on us, my little fantasy that we were regulars continued. She knew what Michael wanted. No, really, she did. He asked about the rib eye, and she told him the top sirloin ($19.95) was better. He asked about potatoes: She said twice-baked. Salad? Blue cheese on the side.
I ordered orange roughy ($14.95) at Ramona’s suggestion (over the halibut), though her first guess was that I’d order chicken (second guess: spaghetti, which I’ve been known to do in the most un-spaghetti of restaurants).
We took a walk on the wild side and ordered deep fried ravioli ($5.95), too. After a few minutes, Ramona brought out a dish of piping-hot battered triangles with a small dish of cold marinara sauce for dipping.
Michael tried one. “Crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside,” he said.
“No, deeply fried.”
The spinach and ricotta ravioli were a good little starter, like spanakopita (spinach pie). I was just glad she didn’t offer us ranch dressing. The fried pasta was a novelty, but not something I could eat regularly.
When our main dishes came, Ramona was right: The certified Angus beef was loaded with flavor, and the lightly floured fish was full of body and chewy. The twice-baked potatoes were made from the bottom half of a baked potato with the innards scooped out and refilled with something like mashed potatoes, topped with real bacon pieces and melted cheddar cheese. A bit of fresh vegetables—onions, zucchini and tomatoes—rounded out the meal. Quite enough, but not a super-sized serving.
It was almost as if Ramona had gone in the kitchen and whipped up the dishes herself—right down to the peach pie ($4.95), which she knew Michael wanted, or the cinnamon apple pie, which I wanted.