So there we were, after having gawked earlier in the day at the Grand Canyon, on Thanksgiving night in Williams, Arizona,. I’d thought that every small town in the American West had at least a Denny’s, and that with luck there might be something as elegant as Applebee’s or Olive Garden, but I’d been woefully mistaken. There was a non-chain too-brightly-illuminated self-proclaimed Jessica’s Family RESTAURANT, offering Greek, Italian, and American favorites, right across the street from our motel, but it seemed iffy somehow, so after Spousie began her late-afternoon beauty regimen, I struck out on foot to see if we had other options, the proprietress of the motel having advised me that the nearest Applebee’s was in distant Flagstaff.
A sandwich shop — not a Subway! — appeared to be open, and I dashed to it, only to learn that it would close in 15 minutes to everyone but the owner’s family. When I asked if she knew anything about Jessica’s, the apparent boss lady made a face that spoke volumes and then claimed to be disinclined to speak ill of another, which I found pretty cute. She suggested that I walk down to the town’s sole stop light, turn left, cross the railroad tracks (the southern terminus of the Grand Canyon Railway), and look into the Grand Depot Café.
I sighed and did as the sandwich shop lady had suggested, and discovered that seemingly every white person in town (at least those not headed for the sandwich shop) seemed to be enjoying the Grand Depot Café’s deluxe Thanksgiving buffet. The dining room, which looked as though it had last been redecorated in 1959, by a not-very-talented decorator, was packed to the rafters with happy-looking locals (I presumed), and their huge families. The town is one-third Latino, but they were apparently all eating at home.
I retrieved my bride from our motel room. One enters the Grand Depot Café through a gift shop that, to her dismay, lacked a Williams fridge magnet. A surly young man who clearly would have preferred to be anywhere else led us to our table, and we proceeded to have the worst Thanksgiving dinner of my life, the sort of meal during which one has to keep reminding himself, “Millions would be ecstatic to have this food. Millions would be ecstatic to have this food.” Nothing hadn’t come out of a can, or a big plastic bag. We'd have a better shot at deliciousness in a suburban middle school cafeteria. The kitchen had shown neither care nor skill. I found the garlic mashed potatoes reasonably flavorful, but Spousie was certain they’d been made from a just-add-water mix.
I hadn’t realized that, in this era of the Food Network and Gordon Ramsay, such places still existed. And if they did exist, I wouldn't have been able to imagine their having the gall to charge $22/diner.
Still, the so-called tiramisu — at which no Italian wouldn’t have died laughing — bordered on edible, and, unlike the guy at Lake Havasu City’s premier Italian bistro, our server didn’t address us collectively as “you guys,” as which I passionately detest being addressed. I am able to detect the silver lining around even the darkest cloud!